Writing a good Picture Book (PB) is an art. It includes the ability to tell a story in a few hundred words, with strong characters, a tight plot, drama and an empowering message for kids; the very elements, in fact, of a ‘novel’. I have tried and fall short of such an accomplishment. However, today I am pleased to introduce you to one person who has achieved this landmark. Just check out the long list of her publications below.
Patricia storms is an award-winning editorial cartoonist and
author/illustrator of children¹s books and humour books. Her cartoons have been published in numerous magazines and newspapers including Reader¹s Digest, The National Post, The London Times and The London Evening Standard.
Her newest picture book, NEVER LET YOU GO (Scholastic Canada, 2013) has been described as ‘profound’ with ‘exuberant illustrations’, and has been published in numerous languages. She lives in Toronto, Ontario with her husband and two fat cats in a cozy old house full to the brim with books.
AMM: Welcome Patricia!
PS: It’s a pleasure, Ann Marie.
AMM: Why Picture Books? Why not middle grade or young adult?
PS: I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately. Why am I more drawn to picture books, more comfortable in this world?
As I’ve gotten older, and gradually become more comfortable in my own skin, I have accepted the fact that I have a very child-like quality in my personality that needs to get out from time to time. If I allow myself, I can easily tap into a part of me that remembers exactly what it was like to be a kid, and to experience all those very raw emotions – fear, rage, joy, humour, confusion, humiliation all that fun stuff.
Also, I’ve always been drawn to cartoons & comic strips (that’s how I learned to read as a kid) and I know that I have a knack for condensing emotions & ideas into pithy works of art (in the past I’ve created a lot of one-panel gags as well as greeting cards & political cartoons).
I see picture books as being somewhat similar to say, one panel gag cartoons. The picture book story is shorter than a novel and is very image-based. But of course less words does not equate into less quality. I recall reading somewhere recently where picture books were described as “portable art galleries”. I love that.
I have an interest in middle grade books but I just cannot connect to young adult. I’m not sure why. Possibly because being a teenager was not a time in my life that I’d like to go back and explore?
AMM: I fully get that. My teenage years left their mark on me as well. Still, do you think you¹ll ever try your hand at a middle grade or young adult book?
PS: I think I might create an illustrated middle grade book one day. I have acouple of ideas that I think are intriguing, so who knows? But the chances of me ever writing a YA novel are pretty slim. Of course, never say never, as they say.
AMM: I agree. Yet since we’re on the topic of ‘Never’… I know your latest book, Never Let You Go, is very special to you? Would you like to share why?
PS: NEVER LET YOU GO is the first book where I really reached down and tapped into my inner child. I realize that this sounds a bit corny, but it’s the truth. I cried a lot when I created this book. Let’s just say it was an opportunity to work out a variety of personal issues.
A writer friend of mine recently told me that if you’re crying when you’re creating your book, then it will more than likely be that much more powerful when it reaches your readers. And she was right! I have actually witnessed women breaking down in tears as the read the story. That’s a new experience for me!
Love is holding on tight and knowing when to let go.
In this warm, funny book, an adorable penguin learns that Mom or Dad “will never let you go.” Safely assured by the steadfast love of a parent, the little penguin can begin to explore its world bit by bit ‹ draw a picture, chase the stars, even throw a tantrum ‹ secure in the knowledge that a doting parent is always waiting in the wings.
AMM: When did you first know you wanted to write for kids?
PS: I remember in high school illustrating some fun kids’ poems for a writer friend of mine (who is still my friend to this day, and who is also a published author!). I can still recall her saying, “Maybe you’ll create some kids’ books one day!” I remember thinking to myself, I’d love to, but I just could not figure out how to go about doing it. I also recall seeing the movie ‘Turtle Diary’ as a teenager, and being really engrossed with the movie. The story has a character in it who writes & illustrates children’s books. I can recall thinking, gee, I wouldn’t mind that kind of life. The movie was based on a novel by Russell Hoban, by the way. He wrote quite a few children’s books, including the popular “Frances the Badger” series, which was illustrated by his then wife, Lillian Hoban. Anyway, the desire was always inside me, even if I wasn’t fully aware of it.
AMM: That resonates with me so much, Patricia. I’ve learned that if you truly want something, you’ll find a way to get it. If not, life will give you clues. The challenge then, of course, is to notice them. Do you have any tips for PB writers?
PS: Read, read, read! Read the classics of the past, as well as what’s selling today. Try and figure out which picture books appeal to you the most. That will help you find your own voice when it comes to writing.
Of course, the other mantra is, write, write, write! Let go of being self-conscious (a problem I struggle with) and just spill out the stories. Worry about cleaning them up later.
And I’ve said this before: be aware of what’s going on in the industry, but don’t let it overwhelm you (and trust me, right now it IS overwhelming, because there is just SO much information and advice out there).
Eventually you have to turn off all the noise, and be alone with yourself, and get lost in your own stories. Don’t try to be the next ‘Mo Willems. Be YOU!
AMM: Such great advice; thank you for sharing. You also illustrate. Tell me about that. And do you illustrate your own books?
PS: I started out in the publishing business as an illustrator. I knew I wanted to write and illustrate kids’ books, but in the beginning, I just wanted to be published! Also, of course, I wanted to be paid for my art. So I illustrated humour books and educational books as well as book covers before I finally got into children’s trade book illustration. I keep getting the numbers wrong, but I believe that I have actually illustrated 21 books so far.
For three of those books, I have been both author and illustrator. One book was an adult-themed humour book, and the other two are picture books THE PIRATE AND THE PENGUIN and NEVER LET YOU GO.
I have discovered that I prefer to write and illustrate my own picture books. I think it is a creative control thing. Also, that’s how I amused myself the most when I was a kid just writing and drawing my own stories. It just feels good to do it.
AMM: Doing what you love! That’s definitely one of the keys to happiness. Finally, can you share some fun facts about yourself?
PS: Hmmmm…well, I have a terrible weakness for peanut butter & good quality cheese. I try to limit my consumption of these two delicious foods, but I don’t always rise to the challenge.
Whenever I draw with a pencil, I have to wash my fingers and the pencil with soap and water. I have very moist hands, and I can’t stand holding a greasY pencil. Both my drawing hand and my pencil have to be super dry.
I love coffee. And I like to have a cup near me when I’m at my drawing table. There have been many occasions when I have been inking a drawing with a brush, and instead of dipping my brush into my inkwell, I have dipped it into my coffee. And then knowing this, I still will finish my cup of coffee, because, well, I hate to waste good coffee!
AMM: LOL. Thanks again for joining me today, Patricia.
Here is where you can find Patricia Storms
Amazon links to Patricia’s books: