It seems I’ve gotten rusty at writing picture books.

It’s so weird. It’s the genre I started with and now it’s giving me a lot of trouble.

I think I know why.

When I first started writing I quickly realized that picture books were a lot harder than I thought they were, so I switched over to novels, wrote one, and then had more success with picture books and lousy success with novel number two.

It wasn’t until I was hit with inspiration for Wanting Mor that I got what turned out to be my second novel finished. And then all of a sudden, I wrote another one.

This is the one I’m just putting finishing touches on.

But wouldn’t you know, now I’m having trouble with executing a good picture book!!

Oh it’s so frustrating.

It reminds me of when I started storytelling.

I’ve had a very weird history of publishing. I’ve been writing for twenty-one years, but for the first eight of those I didn’t publish anything much. Just a few stories in a community newsletter.

Then after eight years of trying, I finally got my first book accepted. By the ninth year though, I suddenly had five books under contract. Three of which were picture books, one short story collection (Muslim Child) and my novel Dahling if You Luv Me…

But while I was waiting for the books to go into print, I heard about storytelling.

A while back Tony Robbins used to air some shows on late night T.V. I think I caught one of them where he was talking about looking at successful people and then figuring out how to ‘copy’ their success.

One of the most successful children’s authors I knew was Robert Munsch, and the way he became successful was through storytelling. He always concocted his stories for audiences, kind of impromptu and then workshopped the stories orally to get the kinks out of them, adjusting them as needed depending on audience reaction, until the stories were finely honed.

Now I wasn’t going to copy him exactly, but I did think that storytelling was a good skill for a children’s author to have.

In fact I was particularly convinced when I was attending a writers’ meeting through an organization I belong to, and a storyteller showed up to speak to the group. She was Itah Sadu a storyteller from Barbados who has a very lively style. She only had fifteen minutes or so to share a story, but boy did she wake up the crowd! The crowd (including me) had been practically snoozing before she got up there with her energy, and I thought, “I want to learn how to do that!”

And I thought, what would be a better compliment to story WRITING than story TELLING.

You’d think, hey, a story is a story.

Uh uh. Storytelling is completely different.

And the funny thing was it messed up my writing for quite a while.

Couldn’t write for beans for a while!

It wasn’t until I realized I needed to wear a different ‘hat’ when I wrote stories as opposed to telling them. Now, I don’t even try to reconcile the two.

So I developed my skill as a storyteller, treated my presentations as if they were a story, complete with a story arc of their own, and have done pretty well.

And in the mean time I’ve gotten back to the writing. After I sold my third picture book to Viking I was still struggling on my second novel (the one that I’ve been working on for ten years and counting). And now with the success of Wanting Mor and finishing this new novel (which is hopefully pretty good too), all of a sudden I can’t seem to write a proper picture book!

Oh, I feel just like I did when I started storytelling and the writing dried up!

It’s a matter of perseverence, I know. But I can’t help getting a panicky feeling that I’ll never write another one again!

I’ve had a few false starts, and that’s a good sign. It seems the subconscious likes to ‘practice’ before it submits the real thing. We’ll see.

There’s nothing like a really good picture book!  A marvel of emotion, lyric sentences and concise imagery!

I’ll just have to keep trying.