What does it really mean to write a children’s book? Here’s everything you need to know to succeed as a children’s book author!
The worst thing there is the view of the picture book as a sleeping aid, something you only read to get the children to bed at night. In such cases, the book should at least give rise to strange dreams, says Eva Dahlia, literary director and responsible publisher of picture books at Bonnier Carlson.
She laughs when she says the last thing and develops:
– A children’s book should be a literary experience, at our publisher we also strongly oppose the pedagogical function of the picture book. There are other publishers who want just that, but for us it is always the reading experience that is central; it must be genuine, credible and sincere.
Prejudiced image of writing a children’s book
There is a prejudiced image that it would be easier to write a children’s book than an adult book, she says.
But in fact, she has seen countless examples of incredibly talented adult writers who have tried to write children’s books without success.
According to Ghostwriting Solution, in those cases, you have not suited the genre and the story has not come to life, it has just fallen flat. There is no correlation between being a great writer for adults and being that for children.
A big responsibility
The cartoonist and author Stena Wilson believes that the fact that her books can be the first encounter with literature for the child who reads, means a great responsibility. She is one of Britain’s most read and appreciated children’s book authors and illustrators.
Stena Wilson works both alone and together with, among others, her mother Carin Wilson, with whom she has made, among other things, the Ruth and Knut books for which they received the Elsa Beskow plaque. Wilson’s who books have been filmed and right now she is working on a film project based on the Brokiga books.
I am well aware of the responsibility I have and that means that I take my audience very seriously. My books or films should never be about nothing, they should address the issues that young children have a need to discuss, she says and continues:
For a small child, all experiences become so strong in that it is the first time the child goes through just this; to maybe be pushed or bitten in preschool, not be allowed to play, that an adult gets angry – all these are very transformative things for a small child and they need books that reflect those feelings.
To get close to the little child’s sphere of experience, Stena Wilson says that she has “parasitized my own children throughout their upbringing”.
But now they are 19, 17 and 10 years old. My smallest is soon 150 centimeters long, not so small anymore. Then it is important to find other ways. For example, I have returned to my children’s preschools, been to fruit classes and out in the yard among the gallon pants. I take every opportunity to get close to the children’s world.
Artistic children’s books on the rise
Stena Wilson has previously been chief illustrator at Davens Neater and also makes many illustrations for adults.
– I will continue to mix different genres and turn to different ages as long as I live and have health. But it is clear that the decision to dismiss me from Britain’s largest daily newspaper and instead spend the most time on products for the very youngest shows how important I think that group is.
Although the way of working of course differs depending on the age you turn to, Stena Wilson thinks that the division of children’s books is in many ways artificial and unnecessary. She points out the importance of keeping in mind that the reading experience often takes place in interaction between the child and a high-reading parent.
– One of the reasons why I still love Barbra Lindgren’s Loring books is that my mother liked them so much. For me as a child, it made reading even stronger.
Adults have a developed ability to associate and this means, for example, that she can make references to art history in her pictures, says Stena Wilson. Another aspect is that adults can opt out of her pictures if they do not like them.
– Children are significantly more extradited to what they are served. Of course there are differences, but the fixation on which ages can read which books only seems to increase and I think that comes a lot from the bookstores. It’s very boring, a scourge
British children’s book institutes, however, believe that an ongoing trend is the questioning of the picture book as an art form only for younger children. Every year, they carry out a so-called children’s book test with the aim of providing an overview with trends and statistics on the current children’s and youth book publishing. The analysis of the 2011 publication states that there were picture books that were just as much, sometimes more, intended for slightly older children or adult readers. Examples of clearly age-crossing works were the 2011 ALMA laureates, Shaun Tan and Kitty Crowther. Their work touches on deep existential issues that are relevant to both children and adults.
So for those who want to write a children’s book, there are some opportunities to experiment with both format and subject areas.
The picture book publication in Britain is large, broad and larger than ever. It ranges from simple mass-produced toddler and picture books to existential and artistically aimed works, said the institute’s head Jan Hansson in a presentation of the book tasting.
For Bonnier Carlson, a steady stream of scripts from people who want to write children’s book and get it published. Eva Dahlia says that the interest is very great and also increases all the time and that the space is certainly limited, but that the publisher is constantly looking for new authors and illustrators.
I think that the quality of the material we receive in general is high. It is virtually impossible to ignore the spontaneous scripts we receive because then you risk missing good things.
One difference compared to adult publishers is that the same author often returns with a frequent publication, says Eva Dahlia.
We often work closely with the same people, both authors and illustrators. There are many that I have made a dozen books with, it is not as common on the adult side. It also means that many ideas come up in collaboration between us and those we already work with.
The most common is that the spontaneous scripts Bonnier Carlson receives only consist of text. Illustrator is then selected in cases where it is relevant in dialogue with the author. It is not an advantage to collaborate with an illustrator before the script has been adopted, says Eva Dahlia.
On the contrary, I would say. If we like the script but the illustrations do not hold a high enough class, it can be a difficult situation.
Looking for new authors who want to write a children’s book
Illustrators often send work samples to the publisher, more rarely entire book ideas. In the spring of 2013, however, Bonnier Carlson published a children’s book that started with an idea in the form of illustrations.
– That particular book started at the other end, it happens, but is unusual.
Bonnier Carlson is in contact with, among other things, writing educations to recruit new interesting author names who want to write a children’s book. It happens that the publisher contacts people who have not previously written books but who they think may have a story to tell.
– Maybe we have heard a radio program or similar and feel that there may be something here. But it is not always simple. Many people are flattered by being contacted and then do not keep the text, it can be a big disappointment.
Something Eva Dahlia would like to get in is a script from more people with a different background than the British one.
– It is too homogeneous today, more votes are needed, she states.