My third grade students are currently in the middle of an arts and literacy collaboration to design, create, and write about children’s book characters. To give them a sense of how a professional children’s book author approaches the act of creation, I invited all-star author Julie Falatko to come and talk to the students.
Julie began by reading her new book, Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to be in this Book!) to the group. It was so much fun to watch them as they began to understand that the narrator was a character in the story.
Then Julie talked to the kids about her writing process, including sharing drafts. They couldn’t believe how many years and how many drafts it took to get to a finished book. She also talked about her collaboration with illustrator Tim Miller. Often in picture books, authors don’t get a chance to talk to the illustrators or even see the artwork until it was finished. Julie was able to see the artwork along the way which helped to inspire some changes in the text. She then answered questions from the kids, and even read a short story she wrote when she was eight.
In terms of our character project, one of the most valuable pieces Julie shared was that some ideas — like Snappsy — come to her in a flash. Others take a lot more time to solidify. In either case, revision is key. No book is ever the same from first draft to final draft, but again, some books take fewer rounds of revision than others. As a teacher, I am working to maintain that authenticity. A project like this more or less demands that the muse arrive. For most kids, it is working out okay, but others are struggling to clarify and firm up their ideas. It’s great to be able to say, “Remember when Julie was here? Remember how she talked about how she completely rewrote her second book with a whole new story line? Sometimes ideas take a while, and it’s okay if your ideas do, too.”