Holding a book you've been part of creating for the first time makes me feel like a proud parent. An entity that came together one element at a time- word by word, picture by picture, page by page- is now whole.
The magic of a picture book lies in its joint creation. From separate wells of creativity, the author and illustrator create in a wondrously woven process. One person's work does not exist without the others and yet, together a story is born.. . I love how enthusiastic readers confirm a successful match!
The Australian Children's Book of the Year Award Committee annually honors author and illustrator jointly for one single book: “The award [is] made to outstanding books of the Picture Book genre in which the author and illustrator achieve artistic and literary unity..."
I love this. “Literary Unity” is a good way to put what most picture book teams aspire towards (and somewhat easier to achieve when you are both author/illustrator!). If a picture book has a different author and illustrator, the process is more complex, yet rich and rewarding. The words do come first, but as smooth as a baton exchange in a foot race, the story then transfers and expands from the words to the pictures. In the end, good words and good pictures should tell a story that comes together harmoniously over the finish line.
A picture book manuscript may take years on and off to write, but the illustrator lives quite intensely, immersed for many consecutive months producing the pictures. The amount of detail to the story-line decided by an illustrator (visual setting and character placements, pacing, actual page lay-out ) is it’s own act of creation. I can attest that when the illustrations are complete, the parental feeling about the story as strong for the illustrator as it is for the writer.
So happy birthday to our book, word by word, picture by picture, page by page.