The afternoon event started with a co-presentation from the couple sharing how they got into children’s publishing. James had been illustrating picture books for several years before the couple collaborated on their first title, SATCHEL PAIGE, published in 2000 by Simon & Schuster. Though the couple have worked together on a number of picture books, their processes are distinctly separate and in many ways reflects the same division found in most author and illustrator relationships. Lesa completes the text, then passes it off to James who creates his vision of the story – which may be completely different from Lesa’s.
The group then divided, with James leading a session for illustrators and Lesa sharing insight with writers.
James talked about crafting a portfolio with images to appeal to a wide range of markets and shared tips on balancing creative time.
Lisa talked about her process for writing picture book biographies. She starts by asking, “Whose story do I want to tell and why?” Answering the “why” leads to how, when and where. She also talked about using different styles to convey a person’s life story. For instance, SATCHEL PAIGE employs a tall tale style, while WORDS SET ME FREE: THE STORY OF YOUNG FREDERICK DOUGLASS uses a linear style and with JUST A LUCKY SO AND SO: THE STORY OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG, Lesa interspersed quotes from Armstrong about how lucky his life had been throughout the text.
The workshop wrapped up with a question and answer session for all attendees with Lesa and James sharing insight on the business side of publishing. James also provided individual portfolio reviews for illustrators.