Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

November Meeting: Author Jason June

As we all gathered ’round for November’s meeting, Jason June presented “A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words: Writing Illustration Notes in Picture Books.” A skilled wordsmith, Jason is the author of WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, 2017. Giving a nod to the “beautiful collaboration” between writers and illustrators, Jason outlined the basics writers need to know about illustration notes.

The Don’ts

Do not add illustration notes concerning the following (in most cases): color, clothes, physical characteristics, setting, weather, characters not critical in scene, action not critical for character exchange, anything not critical for that moment in the story

The Myth

It’s a myth that everyone hates illustrator notes (however, still be careful not to overuse them). In fact, illustrator notes can help clarify what you are visualizing. Also, since picture books include pictures, be sure to think visually when writing. Remember that sometimes editors, agents or other readers need help knowing what to visualize. Use your instincts, and provide notes to clarify, not to be bossy.

The Do’s

Add only pertinent illustration notes, for example, if it matters that the scarf is red for a specific reason. Use brackets around italicized type for your notes. For a wordless page, describe the action in a note. Illustration notes can can read like action direction in a screenplay. Notes should describe what’s going on that’s not explicit in the text through dialogue or prose. Illustration notes can also clarify action that is implied but not necessarily explicit.