I can’t remember which one of my well-read LJ friends linked to this conversation between Paul O. Zelinsky and Brian Selznick, but it’s a fascinating peek into their processes and perspectives on illustrating texts and creating stories with a few specifics about their books thrown in. As I read it, I kept thinking, "How should what they are saying affect the way I write picture book manuscripts?" There were some perspective shifts for me in their conversation that I think could be helpful to my picture book process.
One of these two fabulous illustrators once turned down a gig to illustrate one of my texts. (Not that the other accepted. No, in fact, I’m 99.9% sure the other one wasn’t offered the text. And in fact the illustrator who ended up accepting is amazing and wonderful and absolutely perfect for the job.) I won’t say which one and I won’t say which text, but as I read their words I couldn’t help but be awed by the fact that one of these two men actually *read* something that I wrote. (Yes, I know I am far too easily pleased.) Anyway, their honesty about feeling unsure or tentative or downright fearful somewhere along the process of making a book was not only endearing, but made me feel empathetic twangs of insecurity flowing between myself and these two men I don’t even know but whose work I deeply admire.
Here are a couple of quotes to whet your appetite:
Paul O. Zelinsky: Then once I’m into the process, I begin to worry and curse. It looked like a guaranteed smooth sail from sketch to finish but it isn’t; I thought I knew how it should look and work but I don’t; I thought I could do it but I can’t.
Brian Selznick: When I’m working on a book, I always have this sense that I need some kind of "permission" to draw the pictures. It’s not any actual kind of permission, in the literal sense, but it’s my own need to own the content of the book.
There is plenty more to chew on in their conversation. I’m glad I didn’t miss it.
(Oh, and on a side note. I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret in Portuguese before I ever read it in English. I don’t often do that. But this translation is pretty darn good and the whole package works just as well in another language as it does in English. Even better than most picture books I’ve seen translated here.)