By Barbara DiLorenzi
When Lynne Dorfman kindly invited me to share my writing/drawing/bookmaking process with the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project Blog, I was thrilled. But then I remembered that writers will be reading my words. Despite publishing my debut picture book in 2017, and with another in 2018, I continue to feel like an imposter in the field. An artist, yes. An illustrator, yes. But if someone refers to me as an author, I feel inadequate. I should have a degree in English, or better command of language. Or at least grammar. I’m forever using too many commas.
Part of the reason I don’t feel like an author is because my books don’t start with words. Like most authors, I start with an idea that grabs me. But instead of opening up Word, and typing a draft, I sketch. I doodle characters. I think about the conflict, and how that would look in a spread. Sometimes these doodles take months. If I don’t have the arc of the story in my mind, I just keep tugging at the characters, asking them to reveal themselves in my drawings.
At some point, whether the arc of the story is satisfying or not, I start to organize my thoughts with tiny thumbnail sketches, plotting out the entire book in a basic 32 page format. (Though my first book is 44 pages, and the second, 40 pages.) This way I can see if the pacing will work within a picture book format, and if the plot has any hold on me. This stage can take a long time. I made close to 20 thumbnail storyboards for QUINCY over the years. With RENATO AND THE LION, I can’t even count how many drafts went into this story.