I have 4 books published, a new one coming out this year and this is still what the voice in my head keeps saying. When I was a kid I hated writing. I loved reading and I loved inventing stories in my head about the things I was drawing, but I couldn’t be a writer because I hated writing. I always wanted to make picture books but I figured someone else would come along and write the books and I would draw the pictures. I don’t know what happened to that person, but they never showed up at my door and I had to bite the bullet and figure out how to write my own books.
I don’t know how real writers write, but what usually happens to me is that an idea jumps into my brain that I can’t ignore. It might be a character or it might be a turn of a phrase or it might be a picture. I then start turning the idea around, expanding it and exploring where it might go. Sometimes the idea gets mixed in with a childhood memory or an incident that happened more recently. Sometimes it takes days or weeks of playing with it in my head before I even start writing it down but sometimes the idea is more insistent and I can’t focus on anything else until it’s done. When the idea for I HATE PICTURE BOOKS! popped up I pretty much wrote the whole thing in my head over the course of 2 days. It almost felt like I was observing this thing happen rather than creating it. Other ideas take longer.
My next book, THE VERY ANGRY PUFFIN comes out this summer. It took much longer to write this one than any of my other books. Years ago I visited the Central Park Zoo. In the Penguin House there is a small display of puffins. I like puffins, so I was standing there watching them when a guy came along, looked at the puffins and said “That’s a funny-looking penguin”. I thought, “I’ll bet the puffin hates being mistaken for a penguin all day long”. I’ve come back to that thought many times over the years, pushing it this way and that, until just over a year ago I finally figured out the way for the puffin to tell his story. Then I wrote his story down.
I guess I am a writer, or at least I’m still getting away with it.
Prompt #18: Choose one of the below options and go!!!
Option #1: I like animals that are less commonly known, like puffins or kinkajous or ocelots. Take a story that has been told a million times with bears or bunnies. How does it change if you make it about kiwis or pangolins?
Option #2: Take a story that is told in third person. Have the main character tell the story from his or her perspective. How would the Lorax or The Very Hungry Caterpillar tell their own story?
Timothy Young is the author/illustrator of 4 published books, I’M LOOKING FOR A MONSTER!, SHADOWS ON MY WALL, THEY”RE COMING! and I HATE PICTURE BOOKS!. His 5th book, THE VERY ANGRY PUFFIN, comes out this summer. Aside from being an author/illustrator, Tim has been a toy designer, art director, sculptor, puppet maker, and a graphic designer. His work has been seen on television, in major magazines and on toy shelves worldwide. He majored in illustration at Pratt Institute and has over 30 years experience as a professional artist. He finds lately that one of the best things about pretending to be an author is going on author visits to schools.