Friday, October 30, 2009

Voice Hunting

I’ve been thinking about voice recently because I was searching for a voice for a non-fiction picture book I’m revising. This book needed more than a drastic revision. It needed a different voice. It needed a different approach to the subject. When I opened up a blank document I didn’t look at the previous two versions, which are as different from each other as bread is different from an apple. I played with words and sentences for days and days. Then it clicked. The writing flowed when I found the voice that felt “right” for this book.

There are many definitions of voice.

The most common one we think of is the author’s voice. For example, Jane Yolen’s voice is very different than E. B. White’s voice. Voice is hard to define, but it includes everything from word choice to syntax to the structure and approach to story.

A writer needs to be able to create an authentic voice for each character. An good example of this is demonstrated in Rita Williams-Garcia’s recent novel, Jumped (National Book Award finalist). This story is told in first person, with three points of view. The three characters take turns narrating. Each character has a unique voice.

A writer also needs to create a voice for each book--or type of book. Each voice gives a different perspective and a different feel. Basically, a writer needs to learn to control voice.

My “voice” is developing (maturing?) as I gain experience and as my writing skills improve. I found I developed a distinct picture book voice during my picture book semester at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I feel my best picture books were in this voice; I can of course alter this voice, or write a picture book in a different style. I find I naturally use different voices depending on what I’m writing and who the audience is.

Typically I don’t think about voice when writing. I just write. But this past week or so, I’ve consciously worked on voice. In essence, I'm learning to hone the tone and style of my words and sentences and stories. As I think about what I've written, it seems that in some cases voice has come naturally, while other times the voice evolved, or I had to purposely go out and find the right voice.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Frankfurt Book Fair 2009

I attended the Frankfurt Book Fair on Friday and Saturday. I live in town, quite close, so wanted to see it.

What it is--this is a rights fair. There were about 7000 exhibitors this year. Publishers and editors and agents and scouts meet and make deals, or buy and sell rights to publish a book in another country. The site of the trade show consists of many huge buildings, most with two or three floors. It is so big that shuttle buses run continuously. It is over a mile from one side to the other.

Here is a view (taken from the floor above) of part of the German children's book section-- Hall 3.0. You can see H and J. The depth is hard to see. This isn't the biggest hall, but it is still huge. It wasn't crowded at this time on Friday, but on Saturday I couldn't even shove through the crowds. I left and went to another hall.

Almost all the booths had books lining the walls. Some booths were small, about 8 by 12 feet, with a table in it. Other were massive, with over 50 tables. This is a not a fair where ARCs (advanced readers copies) are handed out.

I spent most of my time in the US, British and Canadian hall, and the hall with German children’s books. I also looked at publishers from all over the world, stopping at many booths with children’s books.

Most US publishers had their children’s books in a good location, near the front, to catch people’s eyes. Plus there were many publishers who specialize in children’s books, like Peachtree, Candlewick and Usborne.

The French children’s publishers, l'ecole des loisirs and Pastel, had the best designed booth that I saw. It caught my attention from the back side. See the paned windows, with books in each pane.

The front also looks great.

I fell in love with some books from a variety of publishers. (I hope they sold some rights to US publishers.)

Here are a few my favorite foreign publishers that I'd never heard of before-

Kalandraka is based in Spain and publishes award winning picture books. A Big Dream caught my eye, as well as several other books. (The book is translated into English but I could only find a photo of it in one spot on the internet, and that site is in Spanish.) I wanted to buy some of these books for myself to take home and read. Some of these titles would sell very well in the United States.

Mladinska knjiga Zalozba in Slovenia has lovely picture books. I wandered back to their booth several times, just to enjoy the book covers. They have some great illustrators.

Amarin Printing from Thailand. This company has some very nice books. I think some would fit very well in the US market. I particularly liked the Preecha Taothong's illustrations in The Brave Blue Crab. I actually bought a couple books on Saturday with gorgeous illustrations. (Sometimes the publishers don’t want to carry the books home with them so will sell them or give them away.) The books I bought are in Thai, but a translation was taped in.

I’m excited to attend the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in March, and look forward to the Frankfurt Book Fair 2010.

More photos are on Angela Cerrito's blog and on my livejournal blog.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy 175th Anniversary Vermont College

This Saturday, October 3rd, VCFA will celebrate the 175th anniversary of Vermont College.

VCFA is hosting a celebration this weekend in Montpelier.

This is a gorgeous time of year in Vermont.
I would love to see this view of College Hall with autumn colors flooding the landscape.
I'll try to use my imagination as I look at this photo.

Happy Anniversary Vermont College!