Pretzels and Paintings
by Susan Nicholas
Writing always makes me hungry. It helps me think better. At least that’s what I tell myself when I nibble my way through story revisions. Today as I sat down to write this article I grabbed a bag of pretzels. After tossing a few in my mouth I laughed at the irony of my snack choice.
On September 26th, Anna Egan Smucker shared her twisty path to publication for Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born at the Huntington Museum of Art in West Virginia. I was one of fifteen writers who attended the Author’s Book Club co-sponsored by the SCBWI MD DE WV and West Virginia Writers, Inc.
I’ve heard Anna talk about picture book writing at other events over the years. I always leave feeling inspired with my scribbled notes and fresh ideas. This time it happened again. Anna talked about coming up with a poem for the Monk to say as he mixed his pretzel dough. Anna told us how she thought adding this lyrical verse would help young readers get to know the main character better. He loves to bake and he’s a fun person. Anna showed us some first drafts of this part of her story and how it changed over time as she revised her manuscript. What a great idea!
Speaking of great ideas — Anna said to do lots of research and look for details that will make your picture book come alive. She likes to include these in Author Notes at the end of the book.
Anna submitted her story to Eerdmans of Grand Rapids, Michigan because she thought it would be a good fit. She said they have a religious line of books. She submitted it a couple of times before finally getting accepted for publication.
Some of the writers who attended the ABC event got the opportunity to get feedback on their own work from Anna and the rest of the writers. This small group made it easy and comfortable to give and get constructive criticism and support to keep writing. Anna encouraged us to not give up on our stories.
The event was free to attend, but we were encouraged to bring in a new or slightly used picture book to donate to a local school. Eighteen books were donated that day. A big thank you goes out to SCBWI member Jennifer Wingardt for organizing this great event. We even got some homemade treats and time to socialize with other writers as we checked out some of the art exhibits at the museum.
Guest Author Bio:
Susan Nicholas writes picture book stories and poetry for children. Susan also works as a morning news anchor for WSAZ Newschannel 3. She is the president of West Virginia Writers, Inc. and is a member of SCBWI.