And another question:

Sue asked: “Do picture books really always have to be riotous? What do you see as the biggest change in PB writing today?”

Well, no, they don’t have to be riotous, though we can all be forgiven if we feel that way, and certainly the biggest new sellers seem to fall in that category. But then try to remember that books like Owl Moon and Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon are still selling after 25 and 40 plus and 50-60 years later and you can’t call them laugh riots.

But picture books have changed. They tend to be shorter, as if the editors as well as the kids are deemed to have small attention spans. Though actually it has to do with a new perception of picture books as not being suited for anyone above 5 years old. Of course we all know that isn’t true. But the latest Common Wisdom tells us that picture books shouldn’t come in over 1000 words long, and under 500 is preferable. David Wiesner’s pocketbook has not suffered by his doing wordless picture books. But then he is a genius at what he does.

And the rest of us? Well, I write long picture book (Elsie’s Bird) and picture books that rhyme (How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, My Father Knows the Names of Things, Not All Princesses Dress in Pink) and  really short ones (Under the Star) and nonfiction with lots of text (Lost Boy) to name some fairly recently published picture books of mine and only one of those could be considered riotous and only one is really really short.

And it’s true that picture book slots have been cut back at most publishing houses in favor of YA books. Cut back–but not out.

In the end, the fate of picture books–indeed of all books–hangs onwhether the Pub Committee in its infinite wisdom (Not!) realizes what can sell and whether they want to buy it.

But consider this: when a picture book has been turned down over a period of fifteen years by absolutely ever publisher and then suddenly finds an editor who loves it to pieces and buys it (it will be out next year, and no, I won’t tell you which one!) it turns everything I think I know and understand about publishing on its head. Not much help in answering your question, Sue, but it’s all I’ve got!

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