For all of my ranting and defending of nonfiction recently, I have been, ahem, playing around with other genres. For some reason, I am filled with ideas for illustrated fictional children’s books these days, which is funny, because a) I don’t have children, b) I interact with kids maybe once a quarter, if that, and usually find them bewildering, c) I don’t, like some bibliophiles I know, collect or read children’s books, and d) I have no idea what reading levels fit what age groups. Not to mention the realities of children’s book publishing are worse, perhaps, than literary fiction and nonfiction. My MFA program, for example, once had a children’s literature concentration, but eliminated it because those in charge felt it was too irresponsible to keep graduating students from it when there were so few opportunities available to them.
I suspect that dreaming up lighthearted books based on animal rather than human characters is a reaction to the seriousness with which I have been focused on my travel memoir/thesis, and the freelance business writing I have been doing.
In any case, I keep trying to ignore these kooky ideas, but they keep coming to the surface. Last night I began playing around with a program that came with my MacBook, called ComicLife, which basically allows you to layout a comic book, complete with those little thought bubbles and that iconic all-caps comic book font. It was interesting to lay out a story idea in this way. It forces you to think out what will appear page by page, even, as in a real comic book, panel by panel. Though I like to doodle, I’m no illustrator, so I imagined the pictures and just wrote the dialogue balloons. It was a good way to force myself to write dialogue. Because the form is so spare (writing-wise), compared to a novel, for example, it made me think really carefully about what needed to be said. I may never finish my children’s book/comic, but it turned out to be a good writing exercise, in an odd sort of way.