"Find Your Voice: Use It in a Children's Book"
The fourth season of the Northwest Author Series kicked off today at the Wilsonville Library with a workshop by Nicole Rubel. Ms. Rubel is probably best known for her Rotten Ralph books that have sold 1.5 million copies of the 18 books in the series -- with another book in the works. She is both writer and illustrator and discussed her journey to publication.
The essence of Ms. Rubel's message was to consider where you are from, and what you are about as you develop your "voice" as a writer. Discover your passion. Write about that passion -- what you want to write about. Take risks. Write about the hard things, the painful moments. This is where you will do your best, most emotional writing.
Ms. Rubel read aloud from her middle grade novel, It's Hot and Cold in Miami to illustrate her point. The story is about twin sisters growing up in Miami, which is also Ms. Rubel's story. However, although she used real incidents for inspiration, events in the book are fictionalized and embellished for the purposes of telling a good story. Ms. Rubel demonstrated that her writing voice is humorous and uses vivid imagery that connects with the target audience.
She shared writing tips that are often repeated: hook the reader with the first sentence and first paragraph, it's the role of the protagonist to solve the story problem, the protagonist much change (grow) by the end of the story, the stronger the antagonist the stronger must be the protagonist. Read what you want to write. Practice, practice, practice. Advice that aspiring authors can never receive too many times.
Ms. Rubel recommended keeping a diary and seeking pictures or taking photographs of things you like or images that inspire you. These activities will help you discover what your interests and passions are. She suggests "borrowing" from historical events and literature for your stories and turning them into your own by weaving fact with your individual brand of fiction.
Children's writers need to look to their inner child. Revisit your worries and pleasures from childhood. What were your fears? Writers for young readers should also join SCBWI (Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators) which is an incredible resource.
Finally, writing and illustrating are means of expressing oneself as an artist. It can be done in private, for a limited audience, or for publication to a broad audience. Who you are and what you are about will determine where you want to take your artistic endeavors.