Nancy's Books

Sunday, January 5, 2014

I’m so happy to have Alison Davis Lyne back this week. Alison is a creative illustrator with a stack of picture books claiming her art. She’s been working professionally since 1996. You can check out more of her work at She writes the column “Art Tips” for the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Bulletin.

 Alison, tell us about your process of designing art for the text of a book. 

I begin by thinking about how the individual characters will look and act. That will often lead to a character study page like this: 

This is a character page from my most recent book, Little Things Aren't Little When You're Little written by Mark Burrows, and published by Pelican Publishing. 

All of this work is for “my eyes only,” and is used just like a writer's text outline, and character sketches. I then work up and send on final black and white sketches to the Art Director.  After doing any revisions that the Art Director requests.....I begin the “funnest” part of the job (at least for me)....painting the final artwork. 

You, as the writer, can polish your PB manuscript with this exercise. When you have reached a semi-final stage of your manuscript, you might take 16 sheets of paper, and number them front and back 1 thru 32.  Usually the text for a book starts on something like page 5. You might try to divide out blocks of text on the pages of your “book” spread over pages 5 thru 32. See if you can structure the action and rhythm of your text to flow easily over page turns and double page spreads.  This is “for your eyes only”, NOT to be sent to a publisher. 

This exercise can be a great way to smooth out some of the story line, word plays and rhythms. And it will “show” when an editor reads your manuscript. You can bet that editors reading your manuscript will be thinking along the same lines.....and that can't help but be a “good thing” when an editor is evaluating your manuscript for publication.

Alison, thanks for the great tip on how to structure page turns to keep the energy, flow and interest levels high in the text we write for our picture books. I look forward to another visit from you this spring.

Call for submissions for young writers:

Vademecum Magazine is a student-run high school literary print publication. The quarterly magazine publishes poetry, prose, and black-and-white photography that "illuminate aspects of the everyday that are frequently unseen, un-ogled, unappreciated." This is a non-paying market. Submission guidelines are here.
Submission guidelines at!submissions/cihc

Call for submissions for adult writers:
 The American Kennel Club contest. Entries must be original, unpublished stories that have not been offered to or accepted by any other publisher. Only one entry per author.

The American Kennel Club retains the right to publish the three prize-winning entries in AKC FAMILY DOG, or other AKC publications. Entries may feature either a purebred or mixed breed dog. The maximum length is 2,000 words. Entries exceeding that length will not be considered. No talking dogs, please. 

Entries must be printed on 8 1⁄2″ x 11″ white paper, one side per page, double-spaced. Poor-quality or faded copies cannot be considered. The author’s name, address, and phone number must appear on the first page. The author’s name and the page number must appear on each successive page. 

All acceptable entries will be read by a panel of judges selected by AKC Publications. They will choose the winners based on the style, content, originality, and appeal of the story. All decisions are final. Winners will be announced in an issue AKC FAMILY DOG in 2014.

Send entries to:
AKC Publications Fiction Contest
The American Kennel Club, 260 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016

Check out more contests on my blog:




  1. Always interesting to read how illustrators do their jobs. Thanks.

  2. Alison will be back in late March or April and give us picture book writers more insight into how we can leave room in our writing to allow illustrations to tell part of the story. Writing visually is difficult and the best way to learn is to ask a professional children's book illustrator.