Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

1/20/10

Collaborations

Collaboration is not always easy for me. When I was young, if anyone gave me a suggestion for one my stories or a piece of artwork, I would outwardly smile and thank them, but inwardly I'd be angry. I felt that if I incorporated any of their ideas, the work would no longer be mine, and whatever suggestions were offered immediately become off-limit possibilities.

Fortunately I've come to realize that there's nothing wrong with getting advice from other people. My editors and critique group members play a huge role in shaping what I write, and my stories are immeasurably stronger because of this. As I tell the kids I work with at schools, they, as authors, have the final decision as to what advice to use, and a wise author will incorporate ideas that make the story stronger no matter if these ideas were offered by someone else.

I sometimes feel badly that books list only the author and illustrator, and on rare occasions, the editor and art director, as creators of the work. So many other people have a huge impact on the end result, including the designer, the typesetter, and the copy editor. In my novel ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NOT, the proofreader saved me from many embarrassing mistakes, including the error of using humus when I meant hummus; without her careful eyes, my character would have been eating a dirt sandwich.

Yup, collaboration is a huge part of writing, and thank goodness for that.

6 comments:

Lauren said...

David, I too was no good at collaboration when I was young-- I wanted my creations to be "mine". It is nice to grow up and realize the possibilities of collaborations and how they bring us all closer together as well as make some beautiful books. Whenever I tell my editor that I think she should be listed in the copyright, she cringes. I think she likes being the "woman" behind the curtain.

Christy said...

I was appalled when one of my illustration teachers at Pratt seemed to encourage the notion that artists should hang on to their "pure" vision (i.e. ignore suggested changes from art directors). It is very important to get the message out to children's book creators that they will be part of a team, and their teammates will be sounding out, sometimes loudly, but they are cheering them on to victory!

Still, it IS hard to take criticism. Whenever I received the inevitable letter with long list of changes after submitting a project, I used to react right away (defensively, of course). Now I try to let comments sift down for a few days before I respond. I always come around to see the sense in what has been suggested. Ultimately, I know my teammates have my back.

Love the humus vs. hummus!

Stephanie said...

David I think you hit on something that young writers and even beginning older writers do not like to hear: that their work may not be perfect as is and might benefit from outside feedback. Once I learned the wisdom of that, my writing improved a lot:)

Edie said...

This is an interesting conversation. What made you change, David? Was it just maturing, or was there a specific "aha" moment when you realized you could listen to other suggestions and decide how to use them to make your writing better?

In my experience as a writer, I've had a few of those "aha" moments that made all the difference.

Mark said...

David, great point that input does not compromise an author's integrity but actually enhances the creative process. I grew up believing the great authors of the past sat down and dashed off their masterpieces in one draft -- boy, did I have a lot to learn about the "real" process of writing, namely revision and seeking input from trusted readers. Thanks for the post.

David LaRochelle said...

I think it was a matter of maturing, Edie, and learning the humility that I didn't have to do everything entirely by myself. And I still struggle with the issue; it can be very difficult to ask for help, in matters not related to writing as well.