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January 2013

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The Picture Book that became Hound Dog True

Like my first novel, A Crooked Kind of Perfect, Hound Dog True began as a picture book. It started with the characters: shy Mattie, gregarious Uncle Potluck, a Mama who seemed not to understand her daughter entirely. The moon was there from the beginning, too. But not much else.

Over the next few weeks, I thought I'd talk a little bit about the evolution of Hound Dog True, from picture book to published novel. It seems like the best place to start is with that picture book. Want to see it?

Now remember, this is an early draft, okay? Okay. Here it is: Promising the Moon Early Draft

Seasoned picture book writers are guffawing right now. Yes, the manuscript feels long. The character is a little old for most modern picture books. It doesn't have that bouncy picture book oomph. It is what many would call "a mood piece". (For the unseasoned: mood piece=kiss of death.)

I sent a later draft out to a few editors and got supportive feedback. They liked the characters. They liked the writing. One or two wondered about the back story and suggested there might be more there.

We'll talk more about "more there" next time. Meanwhile, if you've got any questions about this process or issues you'd like to address, leave them in the comments section. Ready? Let's discuss.


What a Treat to See

I really enjoyed seeing the draft of the PB. It's Linda-Urban-lovely. Had I read it I would have suggested that given the current PB market, it was a magazine story. I'm so glad you didn't show it to me then because it's so much better as a novel. How did you make that leap from viewing it as a PB to a novel? Did your gut tell you that was the right move or did it start to expand as creative exercise just to see? BTW- my dd started read HDT this morning and said "She always likes to have clothing on her covers." I hadn't thought of it. She has disappeared btw. Good sign. Not a good sign for getting math and social studies done, but a good sign of an excellent book!

Re: What a Treat to See

I can't tell you how excited I am for this behind the scenes peek!!!

Re: What a Treat to See

I'm glad to hear it. Is there anything you're particularly interested in, Val?

Re: What a Treat to See

Thanks for these questions, Cass. I'll try to address them in later posts. And I'm really glad that you think HDT is better as a novel. I do, too.
Since I still haven't been able to reward myself with reading HDT (grrr on me), I will have to look forward to rereading this after I've read the novel.

Didn't CROOKED start out as a picture book also?
Yep. When I started writing picture books, I was still operating on the model of books I liked in the 70's-early 90's. Most of those books would not find a pb audience now, but many would have been well suited for young middle grades.
aw crud. Put me on the spot, why don't you? I'll put this in a future post, too.
I liked the novel. I like the picture book. What can I say, I like quiet and quiet protagonists everywhere. No questions, but I look forward to reading more.
Thanks, Jeannine. I like quiet, too. Have you read JUNONIA yet? I bet you'll love it.

Hound Dog True

Linda, I can't wait to read this! It's one of the top books on my winter reading list.

Re: Hound Dog True

I sure hope you like it!
I'm a believer in the theory that the path a story takes to its full telling is important. How we tell is as important as what we do. (Voice, of course.) What impresses me is how much you trusted that kernel to grow and how you tended to it over time.

Do you think it's a matter of the picture book form allowing you to see the arc of the story all at once? Or more that the condensed language hones in on the voice?

I was also thinking that oral stories are by nature shorter than novels. So it might be that by beginning this way, you were feeling out the difference?
Oooh! Glad I checked LJ today. I love a good behind-the-scenes peek. :)
More to come.
I pictured you as one of the guffawers -- but in a generous and non-judgmental way, of course. :)
Please! Your biggest fan would NEVER guffaw.
I love what you add to a discussion, Sara.
And I didn't always trust that kernel. My back was against the wall -- which was what kept me going, but also made progress glacial.

I honestly think that the picture book was a proving ground for voice and the nugget of character in each story. And I also think there is something to what you say about oral stories -- Crooked, to me, is really structured like a series of stories one tells a friend about day to day happenings. The chapters are short, because they are like when I call you up and say: this weird thing happened in class today. I don't give you a ton of backstory or much in the way of transition. I tell you this episode, complete with a "punchline" or a summation of feeling and then you tell me your episode and we move along like that.

Does that make sense?
Yes, it does. A novel as a set of stories clearly has a different feel than one written as a longer whole, although both have to work as one unity---which is lovely to watch play out in CROOKED.
Everything I read that you've written just makes me sigh--sigh in the very, very best way. It's all about your voice for me. And while the pb version of HDT may not fit today's market (which, imo, is a crying shame), the voice still bursts forth; the characters are ALIVE and the reader immediately cares about/connects with them.

I'm so glad you shared this, and I'm looking forward to reading the next installments. I have a great interest on how this pb ms became a full-blown novel.
I'm glad that you enjoyed it, Katy.
I'll probably get to the next installment on Monday. I'm looking for some specific examples of revision.
Wow! I love it! Is this the story that you quoted from under your userpic on Verla's a while ago?

"Shine," the Moon said. And so I did." (or something like that)

That's the one!


I love it as a PB, too! You must think in poetry, Linda, and that's what makes you such a beautiful writer in whatever genre you choose.
My darling Anonymous, thank you for the compliment.