Creating Picture Books from Start to Finish with Keiko Kasza
Guest post by Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud, Tokyo, Japan
On October 24th, an eager group of SCBWI picture book enthusiasts were treated to an evening with author-illustrator Keiko Kasza, who gave us an inside look at the creation and editing process of picture books. Keiko has an interesting multicultural background and her status as a world citizen is reflected in her beautiful books. Keiko was born on a small island in Japan but has lived in such diverse locations as Indiana (United States) and Ecuador. She is back in Japan now and plans to stay for two to four years at least.
Keiko has been writing and illustrating for more than thirty years and has published 21 books. Her newest book, Finders Keepers, came out just two months ago. Now is the perfect time to schedule some school author visits here in Tokyo!
To help illustrate the journey of bookmaking, Keiko showed us the beginnings and the development of her popular book, A Mother for Choco. She even had an audio version of the story queued up, ready for our enjoyment. The narrators of the story were well-known actors such as Mary Tyler Moore, Lilly Tomlin, Paula Poundstone, Bea Arthur and others. Although she had not intended this book to be a helpful story for families with adoptive children, it has become a favorite among that population.
Because Keiko is both illustrator and author, she is often asked what part comes first, pictures or story. She responded that, for her, writing the story comes first. Then her story gets divided into scenes, and she draws thumbnail sketches to lay out the book. This shows her if the stories and pictures are flowing well together. From a small and simple design, she will then create a book “dummy,” or a sample book, which gets sent to the publisher for review and revision.
Keiko’s talk was detailed and informative, explaining the editing, revision and printing process. We came away with a good grasp of the steps that must go into the creation of a final print book. Her stories about the revision challenges were humorous and at times a bit shocking. An author has to be flexible and creative when working with an editor. Sometimes, even readers can give helpful and workable suggestions for revisions or improvements.
Kasza ended by urging aspiring writers to read lots of picture books and to compare and contrast story and style. She suggested that writers draw on childhood memories and experiences for story inspiration. Reading works-in-progress out loud with classical music playing in the background might help to hear the rhythm of the language or catch any awkwardness. She also suggested looking at the story's action from many different angles and perspectives.
It was a wonderful and informative evening that concluded with a delightful supper gathering at the restaurant downstairs. Thank you so much, Keiko, for sharing your valuable experiences and advice with us. We hope to see you again soon.
Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud is a teacher-librarian working at an international school in Tokyo, where she uses her drama and puppet skills to create a fun and stimulating learning environment for her students. She maintains several websites and writes poetry and picture books for children. The 2016 January edition of Cricket Magazine will feature one of her poems.