Well for me, there are many reasons why I want to write picture books.
I've always loved to write and have a drawer full of journals, poems, and half written picture books. Working as an Early Childhood Teacher, really opened my eyes to picture books and the whole process of sharing this special experience with children.
Writing for children requires a certain amount of delicacy. When you think about it, you are providing children with their first literary experience. For many people, they still remember their favourite picture books when they were growing up. You want to make sure you get it right, and allow children to view reading as a pleasurable experience.
I found reading picture books to a group of children, an amazingly powerful experience as they would watch wide eyed with their mouths gaping wide. They became so engrossed that they'd hang off my every word. I am naturally drawn to writing picture books with my background in education, but I am also very visual and have a great appreciation for art and how the text and illustrations compliment each other.
The picture books I have written nearly always begin with a concept. My main objective is what will the young reader get out of my story and what will make them want to read it again and again. When I'm looking for a concept, I research what hasn't been done before or how can I write a new way of looking at a subject.
Most importantly, I'm trying to write interesting and engaging stories for children whilst still pleasing parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians with a concept that they might be looking for. After all they are the one's buying the books. Children have a certain amount of power to influence their parents book purchases, but until children carry a wallet, purse, or a key card, you really have to look at who is buying the books and why would they choose your picture book over another?
There's no denying that I have chosen a very competitive market. There are so many talented picture book writers, and to make it even harder, some people can write and illustrate. That's an unfair advantage, so what am I going to do? Become better at writing, and know the children's book market inside and out. For me, this requires borrowing up to 40 picture books a week. My approach is even quite child like, if it doesn't grab me in the first few pages, then I put it back. Is the title easy to read? Is the front cover appealing? Is it age appropriate to the age group it is targeted at? Is it easy to follow? Are the situations familiar? Do I feel like turning the page to find out what happens?
It's important not to pick your favourite picture books when you were a child as a model, because times have changed and children are different from twenty or thirty years ago. Children today are exposed to classical music, computer programs, Ds games, educational television programs, big budget movies, and activities that require less attention span. I've even had my eight year old daughter comment on the graphics of a program.
It's not to say you can't use your childhood memories and your favourite books when you were a child for inspiration, but if you try and write about Georgie Porgie, learning manners, and start dictating good behaviour, then you'll find it very difficult to fit into today's children's market.
So, for me picture books are my favourite genre, and if you feel the same, then don't give up studying about writing for children and learning the craft. My best advice would be to find a mentor that has written picture books who can guide you in the process. Writing picture books isn't easy and you may have to redraft your manuscript ten or fifteen times. But it's incredibly rewarding and children will thank you for writing not just a good book, but a book that they will read with mum or dad, cuddle at night, and request until it's memorised word for word.