July 20th marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing! Here to celebrate and share her beautiful STEM picture book, Aliana Reaches For The Moon, is debut author Laura Roettiger! Her strategies for showing this important and lyrically written story are excellent.
TS: Thank you Laura for joining our blog today!
LR: Thank you for asking me to participate in your blog! I appreciate the opportunity to share about my writing process.
TS: Whether drafting or revising, how do you know when it is necessary to show action, scene and sensory elements?
LR: The common wisdom of show don’t tell doesn’t mean that there should be only showing in your writing. The way I think about it is I’m trying to paint a picture (setting) and demonstrate an emotion or desire (plot and character) with my words. I draft with these things in mind but revision is where the magic of lyrical language, page turns, and showing comes together. I think about how each page needs to move the story forward both with words and illustrations. Imagine a book where every page looks the same. That would be really boring.
TS: Are there specific strategies, tools or resources you use to incorporate more showing/descriptive language?
LR: I use thesaurus.com to see if there are stronger words when I revise at the word level. I read my work aloud and even more importantly, I have someone else read it for me so I can hear how it sounds. Picture books and poetry are meant to be read aloud. How it sounds (think alliteration, think musical) is very important. I try to get rid of as many adjectives as I can, because most of them can be shown in the illustrations. I read at least ten new picture books each week. I look for mentor texts, books that have something I can learn from as I write mine.
TS: Would you like to share an example of a before and after where you needed to show more and found the right words to paint the image for the reader?
“Once upon a time there was a girl named Aliana. She lived in a cabin in the woods near the top of a mountain peak.”
Above was the original first line of what became ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON. It started like a fairy tale which wasn’t necessary. It tells you she’s a girl but the illustration and the name can show you that. It doesn’t give you the important information of a specific setting (Rocky Mountains) or talk about the night sky and how the light of the full moon is the inciting incident. After many revisions, the opening words (only one word less and more lyrical with more information that paints a picture of the setting:
“Aliana lives in the Rocky Mountains where the night sky holds more stars than you can dream of and the moon shimmers like gold.”