A Reluctant Writer’s Story

My Author Illustrator Presentation is a lively mix of storytelling and sharing pictures. I introduce myself to students with a display of original pictures behind me. I tell stories of my early struggles in school, and the excitement of getting an idea for a picture book as an adult and learning to write.

The process of story building comes to life as I show students how the story in the picture book Reunion grew from a simple idea — a boy climbs into an old picture and goes back in time. Here we see the Jon, the main character in the book climbing into the picture at the start of his adventure in the past.

As I take students from early simple sketches to finished artwork I show how drawing natural entrance to writing. I show students how drawing pictures and telling stories can be a natural bridge to writing. As I show artwork from the book I also draw in front of students, making simple stick pics to illustrate my ideas. As I’m drawing I build ideas on a storyboard, a connected set of boxes. This storyboard idea is a standard picture book tool. I show how storyboards combined with simple drawings make building a story easy and fun.

As we explore the way stories can grow students see lots of original pictures from my books, both loose sketches and finished artwork, as well as drafts of the stories text in dummy books. Together we see how something a simple as re-telling family stories becomes a natural entrance to writing.

Book Review

The picture book Reunion (Simon and Schuster, 1994) tells the story of a boy at his grandparents cottage who climbs into an old family photo and finds himself in the past…

Kirkus (‘94) said Reunion is a story “…many young readers will find intriguing. Essley’s appealing nostalgic illustrations are distinguished by delicate modeling and carefully balanced composition. A creative introduction to time travel and to the way that ordinary-seeming remnants of the past can become windows into a once vibrant time.”