Today I’m so excited to welcome my very dear writer/illustrator and all round amazing creator friend, Tania McCartney who’s visiting to celebrate the release of Tottie and Dot, her new picture book collaboration with Tina Snerling.
Tottie and Dot is an important story about friendship and how to fix it when things go wrong.
Tottie and Dot live side by side. They drink marshmallow tea in the morning. Side-by-side. They water blooms in the afternoon garden. Side-by-side. They make speckled eggs for tea. Side-by-side. All is calm and peaceful until, one day, things change between Tottie and Dot. Who can create the prettiest, the bestest, the coolest house? And at what cost?
If you want to know more about Tottie and Dot you can read my review here.
Today, Tania is generously sharing some great tips about the collaboration process and how to make it work.
Tania’s Five Writing Tips – Author/Illustrator Collaboration
Tina Snerling and I are lucky creators. We get to work very closely together when we produce our books, and—to me—there is nothing more rewarding in the book production journey. Working in collaboration enhances any work, especially when both parties are willing to open their hearts and minds to collaborative possibility. Two minds are always better than one—and working with Tina so closely has allowed me to shift and change and grow my text, with new ideas, concepts and elements that might not have occurred had we put this book together ‘blind’.
Working collaboratively absolutely makes for a more seamless book creation, where that delicate author/illustrator dance comes together in a truly cohesive way. Here are my top tips for a rewarding collaboration:
- Try not to be precious when you begin collaborating. Accept that the other party may have something really special to offer—some humour, a quirky addition, a plot twist, a new perspective. It’s not about who’s right or wrong—it’s about creating a new entity that takes seed in both image and text, but grows into its own creation. Allow the process to be organic. I have regularly changed text to suit Tina’s illustration ideas, and vice versa.
- If you are the author, let go of being the ‘primary’ creator. The books I write become as much Tina’s as they are mine. The nuance and meaning her illustrations add to the text are priceless.
- Set up a google doc spreadsheet and keep track of how the book unfolds. Tina and I put illustration notes in the columns and discuss the process as we go along. Listing the pages down the left hand side (including cover, inside cover, endpapers, half title, title, imprint, etc) really helps keep tabs on how the book is flowing, and if text needs to be moved to another page or if page imagery needs to be broken up in some way. You can also keep several versions of the spreadsheet so you can look back and see how things changed over time. Fascinating!
- I can’t imagine things turning sour (and you rarely hear of this happening), but if they do, it’s probably due to a battle of wills. For the sake of the book, agree to put the disagreements behind you, be prepared to compromise and if things are really bad, call on your editor or publisher to make the final choices/decisions.
- Keep communications open and strong and clear. This will minimise any drama, confusion, misinterpretation of text (rare) and—most importantly—the reworking of images, which can be immensely frustrating and time-consuming. Remember some illustrators like to storyboard, some like to create full mock ups, some create in full draft or go straight to final (exponentially easier if the illustrations are digital, like Tina’s, or the images can be manipulated digitally). If you spend time discussing imagery before it’s created, you minimise these issues. Of course, once the discussion occurs, you also need to let go of expectation and remember the illustrator may well throw out your illustration notes and—gasp!—create something better than you ever dreamed.
(Sep 2014, EK Books, $24.99, hard cover, 9781921966491)
Thanks for the tips, Tania. We look forward to seeing more wonderful books from you and Tina:)