I've started work on a new picture book that's been floating around my head for some time. I've heard authors talk about writing books where you can tap into your own emotions or things you are familiar with. Some of the strongest emotions I felt in recent years came from the death of family members, specifically my dad's.
So, that's where I decided to start. My dad was an avid photographer and famous for taking us for rides or on walks to explore the sights around us. He was also passionate about his Lithuanian heritage and even more so after visiting relatives who still live there. I decided to combine all of these things into a picture book so I could draw on real places, events, and emotions.
It began as a "dump" or "vomit" of places, words, scenes, memories. And the more I typed, the more the memories came flowing back to me. But I still didn't have a story. I had photography, heritage, and eventually a key word that I knew I wanted to incorporate.
When starting any project, I begin my search for mentor texts. Other picture books about family memories, traditions, or a relationship between an older family member with a younger family member became my focus.
The book WATERCRESS by Andrea Wang immediately came to mind. A moving autobiographical story about connecting with heritage and new watercress memories.
I also recalled FRY BREAD: A NATIVE AMERICAN FAMILY STORY by Kevin Noble. Told in verse, the story features family and friends gathering, creating, and enjoying fry bread together. In the end, it's really about keeping old traditions and memories alive as well as new ones.
Since my story focused on my dad's photography it was easy to connect the theme of photographs with memories. I added our nature walks and drives, the county fair, a photography contest, grandchildren, and a Lithuanian word my dad told me his mother repeatedly told him growing up. It just so happened that word tied in beautifully to my story.
At the same time, I came across Betsy Bird's interview about her new book LONG ROAD TO THE CIRCUS. I wasn't aware that the story was based on family stories and historical details. Basically, she described it as "weaving together your family stories with a story that you really enjoy writing". That struck a chord with me and I was encouraged to keep working on my story.
Soon after I had a story with a beginning, middle, and a satisfying end.
Linda Bozzo has published more than 50 nonfiction books for the school and library markets. For more information about Linda and her books, or to book an author visit, you can visit her website. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.