Stacy Innerst

Guest Editor Stacy Innerst: The Risk of Illustration Notes in Picture Books Manuscripts


Dear Editor…

If you have a spare text for a picture book, should you send along another copy of the story with illustration notes? If so, what’s the proper format for the notes? Brackets? Italics?


Stacy Innerst, today’s Guest Editor, is the award-winning illustrator of picture books including The Worm Family, M Is For Music, Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea, Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country), and the upcoming The Beatles: They Were Fab and They Were Funny.

Dear Natasha…

An illustrator’s perspective: I prefer to have the opportunity to have an unencumbered first impression of the story, no matter how spare the text might be.  You’d be amazed at how easily an artist’s creative train can be derailed by having illustration notes, especially early in the process—it’s like a hair in your soup, you can’t forget about it.

The first reading of just words on a page, without preconceptions, is where the pictures start to germinate and the enthusiasm for the project takes hold. I can only assume that an editor would feel the same way.

I understand that with minimal text there is a temptation to sell the story by filling in the blanks, but I think if the root of the story is strong enough the pictures will come. A good illustrator will get what you’re trying to evoke without too much direction.

Best wishes to you,
Stacy Innerst