I’m going to try this post one more time before I shelve the topic and let myself process it some more. I’ve been noodling over how now, during the pandemic, is a great time to flex a little and think outside the box. But this idea didn’t coalesce until I watched the Kid Lit Distancing Social with David Harrison. Somewhere past the middle he said that you should not break the rules without knowing you are doing it.
Granted, he was talking about writing poetry, but that’s really the broader idea that I’ve been playing with. During the pandemic is a great time to break the rules.
Yesterday I read a great School Library Journal article about a Texas history teacher, Cathy Cluck and how she bent the teaching rules during COVID. Like many teachers, Cathy is used to connecting with her students face to face. How to do it when they are each sitting at their own screen? Her answer? A historic road trip. She could offer lessons from historic places. She plotted out a road trip, Zooming live from some locations and creating videos at the ones she reached too early to use in lecture. What a great opportunity to teach her students from location!
Teachers aren’t the only ones pushing the rules now that they’ve been forced outside of the classroom for a semester at a time. One writer friend reported that she walked past her daughter on Zoom class and was surprised the girl was wearing a top hat. A quick glance at the screen showed none of her classmates in hats. “Why are you wearing that?” “Why not?”
Why not indeed? Why not write what hasn’t been done before? Whether you are writing a picture book, a graphic novel, or middle grade nonfiction, try something that has never been done before. Most often when we do this, we try to find a topic no one has covered. Why not push it a bit and trying something that breaks the rules?
I’m working on a picture book that will feature images of babies which, as I wrote in “What You Need to Know about Writing Board Books,” will appeal to babies and toddlers. But the text? The text is humorous and written like an informercial or advotainment. It will appeal to the parents and older picture book readers. Does this follow all of the rules we are told to use when writing picture books? Not so much.
But I knew it when I did it. You’d think I was visiting historic sites wearing a top hat.