Alyssa’s Notes from Nicole Rubel’s Presentation on Find Your Voice & Use It In A Children’s Book

Alyssa McPartland is our Wilsonville High School Intern for the fourth season of the Northwest Author Series. Here, she shares her notes from Nicole Rubel’s September 19th presentation: Find Your Voice: Use It In A Children’s Book:

Nicole Rubel gave a lecture on writing for yourself and about who you are. She explained that she is a twin and this has had a great effect on her life as an artist. She was always quiet, and felt she could never keep up with her twin. As the years progressed they went their own ways, and for the first time Rubel was separated from her best friend, and it appeared that her twin could not be happier. Finally deciding to go her own way, Rubel entered into the Boston Museum School. There she found her own style as an artist and met Jack Gantos, the future co-author of the Rotten Ralph series. For years she was the artist and never the writer, until eventually she met an Editor who convinced her she had enough experience to be a good writer. From then on Rubel has written many books, all reflecting who she is and what she loves.

Here is her advice for writers:

  • In children’s books, pictures are just as important as text (art has to do the talking)
  • Writing where you’re from and about whom you are is perfectly natural; it’s what you know best.
  • Even when nobody believes in you, or if they tell you to stop, keep pushing yourself; the more you practice, the better you get.
  • Best time to be creative is when you’re really angry or really depressed.
  • When you’re writing, go to a computer or your library and make sure that all your facts are correct.
  • Write about what you love.
  • Don’t write to teach, be obsessed.
  • Write your own stories (“Tell all the truth, but tell it slant” Dickenson)
  • It takes longer to draw a book than to write one.
  • Put yourself in your work.
  • Photograph everything you like and write about it in a journal.
  • Draw something over and over again.
  • Recognize your own style: it’s important.
  • When you’re upset, pull out the pen! (Or paintbrush)
  • If you write fiction, you still have to know what you’re writing about.
  • You have to catch your audience in the first sentence, then the first paragraph.
  • If the ending connects back to the beginning, it can create a more successful story.
  • Write about your passion.
  • Give a sense of where you are: a great way to do this is by telling the audience how hot or cold you are, what you smell, what you are hearing, etc.
  • You have to take risks.
  • Writing about something that hurts is a great start: You’ll be expressive.
  • Use what you see.
  • Don’t write for an age group, just write.
  • Writing is painful. Keep practicing.
  • Look to your fears for story ideas.
  • You always need to convince your audience.
  • The best way to begin a story is by creating a skeleton.
  • “When I write, I put it together like a patchwork quilt.” Rubel uses both real experiences and fiction to create her stories, but you they still need to fit together.
  • “A lot of us hold one story inside. Put is aside and write ten others.” Nothing is too precious: if it’s not working, put it aside, perhaps even combine stories.
  • Read what you write or who you are writing for.
  • Become the protagonist.
  • SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) is a great place to start going to workshops.
  • Find a writing style that works for you.
  • Getting published once is easier than getting published twice.
  • Don’t think about getting published, think about writing.
  • “Publishing is great, but it’s not the ‘end-all’. The point of writing is for creativity. The more you write, the more your voice comes out, and that’s what is important.”

To learn more about Nicole Rubel, visit her website.

Browse books by Nicole Rubel.

Check out another response to the event at Writing & Riding.

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