Lili Wilkinson is our lovely December guest and we are very lucky to get to watch as she enters the world of writing picture books for the first time. Lili wrote us this beautiful post about her experiences writing her first picture book, That Christmas Feeling, and how the opportunity came about!
Writing a picture book is really, really different to writing a novel. I was
approached to write this book by my editor friend Susannah, who knows how
much I love Christmas. She wanted a sweet, heartwarming Christmas story that
wasn’t religious, and she thought I was the right person to write it.
I am VERY into Christmas. It starts in November when I make the Christmas
puddings with my mum and my son Banjo. The tree goes up on December 1
(never before), and Christmas is on. I have a massive playlist of Christmas music
that I love listening to, and one of my favourite nights is when we visit a family
friend’s house for a carol-singing party. Christmas Day itself is lovely, but really
it’s all about the lead-up to me – the Advent calendar, seeing wreaths on people’s
front doors, driving home and seeing twinkling lights. It’s the fizzy, exciting
feeling that Dottie talks about in the book.
So I knew I wanted my Christmas book to be about family, because for me family
is a big part of Christmas. While I’m not religious, I’ve always been fond of the
Christmas story (with the baby Jesus and the manger and the wise men). For me,
the story is more moving if the religious element is removed – even though the
baby is born in such a humble place, to unimportant parents, he is still visited by
kings, because all new life is special and worthy of being celebrated.
So the story came out of those thoughts. It went through quite a few edits, and I
found this process really fascinating. Making big editorial changes to a novel is
like trying to turn around a massive cruise ship – you can’t really see what you’re
doing and it’s going to take a lot of time to do it right and make sure the whole
thing doesn’t sink. It’s incredibly difficult to keep it all in your head, and to figure
out how each little change affects the rest of the story. But with a picture book,
you can really see the whole thing at once. Wonder what it would be like in
present instead of past tense? Give me ten minutes and I’ll rewrite it. We were
making significant changes to the text the day before it went to print. That part of
it felt very dynamic and exciting.
But of course the best thing about the process was seeing the story come to life
through Amanda Francey’s stunning illustrations. It’s an amazing thing seeing
them all for the first time – just like the fizzy, exciting Christmas feeling!
And the thing I didn’t quite realise when I started, is that you get to share the
creative load – I don’t have to tell the whole story by myself!
I’ve definitely caught the picture book bug – this won’t be the last one you see
– Lili Wilkinson
You can find out more about Lili Wilkinson and the books she’s written on her website or follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Don’t forget to also join Lili and the @PictureBookbc team this Thursday 7th December at 8pm AEST for our December Twitter Chat!