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“Quiet” Books June 26, 2010

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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The editor who recently asked me to revise a picture book ultimately rejected it. She said my book was too “quiet.”

Just a few months ago, I read an explanation of what editors mean when they say a book is “quiet.” I tried to find that explanation on the Internet again and couldn’t. I did find an interview with literary agent Betsy Amster at the Women On Writing site, and she said that in quiet novels “the texture of the writing overshadows the plot.”

I wrote a picture book, not highbrow literature, so I doubt the texture of my writing overshadowed the plot. I think instead the editor meant my book lacked the kind of action, plotting, or conflict needed to stand out on a crowded shelf. The picture book market is stagnant right now, and to be saleable, picture books need to catch and hold the attention of young readers and listeners. They need to be loud. Picture book authors need to use their outside voices.

At least that’s my take. Anybody else have any insights on this?

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Comments»

1. Duane Porter - June 27, 2010

Ronica, here’s a blog talking on the subject – I googled “too quiet rejection” and it was still several down the list.

http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2008/10/too-quiet-on-the-lit-fic-front.html

Emma has a lot to say and she says it well. Too me, she’s saying that writing has to be unique enough to trigger a change in the reader as they turn the pages. It might help provide a new perspective on the “too quiet” terminology.

2. Ronica Stromberg - June 27, 2010

Thanks, Duane. This was a site I’d never seen before, and the blogger makes her point eloquently. What she said encouraged me in that I’ve reached the stage of receiving “Too quiet” rejections. It also challenged me: As a children’s writer, how do I tell a fresh story with a fresh voice to communicate a powerful theme that moves the reader–all in 700 words or less? And those 700 words should be ones a five- or six-year-old can understand.

Of course, I can think of several quiet picture books published successfully. Owl Moon, The Snowy Day, and Goodnight, Moon immediately come to mind. But those books are already well established, and I think editors are concerned that in today’s competitive market a quiet book will have a hard time getting noticed, less enough becoming established as a classic.


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