30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag by Amanda Davis, and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport is a poetic, powerful, moving book. We're excited to learn from Amanda's process.
Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts? If so, how?
Yes, I definitely utilize mentor texts, especially in my research phase of project planning. Here are some of the ways I use them:
To figure out what else is in the market that might be similar to my book and then ask myself, how will my book add to what’s already out there or what gaps will it fill?
To analyze structure, format, back matter (when applicable). I also love analyzing the first lines of stories and have a document where I’ve kept track of first lines in picture books. It’s fascinating to see the many ways readers can get hooked by a captivating first line.
Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of 30,000 STITCHES?
The text of 30,000 Stitches is lyrical, and I love finding ways to merge my love of poetry into my children’s book manuscripts. Because of this, I’m often drawn to other lyrical picture books as well. For lyrical language I utilized books such as Nicola Davies’s The Day War Came and King of the Sky along with classics such as Come On, Rain by Karen Hesse and John J. Muth. This isn’t a text, but I did watch episodes of Renée LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab on YouTube, which gave me other ideas for mentor texts and helpful hints on how to strengthen lyrical prose. I also remember reading through other narrative nonfiction picture books such as, She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton and Felicita Sala and Giant Squid by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann.
Another way I utilized mentor texts for 30,000 Stitches was for the back matter. I find back matter to be challenging because you want to relay and expand upon facts but also keep it fun and engaging for readers. When researching for the back matter of 30,000 Stitches, I wanted to see what types of back matter were out there and think of creative ways to visually layout the text and images. Some books I utilized for examples of back matter were Shark Lady by Jess Keating and Marta Álvarez Miguéns, Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood and Sally Wern Comport, Building Zaha: The Story of Architect Zaha Hadid by Victoria Tentler-Krylov, Let the Children March by Monia Clark-Robinson and Frank Morrison, and Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence by Karla Valenti and Annalisa Beghelli.
How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer?
Reading picture books has helped me better understand the different styles and structures of contemporary picture book texts and what is being acquired. Additionally, and I think most importantly, the more picture books I read, the more I’m reminded that there is indeed a place in the market for my voice and my stories. Sometimes these stories are difficult in nature but I know there are editors out there that see the importance of these types of stories and are willing to take a chance knowing that kids need them.
What do you feel is the BEST way for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts?
I’m not sure if there is any best way for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts, but as I said earlier, you can use them to inform your own writing in terms of structure, form, language, and knowing what’s out there in the market. With that said, you also don’t want to be overly influenced by another writer’s work OR get so caught up in you’re the research phase of your process that it stops you from putting pen to paper.
the author of 30,000 STITCHES: THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE NATIONAL 9/11 FLAG and has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology, FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her partner and her rescue pup, Cora. You can learn more about Amanda at www.amandadavisart.com and on Twitter @amandadavisart and Instagram @amandadavis_art.