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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

The Collaboration Process

This post originally appeared on Epic Eighteen.

As a picture book author, I write words that eventually will be paired with illustrations, creating a whole book. Since I’m not an illustrator, my vision is only one part of the finished process. A certain amount of trust is required to believe that the publisher, editor, and/or art director will create an extraordinary partnership between author and illustrator. With the debut of SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, I couldn’t be happier collaborating with my incredible illustrator, Sandie Sonke (, under the expert guidance of our editor and art director, Mira Reisberg, and our publisher, Callie Metler-Smith. While learning the craft of writing for children, I had always practiced the idea of leaving room for the illustrator. When I saw the illustrations and text of SCARLET together for the first time, I truly understood what that meant. During the editing process after I saw the illustrations, I streamlined the text by cutting words that weren’t necessary. My text became tighter in response to the images I saw appearing next to the words. For example, in an early draft, I had included the line, “Tears ran down her cheeks.” But since Sandie showed emotion in her illustration, this line was redundant. As the collaborative dance continued, the story grew stronger. And my ideas plus Sandie’s concepts turned into one creative vision. It’s amazing to see the artwork of my debut picture book. The book was inspired by the thought of a girl with a magic paintbrush. I didn’t know what that girl would look like and of course I couldn’t have contemplated all the lovely details that Sandie has included in her work. The finished book is a true melding of art and text, producing a seamless and cohesive whole. I hope that children who read this story will enjoy the themes of creativity and escaping perfectionism. And of course I hope they love the magic that emanates from each word and illustration! Thanks for reading about my picture book process. Good luck with all your creative collaborations!


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