Friday, January 26

Illustrations and Illuminations

By Ava Cuvay

Happy Friday Wranglers! While I’m waiting for my critique partners to thrash my third book, I’ve been tinkering with another story that’s been in the back of my mind for a few years now. And it’s quite a departure from what I normally write.

I’m writing and illustrating a children’s book.

Granted, I’m going to publish it under another name… don’t think children-friendly stories mesh well with my hot sci-fi romance rep. Although as a person, I’m excited at the prospect of changing the picture on the back of my phone to something a little more appropriate for substitute teaching than my His Precious Cargo cover (the kiddos are beginning to notice and inquire. Ack!)

You might think writing and illustrating a children’s book has nothing in common with writing a 97,000-word romance novel, but I’m finding there is an amazing amount of similarity. One of the biggest so far include voice. As writers, especially new ones, we struggle to find “our voice.” Not the nuances and speech patterns of our varied characters, but the overall tone and sentence structures of our individual voice. I didn’t truly understand the impact of “voice” – thought it was just a result of different genres or tropes – until I read Jeffe Kennedy’s RITA-winning “Pages of the Mind.” Here’s a gal who has a very distinctive voice. Her writing is elegant and eloquent, even when she’s using the same bucket of words that I pull from for my stories. We have different voices, and I’m amazed at how we speak the same language, but yet we really don’t speak the same language… hence why she’s won a RITA and I haven’t! ;-)

Finding my voice with my children’s story is also a challenge. The main difference is that my “voice” is my illustrations. I was pretty good in art oh-so-many years ago, but the muscle memory has to be re-established. I’m struggling to fund my “style,” my “vision,” my artists “voice.” The beautiful pictures in my head are still coming out as weirdly-proportioned and static, two-dimensional characters on the page. I’m not at the point where they are vibrant, emotive illustrations yet.

Funny, but I struggle with this in my written romance characters as well.

The editing process is also somewhat similar. As a romance writer, I throw words at the page and then fine-tune, add, delete, tweak, and re-arrange through the editing process until I have the best story. So goes for drawing my illustrations. I have bare-boned sketches that will be tweaked, added, deleted, and edited until they are the best expression of my voice I can make. Unfortunately, I’m still at the rough draft stage!

I have to laugh at myself, because what was supposed to be a simple 12-page children’s story with perhaps 100 words and some colorful pictures is turning out to be as daunting as crafting a full-length novel with multiple characters, alien worlds, and surprising plot twists!

(And here I thought I was going to an easy road toward publication. Ha!)

So, what are your greatest challenges when writing? 


  1. As always, this is interesting. I love your sketches! Good luck with the story.

  2. Not to dissuade you, but I have heard that writing a picture book is actually the hardest medium to accomplish and win a publishing contract. Some writers work years on their books because every single word is important. Good luck on your newest adventure!

    1. I can imagine how hard it is! When I wrote my 10,000-word short story, it about killed me because I’m used to 90,000+ words. Now I have maybe 100 words to tell my story... quite the challenge!!

  3. How fun for you! I didn't know you are a gifted artist as well as a great writer! Love your sketches!

    1. Thanks! They looked much better in my mind! Lol!

  4. I'm impressed, Ava! I had to laugh when you said you thought a children's book would be an easy road to publication. A lot of people think romance novels are easy, too. And boy, are they wrong!