Of Brian and Bats, Sendak and Seismosaurus

bats beachI had the good fortune to hear Brian Lies (Bats at the Beach) speak at Lesley University recently while he was sharing some book writing and illustrating wisdom with MFA students. Brian is a thoughtful, eloquent speaker who tugged at our heartstrings while sharing his inspiration for Bats at the Library. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak – go! I’m certain he also delivers dynamic school visits to wow the kiddos as well.

Brian’s presentation included slides of his works in progress, illustrations as well as a tall stack of yellow-lined notepads filled with words, scribbles and cross-outs! He also shared a list of books to consult for further information about picture book writing.***  One title was new to me, so I jotted it down and found it at the library. Let me tell you – it was a treasure!

zinsserWorlds of Childhood The Art and Craft of WRITING FOR CHILDREN, Edited by William Zinsser.
Each chapter is devoted to one author, transcribed and adapted by Zinsser from talks given at The New York Public Library in 1989. The voice of each author, though modified for print, really shines, reflecting his or her unique perspective on writing for children. Sendak talks about music, and how he was impacted by The Wizard of Oz.  Rosemary Wells digs deeply into the reasons that all good picture books require emotional truths. Jack Prelutsky’s discourse on poetry is delightfully playful and inventive, filled with marvelous examples of his work. My favorite? The seredipity of a local seismosaurus discovery and his use of a thesaurus while wrapping up a book on dinosaur poems.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Seismosaurus – Image via Wikimedia Commons

If you are a fan of Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, collected and edited by Leonard S. Marcus, I highly recommend that you read Zinsser’s book as well. Brian Lies Michelle Knudsen was right. There’s nothing like hearing from the masters to encourage and inspire you!


*** Offering a big GIANT mea culpa to Brian and the brilliant Michelle Knudsen who was the first presenter and the author who actually made this recommendation. Clearly I am out of practice on taking good notes, or was far too engrossed in this dynamic pair of presenters to do it properly!  Huge thanks to Brian for sending me an incredibly kind message so that I might correct my mistake, and allow me to apologize to Michelle for the error in my post.


About Cathy Ballou Mealey

Children's book author, repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, alumna, autism advocate, book reviewer. Reach me via email at cmealey@post.harvard.edu or Twitter @catballoumealey
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23 Responses to Of Brian and Bats, Sendak and Seismosaurus

  1. I love William Zinsser’s other writing books so will definitely check this one out! Thanks for telling us about it, Cathy! And lucky you to hear Brian Lies speak. 🙂

  2. rnewman504 says:

    Cathy, If I ever get a chance to hear Brian Lies speak, I promise I won’t skip it. Since, as you know, I am a HUGE fan of the book, Dear Genius, I’ll add The Art and Craft of Writing for Children to the top of my book list. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • He really celebrates the joy and wonder of creating books for children – magical. At the end he spread samples of his illustrations on the stage so we could take a closer look. Just stunning to see what goes into his process. Hope you like the book!

  3. I love Brian Lies books so I would love to see him speak. Thanks for the information on the Zinger book.

  4. mariagianferrari says:

    That sounds like an amazing book! So bummed that our library doesn’t have it ;(!

    Thanks for the great post, Cathy :)!

  5. Iza Trapani says:

    Oh lucky you! I love Brian’s work. And the Zinsser book sounds wonderful!

    • Iza – I thought of you instantly when Brian spread his illustration samples on the stage so we could take a closer look. You did the same thing at your Carle Museum book talk for THE BEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN and it just blew me away! That was the first time I had ever seen someone’s work in all its stages and iterations before becoming the pages of an actual book. I’m still in awe!

  6. Waaah! My library doesn’t have it! Nice that you had the opportunity to attend the talk though!

    • Oh no! Maybe I’ll have to initiate a “Read this and pass it on” copy for all of you who can’t get one through the library. It was a great talk. Michelle Knudsen (Library Lion) was the other speaker – I just haven’t written that blog post yet! 😉

  7. I wasn’t familiar with William Zinsser’s book. Thanks for the introduction. You were lucky to hear Brian Lies speak. I enjoy his books.

  8. Glad I kept this in my inbox for future reading.

  9. I’m off to find this book you referenced — The Art and Craft of WRITING FOR CHILDREN. It’s always fun to read about writing! thanks for the tip!

  10. I loved DEAR GENIUS, and am looking forward to your other book recommendation, too. Thanks!

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