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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Guest Blogger Claudine Gueh Yanting

One of the most interesting recent children's books is a picture book called My Clearest Me, by Claudine Gueh Yanting. The highly poetic text shows the thoughts of a shy boy who wonders how he fits into the world. I am delighted to have Claudine as my guest today. I asked her to talk about the experience of writing this unusual book.

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THE NIGHT WIND KING

It started out this way: a boy would be asleep and there would be creatures appearing in his dream. Perhaps in alphabetical order. The focus would be on the train of creatures in the dream. The readers would be ‘watching’ a circus show.

Sounds like a good idea for a picture book.

Right?

Somehow, my mind kept drifting to the boy. The only quiet element in the ruckus.

Who was he? How was he like? Did he … want something?

Contrasts & Imagery
Wynn’s conflicts are based on my experience as an insecure introvert. Right from when I’d known the boy would be a quiet child, the image of a bout of fresh, gentle night wind came to me. He would be the Night Wind King, soft and clear.

So I looked for imagery in the night sky, in clothings, in masks and real appearances, and in music.

The train of contrasts followed:

- Wynn’s ‘shy and nestled voice’ VS the noisy swallows stirring the sky;
- a pale boy in soft-colored pajamas VS rowdy children in clown/T-Rex costumes;
- soft flute music VS clattery-clack drum beats;
- a bout of night wind VS sparks that crack the sky. 

Soon the sounds and silence began to mix. I started to think about presenting the story in a musical way.

So I Wrote In Verse, Which
… nearly did me in.

Honestly.

The concept was to set the tone in a softly blowing manner with a consistent rhythm. I’d wanted the language to be part of the wind imagery. Even Wynn’s worries would be presented in a style that was very honest and clear, like a voice that’s right next to your ears. No additional noise necessary.

Each word was reconsidered and each line revised over and over. 

Then came another challenge …

Combining Story with Art
Usually, the illustrator would take charge of the artistic direction, working closely with the editor on the book concept. In our case, I was the writer and the editor. And Sarah hadn’t learned to interpret a children’s book text as a professional illustrator yet. (My Clearest Me would be her first children’s book.) 

So we did what we could:

While writing the manuscript, I was already visualizing the artistic direction of each page.
Would this be a single picture in a double-page? Would this be a close-up? How could we show the contrast between Wynn and the other kids?

I related to Sarah my ideas and showed her a flimsy book dummy I’d made. She got things very quickly.

About a week later, she showed me the storyboard. We went through each page and tweaked the drafts, with Sarah putting in her ideas and details along the way. They worked amazingly. There wasn’t a moment of frustration during our partnership. None at all. It was so fun for us, and the book has turned out to be as whimsical and magical as we’d hoped it would be!

We’d done our best to sail this ebook out. Fingers-crossed, we just hope the rest of the world will like Wynn’s story, too!

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A postscript from ClaudiaMy Clearest Me is a small gift of courage for children who are exploring their inner world. And if you have a minute, it’d be truly wonderful if you could help us grow and share your thoughts on Amazon. Good story? Not so good? I’d love to read what you think!

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You can purchase My Clearest Me here and see the book trailer here.

27 comments:

  1. Thank you for having me, Anne! This has been such a great honor. :)

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  2. Thank you for this feature, Anne! I NEED to purchase this book. I've wanted to do so, and have neglected to actually get it done. Wonderful concept, obviously beautifully illustrated, and the poetic aspect appeals to me greatly. Bless your heart, Claudine. I can't wait to get this book in my hands and read it to my little Sophie.

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  3. Marie, Marie, this is very sweet of you. Thanks, and much blessings to you and your beautiful little Sophie, too.

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  4. I love hearing behind the scenes info about how books come to be. Great post!

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  5. Thanks Anne and Claudine for this interview. I enjoyed hearing more about the process behind the book.

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  6. Very interesting interview. Love the descriptions of using the tone of the wind in your verse. Excellent. Sounds like a lovely book.
    C.K. Volnek

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  7. Claudine, This is a subject--how a writer creates--is something that fascinates me. I am always wondering writer's think. This is a wonderful read, thanks much for sharing. Loved it.

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  8. Wonderful interview, and I loved hearing about the process! BTW, we love this book at our humble abode!

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  9. I wish you much success with this story. I can never get enough stories about quiet introverts... The other types of MCs are ubiquitous.

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  10. Like the others have said, it's always great to hear how stories come about, especially for us who are just starting out.

    Thanks.

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  11. Kelly, inluvwithwords, Charlie, Brenda, Katie, Mirka & Rick, thank you all so much! I was nervous about guest blogging at first, but you've all made the nerves flutter away with your kind comments.

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  12. What a fantastic guest post! This book sounds so magical and amazing. I will have to get it to read soon! I love books that are written in verse! It is so nice that the author and illustrator have such a wonderful working relationship. That is so important!

    I just signed up to follow your blog!

    ~Jess
    http://thesecretdmsfilesoffairdaymorrow.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks for dropping in, Jess. I was a little worried about working with an illustrator at first (thought she might tell me to butt out of her side of the project), but working with Sarah has been fantastic. :)

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  13. I'm just delighted to see all these visitors. Thanks for stopping by, everyone! And thanks again to Claudine for providing such an inspiring post.

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  14. Claudine,

    So now all your worries about guest blogging should be null and void. You did a great job and sounds like you had the dream job of working side by side with the illustrator. I think all of us picture book writers wish it was always like that. Loved hearing about how everything came about, so Anne, thanks for having Claudine as your guest.

    I'm hopping right on over to purchase this book and goodluck with it, Claudine!

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  15. Claudine, is your book available in any other format? I don't have a kindle! Please email me at allyn_stotz@yahoo.com

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    1. Allyn, thank you so much for your kind words! My book is available on iTunes (good with iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch), Nook and Sony.

      I don't have an e-reader either, so I think there's something over at Amazon called the Kindle Cloud Reader that allows us to read ebooks from our computer. I'll send you the link and drop you an email.

      Yay! Thank you so much!

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  16. Claudine, my question is the same as the one asked by Allyn - is it possible to purchase My Clearest Me in any other format? I would love to send a copy to my granddaughter in Australia, her mummy and daddy don't have a kindle and neither do I.

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    1. Hi Barbara, My Clearest Me is only available as an ebook for now. (Ebooks are really more feasible for small houses like us to produce.) Do you have an iPhone or an iPad? Or a Nook or Sony?

      Otherwise, you could try the Kindle Cloud Reader:
      http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=dig_arl_box?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

      There are free apps for reading on your computers or Blackberry and more.

      Barbara, thank you so much for wanting to get this for your granddaughter. :) Hope you guys like it!

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    2. Oops, forgot to include the link for Nook, Sony and iTunes. They are all over on our webpage:
      http://www.carryusoffbooks.com/my-clearest-me.html

      :)

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  17. Claudine, thanks for taking us through your process from inspiration to finished product. It was very interesting. Anne, thanks for the feature. Great job, both of you!

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    1. Thanks, Ellen. So happy you dropped by!

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  18. Great to follow the thought process in putting the story together, Claudine. Your book will be a wonderful inspiration for young introverts and an enjoyable read for everyone.

    Keep up the great work!

    Thanks, Anne, for the feature!

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  19. Claudine, I loved reading about how your story came to be! :)

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