Guest Post: Cecil Castellucci on Letting the Story Choose Its Form

By Cecil Castellucci

People have asked me lately how it feels to transition into writing a picture book, and I don’t know how to answer that question.

I don’t know if I can say that I am a picture book writer now, even though my first picture book comes out this August. It’s called Grandma’s Gloves (Candlewick, 2010), and I am fiercely proud of it.

I think the illustrations (by Julia Denos) are beautiful and that the book is full of quiet and bloom. But I don’t know if my first picture book fits the playfulness that I adore or associate with picture books.

It’s a sad book. It’s fragile. It’s grown up, even though it’s for kids. Or maybe it’s for the kids that still live inside of grown ups and still have to deal with loss and grief.

I can tell you that, even though none of it is true, the heart of the story is true. And that what I remember most about my Grandmaman Jeanne was her house full of plants, her blooming violets, her watering cans. I can also tell you that my mother is the same way with plants. And so is my brother. I can tell you with full honesty that I have no gift with green things. I am better at making the homemade donuts. And drinking the Jasmine tea. And using the toaster from the 1950s that she gave me.

I always thought that, as writers, our voice is sort of stuck at a certain age. Mine was 15, and that is why I love writing YA (I now believe my inner voice is 17).

I was skeptical that I would ever write for little ones. So, it was with great surprise when ten years ago, after my Grandmaman died, that I had a dream and woke up and wrote this book the way that I did.

I suppose that is why we, as writers, have to remember to write the story in the way that it wants to be told, whether or not we believe we are one thing or another. That we can’t concern ourselves with categories. I am this! I am that! I can only do this or that!

After all, haven’t I always believed that a story tells you how it wants to be told? I want to be a poem. I want to be a comic book.I want to be a song. I want to be a play. I want to be a novel. I want to be a short story.

I woke up that morning and I listened, and it came out as a picture book. I hope to continue waking up and telling stories the way that they want to be told, regardless of whether or not I think I can do it. I hope you will, too.

And I hope you enjoy my first picture book, Grandma’s Gloves.