First Drafts Are…

Before I visit a school, I always ask educators and administrators if there is anything in particular that they want me to share or discuss during my time with their students. Pretty much 100% of the time, they ask me to talk about revision — the importance of it and the reality of it, even for so-called “professional” authors and illustrators. Because, as a kid, I was under the impression that authors and illustrators always got it “right” on the first try, I already spent a lot of time during my presentations talking about revision. But during one visit a year or so ago, I had this thought — that I am just one person telling these kids about how writers should really be called “revisers,” because that’s mostly what we do, and about how every illustration you see in a book is the product of hours and hours and hours of work, of countless attempts. What if, after spending the day with me, the kids thought, “Well, that’s just how it is for that guy. But every other author and illustrator must get it right on the first try.”

How could I make sure this wasn’t the case? I got my pals to help me out! I asked kid lit authors to describe their first drafts for me using just one word. The responses were wonderful — and, of course, not a single creator said “perfect” or “polished” or “awesome” or “complete” or anything even remotely close to that. Frankly, the majority of respondents used the word “poop” (or some variation of it…). To share this information with kids, I made a quick drawing in my sketchbook, illustrating the words to make them more fun. This morning, I made a digital version of that drawing, so that educators could download a clean copy and use it as they wish.

first draft.jpg

Seeing this graphic, kids are always blown away — and, once they get over the fact that they are looking at the word “POOP” on a big screen, they feel encouraged and inspired to get back to their notebooks and sketchbooks and make some creative mistakes. Thank you to all the creators who responded to my original tweet all those months ago! To download a free copy of the graphic (and a number of others), head over to my Art page.

~ Jarrett

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