As July disintegrates, the 2011 SCBWI Summer Conference in LA is quickly approaching. I can only guess that my manuscript for Beetle and the Dung Ball has been analyzed, marked up with a red pen, placed in a manila envelope and is quietly waiting to be pulled out for the twenty precious minutes I will have alone with my critiquer. When they first perused my story, they came to the middle of page four and read:
Beetle started to thank them, when another pile of poop fell from the sky— PLOP!—right on Beetle’s hill.
“So much food…” said Beetle. “And so many friends!”
That night, Beetle threw a party. Mouse brought seeds. Bird brought worms. Lizard made the drinks. And Beetle had all the delicious dung he could possibly eat.
THE END, right? But wait! There's more!
"What's this?" cries my critiquer. "An additional page of non-fiction factoids regarding dung beetles? Just what I needed!"
That's right, we've now come to the Back Matter. Every now and then, I write a story that is inspired by a quirky creature. I'm a fan of the oddballs of the animal kingdom, I guess. Aside from dung beetles, I've written about elephant shrews (How Do You Do, Elephant Shrew?) and Rhamphorhynchus (Rhamphorhynchus), a small flying reptile from the age of dinosaurs. Each time, at the end of my story, I have tagged on some photos and interesting bits about the actual animals in case the reader is interested. For instance, did you know that a species of dung beetle is the strongest insect in the world, able to pull over 1,000 times its own body weight? It's true. I'll be curious to hear my critiquer's take on the back matter. Keep it? Cut it? Picture book editors love back matter? Picture book editors hate back matter? Do we really need to know so much about poop?
If you haven't read Laban Carrick Hill and Bryan Collier's Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, go check it out. This beautiful picture book introduces readers to Dave, a 19th Century slave in South Carolina who was a gifted potter. The simple, poetic story that follows Dave as he creates a pot is elegant and inspiring in and of itself. But the Author's Notes and back matter add a whole other layer of illumination into the life of this lesser-known, yet fascinating figure of American history.
FOLLOW MY MANUSCRIPT!
Chapter 5: The Calm Before the Conference