It Takes a Spooky Long Time to Write a Picture Book!

When I visit schools, I like to share with kids that my book-writing process is often lengthy. I emphasize the role of revision in all good writing—and that revision takes time but is fun. However, I must admit that audiences at my FRIGHT SCHOOL appearances are surprised to learn that I began working on this story in January of 2008, well before most of them were born!

I was surprised too, when I began looking back at my early drafts. It didn’t seem that long ago that I began writing this story. I suppose time flies when one is doing what one loves, which for me is writing fiction and nonfiction books for children.

My first draft was entitled GHOST SCHOOL. Soon, I graduated to NIGHT SCHOOL (since of course, that is when ghosts must go to school!). But why limit the fun to ghosts, when there are endless monster possibilities? I finally settled on FRIGHT SCHOOL and began playing with every Halloween monster I could think of while writing verse about where monsters go to learn to scare trick-or-treaters. I imagined skeletons “boning up” on math and mummies practicing dragging one foot.

Over the years, my story was read by critique group members, family, friends, and several editors. I developed two very different versions that came close to acquisition more than once. Finally, FRIGHT SCHOOL found a perfect home at Albert Whitman & Company. My editor there encouraged me to polish some lines and add punch to the ending before the manuscript was finalized.

I am thrilled with the artwork of Chiara Galletti. She has created characters that aren’t too scary, something that is important for a picture book. Her illustrations, including skeletons on skateboards and zombies wandering at recess, add delightful visual humor and detail to my Halloween romp and its surprise ending.

I hope kids of all ages will visit FRIGHT SCHOOL soon! And while there, they better pay attention! Visit the book’s page on my website to download a silly FRIGHT SCHOOL quiz and view a spooky FRIGHT SCHOOL book trailer. I bet you can guess the answer to the first quiz question:

When does the bell ring to start classes?

_____ 8 a.m.

_____ noon

_____ midnight

I hope you have a frightfully awesome HALLOWEEN!

This post was first shared as a guest blogger on Mr. Schu Reads on 10/24/18

Award-winning author Janet Lawler is the author of more than twenty-five fiction and nonfiction picture books for children, including several holiday and seasonal titles.


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