Partnerships are not easy.

an early sketch for You Are (Not) Small

And when your professional partner also happens to be your spouse it’s even trickier, if only for the fact that you can’t leave at the end of the day and complain about the jerk at the office.

an early sketch for You Are (Not) Small

People often ask us how our collaboration was on our first picture book, You Are (Not) Small, but I think what they really want to know is how we made a book together without killing each other.

Anna’s early mock-up of cover

Chris and I have been married for twelve years and together for twenty, so fortunately, by the time we nurtured this book into existence, we’d had some practice in the fine art of collaboration, also known as, the delicate balance of clearly communicating your viewpoint and retaining your voice without dismissing the other person’s viewpoint and permanently alienating them.

early sketch of the “fuzzies” from YA(N)S

For us, there were a few things that enabled us to have a mostly productive collaboration without ending up with (too many) battle scars.

a possible sketch for YA(N)S

What helped from the start was our similar sensibilities and taste in general. We both agreed that our characters would not be human or even an identifiable animal yet still be approachable and lovable. And we both favored a bold, simple visual style that would enhance the humorous tone. Chris did a wonderful job crafting detailed expressions and gestures in the creatures, elevating the text and humor immensely. I don’t think I could have asked for a better illustrator in that sense, one who really “got” the specific tone I was going for when writing the story. Having spent the past couple of decades laughing at the same things allowed us to cut right to the chase.


The ability to speak each other’s language was also critical. Had I not spent three years at film school immersed in the tenets of visual expression, color, composition, rhythm, etc., I wouldn’t have been able to effectively communicate with an illustrator and it would have been frustrating for us both. Likewise, had Chris not spent those three years being dragged to a thousand film screenings and listening to me edit, analyze, and break down the beats of countless stories, he wouldn’t have been able to communicate in the language that I understood. We’ve since developed a shorthand that we use to give each other feedback quickly and constructively. 


Above all else, what saw us through to the end was not losing sight of what we were creating and why, reminding ourselves that we were realizing a dream, and keeping our sense of humor.


Which is not to say there wasn’t a fair amount of petulant door slamming and shouting. There was. But like most partnerships, ours is still a work-in-progress.
Posted by elena at 08:12 AM Link to this post
PIPPIN PROPERTIES, INC.  110 WEST 40th STREET, SUITE 1704, NEW YORK, NY 10018  212 338 9310