Craft Talk with David Bowles: First Person Narration

Photo from IG Live conversation on 12/16/20

What a rush diving into first person narration with the prolific, award-winning author and translator David Bowles! David explains why first person point of view is rare in picture books, and why it may be necessary to tell a full, empathy-inducing story.

Here are some of David’s many insightful gems:
🗣 Wondering whether to use 1st POV? Ask: To what degree is the interiority of this child so important to the story that not having their voice would prevent us from full connection?
🗣 First person voice isn’t neutral or universal— it must be specific and rooted in geography, culture, religion, rhythm and linguistics (e.g. Mexican-American speech)
🗣 Strike a delicate balance between signaling authenticity and warmth of a child’s natural speech, while providing context for those outside the community
🗣 Essential to listen as children recount their own stories and to learn from mentor texts (but be wary of their undue influence on your character’s voice!)
🗣 Erase your didactic impulse; let your character speak and discover lessons on their own
🗣 Think of your story as a poem (even try writing it as one), balancing sparseness of text with meaty revelation
🗣 The backstory of My Two Border Towns and the experience of asylum-seekers on the U.S.-Mexico border

Thank you, David, for your time and commitment to authenticity and hard truths in your storytelling. Follow David on Twitter @davidobowles to learn more about #DignidadLiteraria, the activist movement he co-founded to negotiate greater Latinx representation in publishing. David embodies speaking truth to power in his life and writing, and I am grateful to learn from his work.

Books discussed:
MY TWO BORDER TOWNS by @davidobowles, illo by @erikadraws (pre-order now!)
13TH STREET SERIES by @davidobowles
CLOCKWORK CURANDERA by @davidobowles, illo by
RISE OF THE HALFLING KING by @davidobowles, illo by @charlenecbowles
MY PAPI HAS A MOTORCYLE by @isabelinpieces, illo @zpvisual
DRAWN TOGETHER by @bottomshelfbks, illo @dsantat (not mentioned, but great mentor)

(Conversation held on December 16, 2020 on IG Live @carolinepritchardwrites)

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