A knack for writing didn’t come naturally for Lindsay Ward.
After all, she went to college to become an illustrator.
“I didn’t mean to write books, that was kind of an accident,” Ward told her audience of mostly Bowling
Green State University students on campus Monday. “I always just meant to just be an illustrator for
other people’s books.”
But she liked the creative freedom allowed when she started writing stories to accompany her
Ward was on campus as a preview to her appearance at BGSU’s Literacy in the Park, set for May 4 at Perry
On Monday, Ward walked her audience through the steps to making a book, which often takes up to two
Now she does her own work.
“Vacation for Dexter” is her newest book to come out, in April. It follows the tales of Dexter T. Rexter,
the neurotic dinosaur and his boy Jack.
This is the third book in the Dexter series.
“Let’s Go,” which comes out in July, has die-cuts or vehicles that will pop out as the pages are opened.
For her son, who will be 4 in July, “this will be epic” as he often lays on the floor watching vehicles.
Reading was important to Ward growing up, with a single mom who read to her every day.
She shared photos of her own books, her favorite books (including “Green Eggs and Ham”), her studio and
of her family.
Ward said she was inspired by “The Snowy Day,” which made her want to become an author and an
illustrator. The book was revolutionary, with the textures from mixed media. Also, the snow fascinated
her since she grew up in California.
Her parents are both artists who met while painting carousel horses.
“Being an artist was never something that I was made to feel was a strange dream.”
Ward attributed her professor at Syracuse University, who said no one in the class would succeed, in
giving her the push needed.
“Knowing how hard it would be up front … not only to be an artist but to be a freelance artist … was
tremendous. I’m grateful that we had that.”
She wrote and illustrated her own books in elementary school, never imagining that is what she would be
doing for the last 10 years.
Ward went through the steps on making a book, using “Please Bring Balloons” as a visual aid.
A manuscript will have several drafts, and she will read it out loud and have someone else read it back
to her to hear the flow of the story. Is every word choice adding to the story, moving it forward?
“A picture book is meant to be read out loud. They are not meant to be read in your head.”
Character design comes next.
“If you don’t have a good character, you don’t have a good story.”
She develops characters as if they are real people, especially Emma, the main character in “Please Bring
Balloons.” Ward develops what the character is wearing, and how much is going to be in cut paper and how
much in watercolor.
Then comes the storyboard dummy, to give her a sense of the balance of a book; picture books are meant to
be viewed as a whole, not separate pieces of art.
A book dummy follows, which is sent to a publisher, and then comes the revisions. Lots of revisions.
“These people want the book to succeed as much as I do,” Ward said. “I don’t get it right the first time.
Most manuscripts go at least 10 rounds with revisions.”
She keeps a swatch book of all the material she wants to use in a book and she works to scale.
When Ward was introduced to cut paper art in college, “I absolutely hated it.” But then she took a
print-making class “and things fell into place.”
There also is the book cover and jacket, and color proofs and then the folded and bound version.
Her absolute favorite part of her job is reading to kids out loud, and while reading to adults is not the
norm, she read “Don’t Forget Dexter,” the first book she ever wrote.
When it was released, the book went to number one on Amazon Prime Day.
It’s a competitive field to break into, but everyone is supportive and cares about literacy, Ward said.
Marie Wilker, who is studying inclusive early childhood education at BGSU, said the presentation will
help her pick out books that will interest children and have deep meanings.
For Literacy in the Park, Ward will be reading a story out loud, and teaching kids how to draw Dexter.
The Literacy in the Park event annually draws hundreds of children to campus for the author and other