GUEST BLOG: Picture Book Archaeology – Finding the Good Bones with Kellie DuBay Gillis

Today I am delighted to have my writer friend and critique buddy Kellie DuBay Gillis as my guest blogger.  Kellie writes picture books and middle grade fiction.  Take it away, Kellie!

When I was ten, I wanted to be a writer or an archaeologist.  Or both.  Then I grew up and did neither.

Until now.

For the past three years, I’ve been serious about writing picture books. And as most picture book writers know, when the ideas start flowing, we can pump out manuscripts left and right. And as most picture book writers know, they aren’t always good. But we continue to write for the love of the form, for the practice of our craft. One or two might rise to the top, but the others…well, they might get buried on our hard-drives. Mine do.

Until now.

Recently, I’ve decided to pursue that archaeology thing. But instead of digging in a remote location looking for arrowheads or shards of pottery, my expedition focuses on excavating picture book manuscripts in the strata of my hard-drive. Why?  Two reasons: I want evidence of my evolution as a writer and I want to find and preserve valuable artifacts.

Some of the remains at the very bottom of the dig are painful to read. Like my first picture book about a little toe.  (Evidence I’ve evolved as a writer: In most cases, MC should be a whole kid, not part of a kid.) But the valuable artifact I see in this manuscript is whimsy and a twist, qualities I can preserve and use in future manuscripts. As I work up through the layers, I see assemblages of manuscripts that are more sophisticated, that reflect the input of trusted critique partners and other industry professionals. While some of these manuscripts in their current form might never sell, as a story archaeologist, it’s my job to figure out which manuscripts are worth dusting off and analyzing. After all, these old relics might have good bones.

Kellie DuBay Gillis entered her local library’s Be-An-Author contest (and won!) when she was ten.  She hasn’t stopped writing since.  She’s member of SCBWI and Verla Kay’s Blueboards, where she met Laura.  In addition to picture books, Kellie is working on a middle grade novel and is one of the weekly #mglitchat hostesses.  She lives in Fairview Park, Ohio with her husband and two kids.  When she isn’t writing, she visits yard sales hoping to score a vintage purple Schwinn tandem bike like the one at


21 thoughts on “GUEST BLOG: Picture Book Archaeology – Finding the Good Bones with Kellie DuBay Gillis

  1. Fun post! I love digging up that old stuff and having those “What was I thinking” moments.

    Being a lover of all things absurd and quirky, I have to admit I’m intrigued by the toe story. Was this a severed toe? Did it have it’s own feet to get around on, or did it just lie there? What was the toe’s dilemma? I must know! 🙂

  2. Great post! I love digging through old stuff…especially when I’m feeling uninspired. It can be a great way to come up with a “new” idea. I also love the fact that I can now see exactly why certain poems or stories were rejected. That makes me feel like I’ve grown at least a little bit as a writer.

  3. Great post! And that toe story sounds funny! Reminds me of “Spoon”, which I love. I like to dig through my old files as well. Sometimes a fresh eye is all that is needed to polish something up. But sometimes, I just cringe and move on.

  4. This is awesome. A bone that I would be more than happy to leave in the ground is the story I wrote about a shoebox banjo.
    Yes. It was riveting.
    However…now he lives on as a possession of my middle grade MC’s little brother, so I think it was worth it:)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s