Saturday, December 28, 2013

Weekend Link: Mo Willems

We had a great day today. We traveled to DC and watched "Elephant and Piggie: We Are In a Play," by Mo Willems. I had no idea that the appearance of Elephant and Piggie at the Kennedy Center was the premiere venue for Mo Willem's new play. No doubt it won't be the last...

Our kids loved the play and that's saying something for my very wiggly son. It was fun, well-paced and interactive. The kids were putty in the actors' hands.

It's a great illustration of Mo Willem's genius to take his books and move them to another format. I couldn't find any clips of the play, but do enjoy Mo Willems presentation at the National Book Festival also in DC.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

Weekend Link: What Really Motivates Us

You know those infamous portals to another world in almost every fantasy book? Well, that’s what a good story is for me. I don’t read a book, I live it and when I close it I have to re-enter my world. I suspect that’s true for most writers.

I was into acting in high school and college. I competed in regional and state competitions each year. One year the competitive reader’s theater I was in was based on Shel Silverstein’s book, Lafcadio the Lion Who Shot Back.

Because it’s a children’s story, a lot of audience members missed the deeply personal theme Silverstein wove into its humor and just enjoyed it for its whimsy.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Weekend Link: Creativity

As shocking as this may be, I'm not a huge John Cleese fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed his lecture on creativity. Thanks to Brain Pickings for tuning me into this:

To put that creativity into practice, check out Shannon Abercrombie's Start the Year off Write 2014.

Here's the info:
"For 21 days, beginning on January 5th, a talented array of authors and illustrators will be sharing insights into their writing practices and providing a writing prompt/exercise to complete. Each day you complete the given exercise, you earn an entry to win one of the grand prizes. What are the grand prizes you ask? So far, there are 4 AGENT critiques, 2 EDITOR critiques, and proofreading services from a COPY EDITOR up for grabs." 
Of course, don't forget Judie Hedlund's 12x12 coming up in January too. All those great ideas you picked up from PiBoIdMo or Start the Year off Write can be used to draft a picture book a month. Yep, 12 pictures books by the end of the year. Brilliant!

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tips from an illustrator and How do I find time to do everything I want to do?

I started a tradition years ago, of putting Christmas books in a basket and letting my kids pick from them every night in December. Last night I read Santa Clause the World's Number One Toy Expert to my five-year-old. It is one of the cutest books I have ever read. I love the pictures. I always keep staring at them after I've finished reading the book. It's written and illustrated by Marla Frazee, an award winning illustrator and author. Her website, has some good tips for illustrators. Definitely worth looking at.

On the subject of holidays, I can't really enjoy them unless I feel like I've been making progress on my books. I spent the last six months packing, driving across country, unpacking, organizing, hanging pictures and curtains and in every other way trying to perfect my surroundings. After moving 7 times in 8 years, I was obsessed. OK, now I want to get back to work.

I know I get the same 24 hours a day as everyone else, but it's never enough. I've never been good at using my time effectively, except when I was going to school full time, commuting, raising 3 boys, and taking care of a house and a dog. I did my homework first and managed to fit in housework, laundry, grocery shopping, carpooling and spending time with my family. They had to help with the housework and cooking, and that was a good thing for everyone.

Without the deadline of an assignment, I tend to do things the other way around. First I do the housework, laundry, shopping, errands, business, cooking and dishes, then when I'm done with all that...well, I never am. I'm too tired at the end of the day to do anything creative. But I've learned over and over that I need to be creative first, then do all that other stuff. Because housework depletes my energy, but creative work creates more energy! At the end of a day of writing or drawing, I can fit the housework in. Of course, taking care of my kids takes precedence over everything else. That goes without saying, right?

There are certain things I just spend too much time on, like cooking and dishes and shopping and grooming. These are all things that need to be done, but with a little planning I'm figuring out how to streamline them so I can spend more of my precious time creating. If anybody has ideas how to spend more time doing what we want to do and less on those necessary chores, I would love to hear them.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Technically a Loss, But Still a Win

The NaNo gods can judge me and perhaps find me wanting, but I feel like a winner. Okay, I didn't get 50,000 words on one novel, I got 37,000 words of an entirely new novel, plus about 17,000 words of a previously started novel ready to add to the greater whole.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why Picture Books Matter...

PiBoIdMo has been a good choice for me. If nothing else, it has heightened my awareness. I've been more intent in my interactions with my kids, nature and people, watching for those magical picture book ideas to pop up, and they did.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Humanity of Art

My posts lately have all referred to "Make Art Make Money" and this one is no different. There is a quote from Frank Oz that I find very interesting:  "Art isn't perfect. It's human. It's about expressing something about life, and if it doesn't do that, it's not art."

What do you think of this idea? I was remembering my fascination with Norman Rockwell's illustrations, particularly his portrayal of the Four Freedoms. To me, this is the finest example of perfection and expressing something about life. I was able to see the original paintings at an exhibit a couple of years ago, and was stopped and brought to tears by what I saw there. My art isn't nearly at that level, but I do try to keep that experience in mind as I work. The expression about life, and the humanity, is more important than the perfection of technique, maybe.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Early Weekend Links

I'm in the throes NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo. And I have a big birthday party weekend for my little guy, so I'm dishing out the weekend links a day early:

Great, and short, read on the "best writing advice ever" by Pico Iyer:

Just in time for NaNo doldrums, here's a quick read on how to create compelling characters:

And just so you don't lose your sense of humor, here's a seven minute video clip with Mo Willems:
(my favorite: "Don't let the pigeon be an author," teehee)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Stealing Like an Artist

I followed Johnell’s example and signed up for Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo.) I’m so glad I did! Every day I get an inspiring email full of great ideas for coming up with ideas. I really liked Thursday’s email. Pat Zietlow Miller talked about finding a picture book she really loves, and being inspired by it, not to copy it, but to get an idea of her own. She reads the book over many times looking at different aspects of it, and even buys a copy to write notes in. This helps her write better picture books. What a great idea! I’m going to do that.

Speaking of inspiration, The Secret Garden is one of my favorite books. I recently read The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. The Forgotten Garden is a bit like The Secret Garden, but written for adults instead of children. Both are about a sick child who is cured by a spending time in a garden. Part of The Forgotten Garden takes place in 1907, and Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of The Secret Garden makes an appearance. When she is told about the secret, hidden garden “raised from ruins to help bring a delicate young lady back to health,” you can almost imagine a lightbulb blinking on above her head. She’s so interested, she has to see it. So The Forgotten Garden, published in 2008 was obviously inspired by The Secret Garden, published in 1911, but Kate Morton makes it seem that Frances Hodgson Burnett got the idea from her secret garden. How clever! And wouldn’t that take some confidence to pull off?

Weekend Link--Sandra Boynton and Flying Pigs

Doing PiBoIdMo and/or NaNoWriMo? Feeling a bit acronymous? No, it's not in the dictionary, but it should be. It seemed fitting for the feeling I'm having switching back and forth between PiBo and NaNo...or is it PiNo...or NaBo...or BoNo...AAAGH. I'm starting to feel like an Irish rock star with a government job.

Here's one more acronym for your weekend. This time its TED, as in TED Talks and this one is with Sandra Boynton. Just perfect...and its short so you can get back to your PiBo and WriMo ROS. MTFBWY!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

First November Weekend Link!

Happy post Halloween. Maybe you all saw this, but I was under a rock apparently and missed it. 

Oprah interviews J.K. here and I have to say it was a bit depressing at first. I mean 12 publishers 12 rejected Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone!

I bet they feel stupid now.

It's the full episode, so hunker down for 42 minutes for this one. Wow! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013



Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print

It seems like everyone hates editing. I like editing. When I’m editing I’m reading my novel, and I like my novel, so I enjoy reading over it again and crafting it into something better. Maybe I’m weird.

After I had already edited my novel to what I thought was near perfection, I read a book called “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print” by Renni Browne and Dave King. This book helped me a lot. When I read the first few chapters I thought I’ve got this, but when I got to the chapters on dialog mechanics and resisting the urge to explain everything, I realized I had a lot of work to do. So I did another couple of rounds with those things in mind.

The book also suggests that you read everything aloud as part of the process. I did this too and I was amazed at the things I hadn’t noticed in all my silent readings, like words that were repeated three or four times in one paragraph, and sentences that didn’t have quite the right flow.

I feel like the whole process has been really good practice. Learning to edit makes your writing better.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Illustration Weekend Links

For the illustrators out there, or writers who want a peek at the illustrator world, here's three great (and short) videos:

Lynne Chapman describes the process of illustrating Bears on the Stairs in this five-minute video:

One of my favorite illustrators, Mark Buehner, shares a three-minute video about illustrating:

A 10-minute video by Kathleen Kemly about illustrating Molly by Golly:

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Plunge

Taking myself seriously as a writer has been the biggest hurdle in my progress. I toyed around with ideas I'd had for years, until I finally decided to write them down. Once I had them on paper, I realized I'd taken a step into the territory of a writer.  

I had to decide, do I keep going or cloister my stories in the safety of my hard drive? But there were ideas coming out in my writing that needed their own life, so I made another move, quite literally.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Where Do I Start?

I used to have this idea that when an author wrote a book, he or she started on the first page, typed “Chapter One,” and wrote from the beginning to the end. Don’t they do it that way in movies? 

A few years ago I started to try to write a novel, but I couldn’t get it to go anywhere. The story wouldn’t take off. I knew what the book was going to be about, who it was going to be about and how it was going to end, but whenever I tried to write, it always turned into a journal entry instead. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Weekend Links

Brilliantly simple advice in less than five minutes by Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline.

Maria Popova, from Brain Pickings, talks about Ray Bradbury's book, Zen in the Art of Writing. She mentions his use of lists as a method of inspiration. Here's a sample quote:
"I was beginning to see a pattern in the list, in these words that I had simply flung forth on paper, trusting my subconscious to give bread, as it were, to the birds."

And to fill your artist's bucket, an unbelievable display of chalk art:

 Happy Weekend.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kick the Critic to the Curb

Blech--oranges don’t taste so good after you've brushed your teeth.

On a more flavorful note, I’ve been reading The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. I’m ashamed to admit it’s taken me this long read her book, but it’s part of my assignment for the picture book class I’m taking.

Monday, October 14, 2013

10,000 Hours, Really?

In my reading lately I was reminded of Malcolm Gladwell's observation in Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. The idea that all 10,000 hours don't need to be deliberate practice hours is intriguing. Elizabeth Hyde Smith in Make Art Make Money suggests that as we look back on our life in relation to what it is we are trying to master we can see many different ways we have been practicing all along. In my, case as an artist, when I look back I see many melted crayons: some in the car from leaving them behind by accident, some near the porch from sitting in the sun drawing too long, some specifically melted to get a certain effect on a project. I would explore my dad's art making tools wondering what each was for. I learned that Xacto blades are really sharp and when used with enthusiasm can sometimes cause trips to the hospital for stitches. Mom's are good to provide transportation in such a case.

The hours turning tissue boxes, brass fasteners and other bits of this and that into cars for Barbie dolls and friends; hours making up the stories that went with all the stuff that my friends and I made, using our imagination to see what we could make from the bits of this and that-- all of these hours are part of my 10,000. Look back, see the connections, how many of those hours do you already have? What can you do to get more of those hours in a similar way? How can you follow the passion you've had for such a long time? I think I'll look for my answers as I dream as I did as a child and play a bit more so my work can be more play.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Weekend Links

Jon Bard, from Children's Book Insider, talks about using non-fiction writing to break into the publishing scene. It's a short video and worth watching.

Tara Lazaar, at Writing for Kids (While Raising Them), has a list of over 500 things kids like. It's a fantastic way (Thanks, Darshana for tuning me into it) to get your creative minds going:

And here's its opposite:

And just for fun, here's a version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar performed by the kids (and grownups) at Kay International Preschool in Bonn, Germany.

Don't worry, it's in English and it's so stinking cute! I wish I could speak German just so I could say, "Die Kleine Raupe Nimmersatt." It just sounds cool.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Place To Play

Making art is a little scary to me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s that I have so many choices, I get overwhelmed. It was much easier when I was in school and had professors giving me assignments. But I have discovered art journaling. There are lots of fantastic examples of art journals on Pinterest. I have a small journal with sturdy enough pages that I can use watercolor, gesso, acrylic paints, collage, stamps, anything I want. It isn’t a Big Project that will take lots of time, and if I mess it up it doesn’t matter. In fact, a lot of art journaling is beautifully messy, with layers of bright colors and different mediums. 

Someone told me that some tribes of Native Americans would intentionally put a “mistake” in every piece of art. I really like that concept. Art journals are supposed to be imperfect; that’s the whole idea. It’s so freeing to a perfectionist like me, and it’s a way of accessing parts of myself that writing alone can’t uncover. 

Creativity thrives on play. It’s a way to get back to the child in us. Children are so freely and fearlessly creative. “Art work” is too serious. Art should be play. It should be fun. And that kind of play could lead to some very good work.