"Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book." - Stéphane Mallarmé
As much as my daughter loves snuggly reading marathons, she also loves to act the books out, repeat favorite lines, draw and “write” about them, and use toys to extend the story. Building on my LEGO theme this month, here are two of our picture book-inspired LEGO creations.
Writing With The Stars founder Tara Luebbe’s book I Am Famous inspired an amphitheater and stage with a revolving platform (thanks Les Misérables).
For more book-inspired LEGO creations, check out the art of Marcie Colleen’s husband Jonathan Lopes. His literature-inspired work includes Dan Santat’s Beekle, Peter Brown’s Mr. Tiger, Marcie’s Love, Triangle cast, and more. And while you are at it, check out Marcie’s Study Hall program – an amazing mentor-led critique group for picture book writers.
In addition to LEGO bricks, we have used blocks to act out Cori Doerrfeld’s The Rabbit Listened with my daughter’s favorite line, “It’s going to be amazing!” We have constructed train tracks and pushed Two Little Trains west after reading Margaret Wise Brown’s classic. And we have emptied the contents of the play fridge to create our own food world like the one Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney created in The Stinky Stench.
As a former teacher, I love enhancing our reading with learning and play activities that create real-world connections and build my daughter's big imagination. Plus, if I cannot carve out writing time while the kiddos are awake, building literature-inspired worlds is a worthy alternative.
Writing time as been limited this year, though I can’t really complain. My time has been spent being fully present with my family—savoring sweet baby laughs, navigating tumultuous preschooler emotions paired with tremendous growth (hers and mine), finding stolen moments with the hubby between increasing work commitments, and taking our first vacation with kids.
Instead of beating myself up for not writing, I have adapted my mindset. Jess Keating tweeted it perfectly:
One thing that has changed my creative practice? Learning to love the gap.
The gap between where you are and where you want to be.
The gap between writing and written.
The gap between current status and future success.
All of it. Be happy in the gap and keep working.
I am learning to love the gap between where I want to be and where I am, between what I want to write and what hasn’t been written. Loving the gap means I am able to be present with my family rather than stress over what I have not written and my unmet goals.
In addition to inspirational author tweets, I have stayed connected to the KidLit community through challenges and blogs. And at just the right times, when I needed them most, I got three reminders that I am on the right path.
In March, I completed ReFoReMo and won Jen Betton’s TWILIGHT CHANT. Her beautiful illustrations are the perfect complement to Holly Thompson’s lyrical text—and the perfect reminder of being present! The book follows a family’s walk as they take in their natural surroundings and the animals that stir at twilight. An author’s note provides additional information about twilight and crepuscular animals.
In April, after a week of bedtime battles, I commented on Tara Lazar’s blog post featuring Cate Berry’s debut picture book PENGUIN AND TINY SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME. I won, and this lighthearted look at the bedtime struggle reminded me I am not alone. Hilarious text and illustrations made bedtime a hit at our house (along with dropping naptime)!
In May, I was reminded to embrace the gap “before” success. I won SOMETIMES YOU FLY and a gorgeous art print from illustrator Jennifer Black Reinhardt at PictureBookBuilders. Beautiful illustrations and text reveal the importance of hard work and the failed attempts necessary to learn, grow, and succeed at various milestones of adolescence. Don’t forget to peek under the dust jacket!
Winning these books was a sign I am right where I need to be, even if I am taking another lap around the gap! A big thank you to Jess, Carrie & Kirsti, Jen, Tara, Cate, and Jennifer for the inspiration and support you each provide to the KidLit community and the encouragement your gifts have given me!
Applications are due next month for the 2018 Writing With The Stars (WWTS) Mentorships. In February 2017, I had the great honor of being selected for a mentorship with Penny Parker Klostermann, author of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight and A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale.
I applied to Penny specifically because of her participation as a critique ninja for Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 writing challenge in 2016. She gave me a critique with the most thoughtful and thorough feedback I had ever received. With her critique and additional feedback from an editor at a retreat, I overhauled the manuscript multiple times before arriving at the version I submitted with my WWTS application. Penny recognized the manuscript and the hard work that went into improving it. I expected that same level of constructive feedback from her as a mentor, and she did not disappoint!
Our 3-month mentorship turned into 8 productive months in which we focused heavily on 4 manuscripts, though Penny provided feedback on 6 additional manuscripts! We covered industry best practices, writing resources, formatting tips, career strategy, decoding agent/editor feedback, and much more…in addition to the back-and-forth (and back-and-forth) revision work. Penny was meticulous, honest, supportive, and so generous with her time! She even shared her own work with me, including a sneak peek of A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale before its release earlier this year. Most importantly, Penny believed in my work (and still does) and provided ongoing encouragement that continues to motivate and inspire me today!
My key takeaways from this experience include:
I cannot thank Penny enough for all the time and energy she put into our mentorship. The experience was invaluable and I heartily recommend applying. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain - even the application process itself is beneficial to your growth! Applications for the 2018 WWTS mentorships are accepted January 8-13. Good luck!
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