by Melissa Stoller
December is always a busy month, with holiday celebrations, school and work events, family commitments, and more. It’s easy to let creative pursuits take a back seat to end-of-year demands. So how do you stay motivated to be creative during this sometimes overwhelming season? Read on for five practical tips.
FIVE TIPS FOR STAYING MOTIVATED:
1) Pick one project to work on. It can be writing a new draft, revising a particularly sticky section of a current work in progress, illustrating one spread, brainstorming ideas, or working on marketing and branding plans. Focus on one aspect of your creative writing career. And if you make progress in that one area, you may decide to move to another project if time permits.
2) Set up an accountability check-in with other creative friends. Whether it’s an online critique group, an in-person meet up, or an email chain with a creative buddy, set up a system you can rely on to help you move through the next few weeks. You can agree on goals together. Maybe you decide that you don’t have the time to write a new draft but you agree with a writing partner to critique one draft each. Maybe you agree that you will simply check in! Just keep the momentum going.
3) Carry a journal. Write down snippets of conversations, scenes you witness, adorable animal antics, cute phrases your children say, and anything that sparks your creative thoughts. Even if you don’t do much writing or revising over the next few weeks, if you have ideas to dive into, you will be ready to tackle new projects in the new year.
4) Keep reading in your genre and in other genres. You can read children’s literature, poetry, magazines, and adults stories, too. As you read, think about how the works could inform your own writing process. And enjoy other art forms as well. Keeping your mind trained to appreciate language and art will help foster your own creativity when you are ready for it.
5) Map out a calendar for January, 2019, and plan creative projects for the new year. Write your project ideas and action strategies directly on a calendar, or keep a running 2019 project list. List out the ideas you have and the projects you might be working on after this busy time of year, when things start to settle back into normal routines. Also, keep a list of your works-in-progress and where you are in the process with each, such as brainstorming, writing, revising, submitting to critique groups, submitting to agents or editors, and marketing. In January, pull out this list and get back to work!
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During busy times, it’s easy to let creative projects get sidelined. But hopefully, you can take some time now to focus on a few steps that will keep you motivated to forge ahead with your creative work. And just as important, make time to enjoy the many special moments of the season.
Happy creating! And all the best for 2019!
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Book One: Return to Coney Island and Book Two: The Liberty Bell Train Ride (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017 and 2019); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork, 2018). She is also the co-author of The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). Melissa is an Assistant and Blogger for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a Moderator for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, and a volunteer with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators/MetroNY. Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. Additionally, she is a member of the Board of Trustees at The Hewitt School and at Temple Shaaray Tefila. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy.
Hi there, I am in love with this book. It doesn't hurt that it's from a former student, Alexandria Giardino, but regardless it sings and shines with an exquisite light evoking the mystery of moonlight, the warmth of the sun, and the wonders of the earth. It also doesn't hurt that it's illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators, Felicita Salas.
Here's what makes this book so wonderful in terms of text and story:
The book reveals a tremendous amount about its subject, the great poet Pablo Neruda, with spare lyrical language that utilizes metaphor, analogy, and sensory details to bring us right into how Neruda came to write the poem Ode to an Onion with the help of his contrasting character/soul mate/muse/partner Matilde Urrutia. It isn't a birth to death biography but instead focuses on a particular event at a specific time. The images are a perfect match of beauty, quirkiness, and accessibility that you will fall equally in love with. I'm delighted to say that Ode to an Onion is already receiving accolades and is sure to win all sorts of awards. I hope you'll buy it and support everyone involved, including your own learning.
Have a watch of this video to see how they did it.
On another note, I am delighted to share that my bookshelf is filling up with beautiful books from former students, many of which I'll be sharing here. We have a new picture book writing course that I'll be co-teaching with my winning partner in crime - Kelly Delaney, who is an acquiring Assoc. Editor at Random House/Knopf, starting January 7th. And because this is Xmas, I whipped up a sweet gift certificate if you'd like to gift someone you love, including yourself. Click here to find out more about the course and take advantage of the time-sensitive $100 early bird special with code: YesPB19 By the way we are lining up some spectacular editors and agents to join us live during the course, and have all sort of other goodies lined up, so you don't want to miss this one! Click this link to gift someone or click on Boris below!
Every year, I find that the holiday season seems to creep up on me faster each year. I want to slow down and savor the moments, and the amazing food! I am now home after a week long Northern California road trip up to Santa Cruz, a trip we make every year to feast and celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. With the delicious meal fresh in my memory, I couldn’t help but pick up Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament for this month’s blog post.
Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament is a fun fictional picture book, written by Anne Renaud and illustrated by Felicita Sala, based on the real cook, George Crum, who is believed to have made the first potato chip for a very finicky customer.
Renaud’s expressive text, the cracking and snapping of the crispy potato chip will create a craving for the tasty snack. Sala’s detailed illustrations of Mr. Crum’s kitchen and her delightful characters captured in the energy of the restaurant really stir up an appetite!
In keeping with the theme of real life people in picture books, I also chose to showcase The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse, written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Hadley Cooper.
A picture book told in only a couple of lyrical sentences weaving throughout the book, The Iridescence of Birds beautifully portrays the inspiration for the famous artist’s work, beginning with a boy’s introduction to color and patterns to brighten up his dreary childhood home in a gray town in Northern France.
The illustrations, created with a “combination of relief printmaking and digital techniques”, not only bring focus to young Matisse’s world full of color, but also closely resembles the artist’s own stylistic form of expression. The young boy’s view and the grown artist’s work in the end ties together beautifully to show the connection of inspiration throughout the artist’s life.
I hope you check out these picture books, and enjoy learning a little bit more about a couple of real-life interesting characters. I also hope you have a chance to slow down and enjoy this season amid the whirlwind of the holidays!
Sarah Momo Romero is a Japanese Peruvian American artist, a graphic designer by day and children's book author and illustrator by night. She’s loved drawing and painting since she was a chiquita and now crafts stories of adventure and wondrous creatures. Sarah is an active SCBWI member who draws inspiration from her life in sunny Los Angeles with her husband/creative partner and dog/infamous escape artist, Peanut. Her debut picture book, "Wake Up, Little Bat!" is out now!
by Bryan Patrick Avery
Long ago, Magician Bill Malone created a magnificent cups and balls routine based on the nursery rhyme “Rub a Dub Dub”. The humorous poem and eye-popping illusions combine to create a routine that has become a classic of magic, enjoyable by all ages. This same outcome is possible in books, when we combine visual imagery with lyrical text. The result can be a story that captivates both young and old readers. This month, we’ll take a look at three of my favorite poetic or lyrical books. First, we’ll take a look at a book about one of my favorite historical figures, written by one of my favorite authors.
“Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive”, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Eric Velasquez tells they story of Olympian Jesse Owens, focusing on his incredible experience at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Told through a series of poems that highlight moments along Jesse’s journey, this book provides a glimpse into both the sports competition at the Games, as well as the political climate at the time.
Two of my favorites are Beyond Berlin, which speaks to the Germany that was hidden from (or ignored by) visitors to the games, and On the Victory Stand, which celebrated Jesse Owens first appearance on the medal podium and highlighted the steps Hitler took to avoid having to shake his hand. Weatherford’s poems are both emotionally connective and informative, and Velasquez’s artwork matches the poems in beauty and intensity. With many agents and editors pleading with authors to create biographies that are told in unique ways, this is a shining example of an inventive way to tell an important story in our history.
Candace Fleming’s “Giant Squid”, illustrated by Eric Rohmann, introduces readers to one of nature’s most elusive creatures. The combination of Rohmann’s dramatic illustrations and Fleming’s lyrical text creates an atmosphere worthy of a deep-sea adventure. As we learn what scientists have discovered about the giant squid (and what has yet to be discovered) we are taken on a journey into the depths of the ocean.
Our encounter with the squid gets us up close and personal, takes us on a hunt for food, and gives us a ring side seat for a dramatic escape. “Giant Squid” is a wonderful introduction to this fascinating creature and is a terrific mentor text for anyone looking to make their prose more lyrical.
One of my favorite recent additions to my library is “One Last Word” by Nikki Grimes. This incredible book of poetry highlights the work of Harlem Renaissance poets using the Golden Shovel poetry form. If you’re not familiar with it, the Golden Shovel form starts with a line from a poem, or the whole poem in its entirety. The words from the line are used as the last word in each line of a new poem. The form is challenging but, in the hands a master like Nikki Grimes, the results can be incredible.
“One Last Word” includes poems from the Harlem Renaissance, paired with Golden Shovel poems from Grimes. She has built a bridge that transports the reader back to Harlem. I’m particularly enamored with this collection because my earliest introduction to poetry was through the works of Harlem Renaissance poets like Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, and Jean Toomer. Anybody interested in poetry, or improving their writing, should check out “One Last Word”.
Well, that’s all for this month. Have a magical, and lyrical, month.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at the Children's Book Academy, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Sarah Momo Romero.
And 5th Mondays will feature awesomely irreverent and super funny Aussie author Brydie Wright.
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