Vivid: from the Latin vividus, from vivere “to live”; producing powerful feelings or strong images in the mind.
I recently received an email from an educator who shared that my visit of eleven years ago had been a “Big Vivid.” When folks who were part of the “Big Vivid” came into her office and spied one of my books, they’d start a walk down memory lane...“I remember when...”
“Big Vivid” is a phrase coined by one of the school’s past Administrators. He passionately believed that educators have the responsibility to create cross-curricular learning experiences so everyone can have “Big Vivid” memories of learning to carry with them forever.
Jackie Baumgartner and Principal Kent Otte were two of many in Philipsburg, Kansas who worked together so everyone - teachers, students, community - could be involved in my two-day visit. It’s true the school, located in a small close-knit town in northern Kansas, was different from most. I knew I was in for something uncommon when I exited the small plane that flew me in and was driven to the school where a huge tornado, representative of the tornado in The Bravest of Us All, topped the school roof.
Since Jackie’s email, I haven’t been able to get the phrase “Big Vivid” out of my mind.
It’s not just school visits that qualify. Trips, special birthdays, a walk on an unforgettable morning with an unforgettable friend also count. Or books.
Books like Ish by Peter H. Reynolds, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Call of the Wild by Jack London, Just As Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume, or Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, which my husband read to his 4th, 5th, and 6th graders every year when he taught. Yes, they...and he...always cried.
And what about those wonderful “Big Vivid” book characters: Pippi Longstocking created by Astrid Lindgren, Matilda created by Roald Dahl, Encyclopedia Brown created by Donald Sobel, the Weasley family from the Harry Potter books, Olivia created by Ian Falconer, Ferdinand created by Munro Leaf, or Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne.
,Wouldn’t we love to create characters like those? Yes, a writer might dream of creating a “Big Vivid” character or book, a book that makes the NY Times Best Seller’s List or wins the Caldecott Medal.
But don’t worry. We don’t have to have written a world famous book in order to share a “Big Vivid” experience.
Out of the blue, a 17-year-old young man emailed me to share that whenever he needed guidance to do the brave and honorable thing, he turned to my book Heart of a Tiger, which I’d autographed for him when he was 8. It was a “Big Vivid” for him when I shared the book at a school visit, a “Big Vivid” for me when I got his email 9 years later.
Walter Jackson School in Alabama is one of several schools that celebrate The Pumpkin Runner every year. Walter Jackson celebrates the whole day and the entire school does a mile run. A “Big Vivid” for the school community. A “Big Vivid” for me when I get an email each year from a fabulous teacher, Todd McDonald, asking me to Skype with them as part of the celebration.
There was another out of the blue message from a woman whose daughter, with many medical challenges, fell in love with Roar of a Snore when her mother read it to her as a baby. For the past four years the “beloved book,” as her mother calls it, has helped the little girl through multiple surgeries, intensive therapies, and nights in the ER. Whenever the parents start to read or recite it (by now they know it by heart), in the hospital or during tests and scans, it soothes and comforts the dear child. Doctors and nurses are amazed. A “Big Vivid” (perhaps the biggest) for us all.
These experiences make one’s heart jump with joy, and I know many other writers have had similar experiences that mean the world to them.
So go on out! Create your "Big Vivid" school visit, your "Big Vivid" picture book, your "Big Vivid" character, your "Big Vivid" life. Your intentions must be pure, not to impress, but to share a piece of yourself, a "Big Vivid" piece, one that makes you happy you're alive; that makes you want “to live” for more “Big Vivids.”
P.S. If you’re working on creating a Big Vivid picture book, you’ll need a Big Vivid character. So through the end of the year, Mira Reisberg and I are offering a discount on my Character-Driven Picture Book course. Here’s the link to the Big Discount.
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