Wise words from Leo Lionni


"Of all the questions I have been asked as an author of children's books, the most frequent one, without doubt, has been 'How do you get your ideas?' Most people seem to think that getting an idea is both mysterious and simple. Mysterious, because inspiration must come from a particular state of grace with which only the most gifted souls are blessed. Simple, because ideas are expected to drop into one's mind in words and pictures, ready to be transcribed and copied in the form of a book, complete with endpapers and cover. The word get expresses these expectations well. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

"It is true that, from time to time, from the endless flow of our mental imagery, there emerges unexpectedly something that, vague though it may be, seems to carry the promise of a form, a meaning, and, more important, an irresistible poetic charge. The sense of instant recognition with which we pull this image into the full light of our consciousness is the initial impulse of all creative acts. But, though it is important, it produces no more than the germ of an idea. Each book, at the birth of its creative history, has such a moment. Some are fortunate enough to have, from the outset, a strongly identified hero, one with an inescapable destiny. Others are blessed with a promising beginning, or perhaps with the vision of an ending (which means working backwards to a surprise opening). Others stem from a clearly articulated conflict situation. Sometimes, I must admit, the motivations of a book may be found in a sudden, unreasonable urge to draw a certain kind of crocodile. And it may even happen that in the dark of our minds there appears, out of nowhere, a constellation of words that has the bright, arrogant solidity of a title. Only last night I was jolted out of a near-slumber by the words the mouse that didn't exist. I am sure that, temporarily tucked away in my memory, they will eventually become the title of a story for which as yet I have no idea.

"To shape and sharpen the logic of a story, to tighten the flow of events, ultimately to define the idea in its totality, is much like a game of chess. In the light of overall strategy, each move is the result of doubts, proposals, and rejections, which inevitably bring to mind the successes or failures of previous experiences.

"Inspirational raptures may happen, but most books are shaped through hard, disciplined work. Creative work, to be sure, because its ingredients come from the sphere of the imaginary. But the manipulation of these ingredients requires much more than mere inclination or talent. It is an intricate process in which the idea slowly takes form, by trial and error, through detours and side roads, which, were it not for the guidance of professional rigor, would lead the author into an inextricable labyrinth of alternatives.

"And so, to the question 'How do you get your ideas?' I am tempted to answer, unromantic though it may sound, 'Hard work.' "


-Leo Lionni (found through his Amazon bio)

We Art Boston even tomorrow


Tomorrow is the We Art Boston event at the Rose Kennedy Greenway from 11-3:00! There will be watercolor, collage, and bookmaking activities for kids, illustrators on hand for book-signing, stuffed animal portraits, kid's music and more. You will be able to view all the original artwork for sale. More details here. This is going to be a REALLY FUN event! And it's all totally free.

I will be helping out at the book making station from 11:00-12:30 and drawing stuffed animal portraits from 1:30-3:00. Come get an original drawing of your favorite stuffed animal to take home! I'll be drawing alongside some incredible talents: Barbara McClintock, Kelly Murphy, Scott Magoon, David Biedrzycki, and Julia Denos.

Last weekend at the sale

The Fall RISD Sale was bustling and fun. It was a full day that started early and flew by.

But there was one sweet moment that caught my attention. In the early afternoon, a small girl sidled up to my table and looked through a bin of prints. She picked out an image of a bird in a nest and asked how much it was. Then she plunked a little pouch onto the table, and with her mother's help began to count out dollars and coins to pay for it. 

"Is that your allowance money?" I asked. "Yes," she said, and kept counting. I was tempted just to give her the print, but then I remembered the pride and feeling of independence that goes with buying something yourself. I remembered saving up my money and carefully deciding what to buy, contemplating the many different ways it could be spent. Though I don't remember wanting to buy things like artwork at that age, I think I would have gone for a toy or game. I was really touched that she wanted to buy my print, and impressed that she was bringing home something that couldn't be played with or worn or quickly thrown away. 

Thanks for the lovely moment, and to everyone who came out on Saturday!


We Art Boston


I am so proud to be part of We Art Boston, a fundraiser for the Emergency and Trauma Fund at Boston Children’s Hospital. Original illustratons from over 40 children's book artists will be auctioned off beginning October 10th.

On the 20th there will be a fabulous celebration on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston, with art activities for kids, a stuffed animal portrait station, book signings, and book making station, among other things. Come by and say hello! I will either be signing books, manning the book making station, or sneaking my daughter's stuffed lamb over to get her portrait drawn...

Here is the piece I donated, from Abigail Spells



Next Big Thing Global Blog Tour: Now I'm it!

Libby tagged me for this blog tour on BRG, a chain-letter blog tour of sorts about your latest book. Here is a little bit about what I've been working on:
 


1. What is the working title of your next book(s)?

I am currently revising a draft of my first chapter book, tentatively titled The House on Oak Street. This title will change, it's more of a place holder right now until the right title sparks.

2. Where did the book idea come from for the book?

I've always loved animal stories and stories about friendship; this book is both. Once the characters formed in my head, the story sort of flowed out of their relationships with each other as I wrote about them. I am not usually the writer that says "the story wrote itself!" (I can't imagine that happening *and* my work being any good) but this might have been similar in that the ideas came when I needed them.

3. What genre does your book fall into? 

It is a young chapter book.

4. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Five friends live in an apartment building together teach eachother about friendship.

5. Who is publishing your book?

Alfred A. Knopf Books


6. How long did it take you to write the first draft?

Before I conceived of the idea for the book, I wrote one of the chapters as a picture book, maybe 3 or 4 years ago. When I came back to it in 2011, shortly after my daughter was born, I realized it was part of a larger story, and began writing other chapters around it. In total that first draft took about a year to complete, but I was also part-time at home with my daughter.

7. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I would love if it were compared to The Wind in the Willows or Winnie-the-Pooh, thought it is a very different book from both. Still, I took inspiration from the cozy worlds of both books, and the way the characters learn deeper truths about themselves through everyday events.

8. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?  

It is going to be heavily illustrated, with illustrations on nearly every page, and a lot of fun for young readers! It will be in bookstores spring of 2015.


Winchester Authorfest

Come join me tomorrow, April 9th, for the Winchester Authorfest!

I'll be signing books along with a long list of wonderful authors and illustrators: Kathleen Duble, Karen Day, Jackie Dembar Green, Amy MacDonald, David Biedrzycki, David Elliott, Matt Tavares, Marty Kelley, Susan Lubner, Susan Goodman, Jerry Pallotta, Ralph Masiello, Brian Lies, Scott Magoon, and Nancy Poydar.

Come to get a signed book or just say hello!

3:00-5:00 pm
Winchester Town Hall
71 Mt Vernon St, Winchester, MA