Ten writers for children. All with something to say.
It was a wonderful, rewarding, and busy winter and spring for me, visiting dozens of schools around Minnesota and talking to kids about books, writing, and drawing. Schools welcomed me with paper dogs and dragons, their own photographed "Hidden Alphabets," and backwards stories beginning at THE END and ending with ONCE UPON A TIME.
I visited schools where there were eight students in one grade level, and other schools where there were 8 classes of a particular grade level. There was the school where they chose not to schedule a lunch for me, the school with 8 presentations in one day (what was I thinking!), and the inevitable student who had an "accident" during the middle of one of my talks. But mostly there were students and teachers who were excited about my books and made me feel like a celebrity. Wow. How lucky I am to have a job where an auditorium of students cheers for me!
But as much as I love visiting schools, I am very happy to be on summer vacation, and finally have time again to turn my attention to my own books. It was a joy this last week to work on a brand new book dummy and bring it to my critique group. I didn't realize how much I missed "creating." Spending time working on a new book was nourishment for my soul, and I'm looking forward to having a lot more nourishment in the next months.
When I visit a school, I try to bring the students into my studio using slides. I even have a show called "Buster's Studio Visit" where my cat Buster is in nearly every shot, explaining how I make a book. This works especially well with younger grades. Since there are cats in just about every one of my books, it is fun to reveal their names and real life stories. I like to share my creative process as it evolves from book to book, sometimes briefly and sometimes more in-depth, especially if I know I will be workshopping with smaller groups of kids on actually making a book together. I point out how storyboards are like maps of the book and book-dummies establish the flow of the book and the "drama of the turning page". But at the end of every large presentation, I always fold origami with the group. Ever since illustrating FOLD ME A POEM written by Kristine O'Connell George, I have become known as the "Origami Author". Hundreds of paper frogs have been folded in a single day at a school. Teachers of kindergarten look up in fear when I announce we are going to fold together, but by the end, every student of all ages walks out with a paper frog whispering a poem or a story in their ear, which they can write down as soon as they return to their classroom. Whether I am visiting schools close to home in Minnesota or Wisconsin or as far away as India, origami delights and inspires writing and illustrating!