Finding Creativity, Uncategorized

Picture Book Debut & How ‘What Ifs’ Inspire Creativity

Hi y’all! We have a special guest on the Wonder of Words blog today—one I’m excited to introduce (though needs no introduction), debut author AND fellow critique group partner, Sandra Sutter. Welcome, Sandra!

Thank you, Candice, for asking me to share a little about my debut picture book and my overall creative process. I love working with you and our other critique partners on this blog, but I have to admit it is a lot of fun to drop by as a featured guest, too.

Where did you find the inspiration for your story?

Like many authors I know, my child gave me that initial spark of inspiration for THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL. He is one of those kids who will ask a million questions about anything you can possibly imagine. That can be inspiring and, well… exhausting, all at the same time. With this story, I was walking by as he looked up from his iPad to ask, “Did you know the farmer took a wife?” When I explained that yes, that was how the song went, he replied, “Well, I did not know that!” Then I thought… it doesn’t have to go that way, does it? What if the farmer didn’t take a wife? What if the farmer didn’t live in a dell? I ran off to write down answers to these and other questions, and out of this, my story was born. Cover The Real Farmer in the Dell

I have a couple of those Million-Question-Kids, too! Love that your son’s question led to the What-If game in a sense. What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I am an ideas person; my head is filled with them. I like to look at things from different angles, brainstorm, then get it out on “paper” and see a story come to life. This is also one reason I like to do critiques. To see the way someone else tackles a subject or comes up with a completely unique storyline. It is fascinating to think of all the stories already out there and yet to be written.

Do you have other creative outlets or hobbies? How do they cross into your writing?

The short answer is yes, I do. I just wish I had more time to do them. I am not an illustrator, but I love to draw and paint for inspiration. It might be a picture of an animal or the main character in one of my stories, or just colorful lines on a paper. I also like photography and used to do more of it when my kids were babies. It was just for fun, but it was a creative outlet for me when I was working as an attorney before going full into writing as a career. My “hobbies” would be mountain biking, hiking, cooking, yoga, and traveling.

I love yoga too. A few minutes in usually leads to me running for paper and pen. Do you have any tips you’d like to share about finding creativity?

I had to be “open” to creativity before it really took hold in my life. Before I started writing, I was a counselor for four years and then an attorney for ten. With the exception of being able to think outside-the-box and help people re-write their own narratives, I didn’t see myself as creative. I wasn’t very “artsy”, or so I thought. But then these stories started to pop into my mind and I couldn’t shake them. I just HAD to get them on paper even if it scared me to have anyone read them. When I allowed myself to do this, it was like someone opened the flood-gates in my mind and a river of ideas poured into my life. So here I am.

As far as a practical tip, I find it helpful to use time-blocking strategies. Schedule an appointment with yourself to be creative in whatever way you like as if it were a doctor’s appointment or a parent-teacher conference. You can accomplish absolutely nothing during that time, but at least do something you love. For example, I aim for at least one day each month that I draw or paint something. No writing!

Wonderful how you phrased that, being open to creativity, because that’s exactly how one needs to be. Creativity usually seems to inspire more creativity. Do you have another book project you’re working on that you could give us a hint about?

I am one of those writers who tends to juggle a dozen or so projects at a time. I like the variety, and sometimes one project bleeds into another which can also lend itself to unexpected, but beautiful outcomes. One of my newer projects is a picture book about possibilities and probabilities. Again, my son may have something to do with that! I have also started a second middle-grade novel about a boy who has to navigate changing peer relationships and an absentee mother who reappears after his single-parent dad wins the lotto. Don’t ask me where that came from, because I have no clue. The idea just appeared one day and now I have to write the story.

Of course, there have been other wonderful creatives that helped bring THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL to life. My publisher, Callie Metler-Smith, at Clear Fork Publishing and Dr. Mira Resiberg, my editor and art director, were instrumental in bringing it all together. They found the incredibly talented illustration team, Chantelle and Burgen Thorne, to put the right pictures with my words. I couldn’t have done it without this exceptional group of people!

Thank you so much for having me on the blog, Candice. It has been a pleasure!

Enjoyed our interview, Sandra, and always your insightful critiques. Congrats again on your debut!

Connect with Sandra at:

www.sdsutter.com
https://twitter.com/sandradsutter
https://www.facebook.com/sandrasutterauthor/

THE REAL FARMER AND THE DELL officially releases March 19th but if you’re like me and can’t wait ‘til then, you can ask your favorite indie bookstore to pre-order it, or purchase it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble:

https://www.amazon.com/Real-Farmer-Dell-Sandra-Sutter/dp/1946101885/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1550347017&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Real+Farmer+in+the+Dell

And: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-real-farmer-in-the-dell-sandra-sutter/1130070330?ean=9781946101884

For y’all’s creativity challenge inspired by this interview, play the What-If game to encourage brainstorming. If you have or are around children, listen for prompts they may inadvertently send your way. Let me know in the comments and I’ll randomly choose a winner for a picture book critique by me!

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Finding Creativity

SYNERGY!

When Janean, a friend and fellow writer, asked me to collaborate on a story I was hesitant. For 30 years, I have written solo: articles, books, poems, stories.

Yes, I have critique partners. I know that picture books are a marriage of two great minds – the writer and illustrator –further refined by the editor. That’s part of their unique magic!

Still, I found it difficult to grasp why two writers would work together on a story. Research revealed that collaboration between authors is not uncommon, so I asked a few authors to describe how they worked together.

The prolific author of 376 children’s books Jane Yolen has worked with other writers often, including her son and daughter. She partnered with others because she admired their work, needed their expertise, or ’to give a foot up’ into publication. “Two authors share their talents, their research, and provide a critical eye,” she said. “It’s important to set ego aside, decide whose name goes first, and share the royalties and advance equally.”

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Amy Gugliemo, a member of my northern NY Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, has had several partnerships. She was first approached by a parent to work jointly on a book about her art-based curriculum which taught all subjects, including math and science. She enthusiastically agreed. The result was the Touch the Art series of books with Julie Appel. Later, Amy partnered with Jacqueline Tourville, another critique group friend. ”Jacqueline and I have similar sense of humor and we spent a lot of time swapping work, so we just started writing together,” she said.

 

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While Julie and Amy would meet in person or chat on the phone, Jacqueline and Amy work through email, sending drafts to one another for edits. “We will go back and forth until we’re both happy,” says Amy. “I’ve been very lucky with my collaborations and I would be open to working with other authors in the future. Publishing is a difficult sport and the best thing about collaboration is having someone to share the ups and downs of the business. It’s always great to celebrate with a friend!”

 

Matt Forrest Esenwine teamed up with Deb Bruss on the story Don’t Ask a Dinosaur. Matt and Deb are in the same SCBWI writers group. According to Matt, Deb gave Matt a general concept and a few lines, but no plot or ending. This sat by his computer for a few months, until he figured out where to go with it. They revised it about 20 times, sharing the versions with one another using Google docs and receiving feedback from their critique group. “One good thing about working together is the back-and-forth of ideas. You have to be able to compromise, and let go of the idea that this is your baby. Co-authored projects are a joy to complete, knowing two people have put so much time, talent, and effort into one little book,” said Matt.

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David Harrison and Sandy Asher co-authored the play, Jesse and Grace: A Best Friend’s Story. Sandy would write a poem from Grace’s point of view, send it to David, and he would respond from Jesse’s POV. Since neither knew in advance what the other would say, “the telling was spontaneous and personal and related to the interior thinking of each character,” said David.

Trisha Speed Shaskan and Stephen Shaskan teamed up on their graphic novel series Q & RAY and picture book PUNK SKUNKS. They like to formulate ideas together, then brainstorm the conflict. “You need to allow ample space for everyone’s ideas and keep things positive,” they wrote in a Storystorm blog post. They believe finding someone you fully trust and maintaining mutual respect is essential.

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I began to see that working together is synergistic – the effect is greater than the sum of its parts, resulting in a better story than when each writer works alone. I have high hopes for the story Janean and I are creating together.

Finding Creativity, Uncategorized

Marcie Colleen on Sparking Whimsy & Rocketing to the Moon

Hi, y’all! Today on the Wonder of Words blog we have super talented author, Marcie Colleen, answering questions about her latest picture book, PENGUINAUT!, and on sparking creativity.

Welcome, Marcie! Thanks so much for being here. PENGUINAUT! is such a wonderful combination of humor and heart-squishes. My five year-old went grocery shopping with me recently and was BESIDE HIMSELF EXCITED when the buggy ahead of us was full of 2 liter soft drinks. He was sure they were planning on rocketing to the moon!

PenguinautSoftDrinks

Wondering why Mermaid Girl & Dinosaur Boy are reading with fizzy drinks surrounding them? You’ll have to read the book to find out! 🙂

LOL! That’s awesome! Definitely rocketing to the moon.

1. When and where did you get the inspiration for Orville’s story?

Back in December of 2011 a friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:

fbNow, as a writer, I can’t control where my ideas come from. And after reading this, I became so curious about penguins and their lack of necks which would prevent them from looking at the stars. I asked, “what if?” (that is what writers do, we are constantly asking “what if?”). What if a penguin saw the moon for the first time and became so enthralled that he wanted to find a way to get there?

As with all stories, this one went through lots of revisions (39 to be exact!) and lots of re-imaginings. Along the way, I have lost the “falling over and discovering the moon” bit, but the adventurous spirit of Orville lives on in the published book.

2. I love the idea of penguins willing to fall down for a chance to look at the stars! And 39 revisions—that makes me feel better about my own manuscripts. What is your favorite part of the creative process?

My favorite part of the process is when I can call on my pals and get feedback on what I have written. They always help me see the lack and where I can make things stronger. I love that process. Brene Brown talks about how no art is created without midwifery. And my books have required a lot of midwifery. That collaboration is the best part of creation for me.

Penguianut cover low res

3. Yes! I rely heavily on the wonderful Wonder of Words PB critique group as well as my in-person Write Club ladies for MG & YA. I feel I’m a stronger writer after taking your Study Hall over the summer too. Do you have other creative outlets or hobbies? Do they cross into your writing?

 

I have lots of other creative outlets. I like to dabble in music, singing and playing a little ukulele and guitar. I also love to cook. I run every day. I suppose these do cross over into my writing, as they allow me to replenish my inner well. They fire up the imagination, spark whimsy, and encourage experimentation. So, they might not cross into my writing directly, but they certainly do play in.

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Illustrator Emma Yarlett did a superb job on capturing Orville and his zoo friends

4. Do you have any tips you’d like to share about finding creativity?

 

I very much think of creativity as a muscle. The more you work the muscle, the more you will build. Therefore, take time to infuse your day with play and imagination. As you do that, your creativity feelers will grow and before you know it, you will be finding stories everywhere you look.

5. So true. I love this permission to play and use the imagination! Creativity usually seems to inspire more creativity. Do you have another book project you’re working on that you could give us a hint about?

 

My next picture book comes out in Winter 2020 from Macmillan. It’s called The Bear’s Garden and it will be illustrated by Alison Oliver (Moon, BabyLit series). It’s about an intrepid girl, her beloved stuffed bear, and the garden they create in a forgotten corner of their neighborhood. It is inspired by a real community garden in Brooklyn, New York and it’s so wonderful to see my former neighborhood come to life through Alison’s gorgeous art. It truly will be a love letter to the place both Alison and I have called home.

 

Community gardens are such a wonderful thing I’m happy to see popping up more and more regularly. This story sounds beautiful! Thank you so much for your time, Marcie! And y’all, her Study Halls are GREAT. We highly recommend. Check out her website for more information.

20160113_D800_marciecolleen_headshot_9442_3x4In previous chapters Marcie Colleen has been a teacher, an actress, and a nanny, but now she spends her days writing children’s books! She is the author of THE SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS chapter book series with Macmillan/Imprint, as well picture books, LOVE, TRIANGLE, illustrated by Bob Shea (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins), and PENGUINAUT!, illustrated by Emma Yarlett (Scholastic). She lives with her husband and their mischievous sock monkey in San Diego, California. Visit Marcie at www.thisismarciecolleen.com or follow her on Twitter @MarcieColleen1.

 

For y’all’s creativity prompt inspired by this interview, watch your social media feed to see if a post sparks whimsy in you. Let me know in the comments, and I’ll randomly choose a winner for a picture book manuscript critique by me!

Finding Creativity

Our First Post & Fruitful Inspiration

Thank y’all for cheering on our FIRST blog post. What an honor! And what a gift it is to write and collaborate with the wonderful ladies you’ll meet here over the next few months. Each brings a unique perspective and makes this writing journey more companionable.

Another thing that makes this writing adventure feel a little less lonely is when authors share their thoughts, tips, and techniques in blogs.

The origin of creativity—taking a tiny sparkly observation and turning it into something as magical as a book—has always been one of my favorite parts of writing.

So you’ll see that my posts focus on the creative journey and different ways writers find inspiration, in hopes that it will inspire creativity in you.

Let’s discover the WONDER OF WORDS with picture book author, Krissy Bystrom Emery and her Suitable Fruitable book series. I first came across her when she posted about her book in our local mom’s group on Facebook. There aren’t many picture book writers in my area so I was instantly intrigued and even more so when I saw she’d be holding a reading and craft session at our Barnes & Noble.

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Mermaid Girl & Dinosaur Boy really got into the reading, holding up signs and ‘rumba’-ing along with Piper the Paw Paw Fruit & friends!

CMC: Hi, Krissy! It was great meeting you at your signing! I adore the creativity of your title, THE PAW PAW FRUIT DOES THE CHA-CHA SCOOT (Mascot Books, 2018). It definitely caught and held my attention. Where did you get the inspiration for your story?

KBE: I have always loved writing fictitious stories and have done so since I was a little girl. It’s natural for me to take a piece of my day to day experiences and write about it in a way children can understand. One thing we always enjoy is experimenting with new fruits and foods through taste testing and dissecting. When the N. American Paw Paw fruit was brought to my attention by my sister, who has a doctorate in the field of nutrition and has studied many interesting fruits, we were eager to learn more about it. From this, my storyline was born and I wrote The Paw Paw Fruit Does the Cha-Cha Scoot.YwvOO4HZ

CMC: What is your favorite part of the creative process?

KBE: I really enjoy the rhythm of a rhyming story, so often I find myself writing in rhymes. I form a musical beat in my head that I feel children can enjoy and relate to and possibly create their own tune as they read along. Just knowing that I am reaching a child’s mind and filling it with positive information is the most fulfilling thing ever to me.

CMC: Do you have other creative outlets? Do they cross over into your writing?

KBE: Everything I do circles back to children, my family, so, in essence, I feel like I am writing stories in my head all the time. Being present for my family is my top priority and with four children there is not much time for leisure activities of my own. Whatever they are into at the moment is what I am into. Currently, it’s tennis, gymnastics, and homework—which in itself is an artful adventure!

CMC: I like the idea of homework as an artful adventure! Do you have any tips about finding creativity?

KBE: Use your own life experiences good, bad, or indifferent to find your own creative style. Everyone is influenced by something or someone—so look around and find what makes you tick.

CMC: Creativity seems to inspire more creativity. Do you have another book project you’re working on that you could give us a hint about?

KBE: My book series focuses on introducing unique fruits and vegetables to children. If you haven’t seen the bold and beautiful looking pitaya fruit, it’s definitely an interesting fruit to explore. My next book will focus on this fruit, also known as the dragon fruit, so stay tuned!

CMC: My kids are looking forward to this new fruity character. 6qxvlZzM I love when books come alive for children. And yours inspired us to try something new. Thank you for writing this fun series and for answering my questions.

Y’all check out her books at suitfruitbooks.com and on Facebook @SuitFruitBooks to see where her nutritiously delicious mission takes her next.

And thank YOU for being here on our inaugural post! We hope you’ll tune in on the third Saturday of the month when you’ll hear from the talented Sandra Sutter.

For your creative challenge:

What have you eaten recently that you could turn into a story?