In case you did not know this, I am a member of SCBWI, otherwise known as The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Foolishly I have never been very involved in SCBWI the way I am with CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators & Performers), because I’ve always been rather intimidated by this stellar organisation. But that is going to change, because I’m attending my first US Conference next year in New York! And yes, I’m terrified. But I’ve done things that have scared me before (flying to Nunavut, performing in front of people), so somehow I’ll manage (I hope).
Something else that I’ve done to get more involved in SCBWI is to enter their annual Tomie dePaola Art Award! I have chosen to illustrate a scene from Little Women (confession: I’ve yet to read the book. Have seen the movie with Katharine Hepburn, though). Here’s the text that I chose to illustrate:
Every few weeks she would shut herself up in her room, put on her scribbling suit, and “fall into a vortex,” as she expressed it, writing away at her novel with all her heart and soul, for till that was finished she could find no peace. Her “scribbling suit” consisted of a black pinafore on which she could wipe her pen at will, and a cap of the same material, adorned with a cheerful red bow, into which she bundled her hair when the decks were cleared for action. This cap was a beacon to the inquiring eyes of her family, who, during these periods, kept their distance, merely popping in their heads semi-occasionally, to ask, “Does genius burn, Jo?” They did not always venture even to ask this question, but took an observation of the cap, and judged accordingly. If this expressive article of dress was drawn low upon the forehead, it was a sign that hard work was going on; in exciting moments it was pushed rakishly askew, and when despair seized the author it was plucked wholly off, and cast upon the floor.
You can see some of the other entries here, at the Unofficial Gallery.
Recently I had the delightful opportunity to teach a picture book writing workshop to some high school students in St. Catharines. It was a great deal of fun, the students seemed to enjoy themselves, and no one threw rocks at me.
I started the class with some (hopefully) inspiring quotes about writing picture books by some well-known authors, and decided to end the session with a rather long, but (in my opinion) very inspiring quote about the writing of Margaret Wise Brown. In reading this piece to the class, I was hoping to instill in them a desire to strive for this kind of quality of writing, as well as an understanding that writing good picture books is a special gift, worthy of respect. I got rather choked up while reading this aloud, and even now when I read it, I get chills all over. It’s from the introduction of Awakened by the Moon, a wonderful biography of children’s book author Margaret Wise Brown, written by Leonard S. Marcus:
I first became aware of Margaret Wise Brown’s work a few years after graduation, while browsing in a New York bookshop where copies of Goodnight Moon were stacked high on a table. As I read the book for the first time, unaware of the author’s legendary status within her field (or indeed anything about her) I was forcibly struck by the realization that the quietly compelling words I was saying over in my head were poetry and, what was more, poetry of a kind I prized: accessible but not predictable, emotional but purged of sentiment, vivid but so spare that every word felt necessary. Her words seemed to be rooted in the concrete but touched by an appreciation of the elusive, the paradoxical, the mysterious. There was astonishing tenderness and authority in the voice, and something mythic in it as well. It was as though the author had just now seen the world for the first time, and had chosen to honor it by taking its true measure in words.
Here are some photos from our Pirate & Penguin play performance at the Belleville Public Library. It was a great turnout, and a fabulous day!
How cool is this? Owl Magazine has set up a story writing contest, and the prize is the book Be a Writing Superstar, written by author and librarian extraordinaire Joel Sutherland, and illustrated by moi! It’s a fun book with lots of useful writing tips – a great prize if ya win it, or if ya buy it for yourself! Either way, you’re a Superstar!