... MORE exciting than Michelle Kwan? I think the answer is YES!
Yup, right there in the middle is Illustration Icon Marla Frazee! And she is flanked by Julie Paschkis and Nancy Tillman! (moderated by Portland illustrator Brie Spangler, sitting in the fancy chair).
This meeting took place at Wordstock, a fabulous literary festival held each fall in Portland. I LOVE this festival- last year David Shannon and David Wiesner spoke TOGETHER. ON STAGE. FOR AN HOUR. It was like the best hour of 2010 for me. Anyway, this was another hour high on the list- these 3 illustrators spoke about their work and answered questions. I asked Marla what her favorite assignment to give to her students is... soon to be an assignment in my class at PNCA! I also got this little bon mot out of the hour:
"Take other people's vegetables, but make your own soup".
This is a better way of saying what I often say in class: "Steal from other people. Just change it enough so they won't sue you". But I think the vegetable saying is closer to the truth- take elements you admire from others, but be sure to make the work your own.
I was so happy I got to hear Marla speak- I missed her first talk of the day, as I was leading a workshop at the same time. A workshop about writing children's books, dur.
I opened with this photograph and a simple 4-minute writing exercise called, simply, "I Remember". One of the most important steps for me in becoming a children's book author and illustrator has been to get back into the midset of being a kid.
Something that helps me with this is to really, honesty remember what it was like to be a kid. Not through the rose-colored glasses of "adulthood", but the real worries and frustrations I felt. A good way to tap into those memories is through old photographs. You can try this at home- find a photograph of yourself as a kid, and write down as many honest memories as you can of that moment.
For example, I remember precisely when the above photograph was taken. I was in my room, busy doing something important, when my mom came in & told me to put on my overalls and come outside for a picture. First of all, I was annoyed at being interrupted- I was DOING something. Second of all, these were Strawberry Shortcake overalls, which I was too old to be wearing. Third of all, I had outgrown these overalls, so I had to sort of hunch over so I could even fit my torso inside them. My overall feelings at the time of this picture were that I was being unfairly forced to do a bunch of things I didn't want to, because I was a kid and she was my mom (I know, what a cruel mother). (I love you, Mom!)
Anyway, my point is, childhood is not a carefree time for ANYbody, and it's important to remember your worries, concerns, and joys in order to relate to your kid readers.