It is with great pleasure that I introduce George Shannon, author of more than 40 books for children, as our featured author for February.  I discovered George’s blog more than a year ago when I was  procrastinating on my own writing by surfing social media sites serendipitously followed a link there.  I wrote a post about what a great resource George’s blog is, calling it a virtual MFA in picture book writing.  So I was thrilled when George agreed to be our 12 x 12 author for February.  Here is an excerpt from George’s author page at Amazon:

It feels as though I have always been wrapped in stories and books. My parents read to me, and I in turn read to younger brothers. Family economics meant we couldn’t own many books, but going to the library was as common as going to the market. I still have the books I received as gifts. They include two “Little Golden Books” that were savored in childhood, and have served as talisman ever since. THE BUNNY BOOK by Patsy and Richard Scarry (1955) and RABBIT AND HIS FRIENDS by Richard Scarry (1953).

I began writing stories when they were given as assignments in elementary school. By seventh grade I was writing even when there was no assignment. My dream of making books became so vivid, I submitted my first “formal” picture book manuscript to a publisher when I was sixteen. Eleven more years of school, work, reading, writing and luck finally brought about LIZARD’S SONG, my first children’s book to be accepted.

Picture books have been my professional focus now for 40 years. Reading them. Writing them. Sharing them with children. Teaching workshops and classes on writing them. Oh yes, and buying them. Lots of them. And now, blogging about them, and helping other writers.

That last line is what George is here to do now – help us writers.  One lucky 12 x 12 challenger will win a critique from George!  All participants are eligible for one point, regardless of whether you complete a draft in Feb. or not.  All you need to do to get your point is leave a comment on this post.  Now, take it away George!

From Flicker to Final Manuscript

The initial flirtatious idea for a new book is always delicious. That moment is packed with possibilities, but it will remain just that unless we take action. We must do the work. And, our primary work is doing all we can to maintain a sense of play as we write.

A sense of play allows us to take chances, to experiment, to explore with no purpose beyond the pleasure of looking. Play around by placing the idea in the middle or the end if a story, as well as the beginning. Drop it into different contexts. Try different characters. What you discover could affirm your first instincts or offer a more original story than you expected.

A sense of play also means getting words on paper or the computer screen. Thinking, pondering or musing about writing is NOT WRITING. If you want to be perfect then leave the page blank. If you want to create a story then dive in and get messy with changes, dead ends, revisions, and glorious surprises. Such surprises give us the chance to surrender and win. Clinging to our initial idea and plan for a book is not play. It is locking one’s self in box. As a child once said, “If you draw a picture of a dog and it looks like a horse then it’s a horse!”

My TOMORROW’S ALPHABET grew out of a failed novel. WISE ACRES was initially just one piece of a larger (still unpublished) book. Two of my forthcoming picture books began as poems in a collection that fell into limbo when the interested publisher sold the company.

We all feel stuck or stymied from to time as we write, but fretting about being stuck only makes things worse. So…play instead. Don’t try to find the best idea or sentence. Play toward options no matter how crazy they might feel. Relaxing into a mood of play may be just the thing to let the right idea sneak in the back door.

If a manuscript is flailing and you’re not sure why, relax and play. Go back to the picture books you love and savor them. Examine them like Lego creations to see how they work so well. The books we love are always waiting to teach us more about writing.

If we focus on all the aspects of publishing we cannot control we’ll never get out of bed again. But we can control the process by maintaining a sense of play and possibility. That in turn makes the process too enjoyable to avoid, and that makes us eager to write and write and write some more.

Books That Nurture a Sense of Play 

ART & FEAR: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING by David Bayles & Ted Orland

BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING by Amy Schwartz

CHERRIES AND CHERRY PITS by Vera Williams

DANNY’S DRAWING BOOK by Sue Heap

DOODLER DOODLING by Rita Golden Gelman. Illus. by Paul Zelinsky

FREE PLAY: IMPROVISATION IN LIFE AND ART by Stephen Nachmanovitch

REGINA’S BIG MISTAKE by Marissa Moss

THREE BY THE SEA by Edward Marshall. Illus. by James Marshall

Thank you so much George!  That was an inspired post, as always.  Imagine thinking of writing as play time!  🙂

Participants – to enter to win the critique from George, you must be an official challenger and leave a comment on this post any time during the month of February for one point.  On February 29th, l’ll put a check-in post on the blog.  If you completed a picture book draft in February, you can let us know in the comments of that post for another point.  I will draw a winner using Random.org and announce on March 2nd.

Categories: 12 x 12 Featured Author, 12 x 12 in 2012, Authors, Children's Books, Giveaway, Goals, Picture Books, Publishing, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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173 Comments

  1. Thank you for your inspiring post, George. It’s true that sometimes great stories or ideas form when we least expect it or when we’re not trying too hard. Big thanks for the recommended reading too.

  2. I always love hearing what you have to say, George. My favorite line here… Thinking, pondering or musing about writing is NOT WRITING. I think I will post that on my wall. Thanks for your post!

  3. that.. was awesome.. and inspiring 😉

  4. this time i shall spell my name right…

  5. It is amazing how generous these authors are! The advice given here is great! WOW, what a great community!

  6. I find it is so easy to get mired down by wanting everything to be perfect from the get-go. Thanks for the reminder that we need to retain a sense of play when we write and just get things down on the page. I look forward to checking out your blog and looking up some of the books you recommended that nurture a sense of play.

  7. Funny how useful a reminder to play can be. We’re writing for children so you’d think it would be obvious but in trying to do well and produce results, it’s easily to forgotten.
    I’ve been reading George’s blog for a long time now having come across it in much the same way as Julie (I wasn’t procrastinating either 😉 ). I love your blog, George! It is such a great public service–thank you!!

  8. Thanks so much for the great advice, George! I love your perspective.

  9. Thanks, George, for sharing how we must play with our ideas and for sharing how some of your books came to be!

  10. Realizing that tapping the energy and support of a larger group to keep our collective noses to the grindstone is a pretty special incentive, the offer of George’s critique is a totally excellent added incentive. Thanks to George and to Julie for extending this offer.

    To George’s comment about play, I appreciate that gentle nudge because in a way, that’s the one thing I have the most trouble with. It’s not that I don’t leave plenty of room to enjoy the word play. But for me, the challenge is to get the word play exactly right—and that is its own reward. Yet, although I find myself stuck with a very rough final 10 percent of my story for January, rather than continue to hammer away at it, I’m going to step back, leave it alone for a bit and try to let the play take over again in a few days. In the meantime, the February story is waiting to take off….

  11. And that’s exactly what I forgot to do with my January draft. I got so caught up in the “It HAS to be in rhyme and it HAS to be quirky because that’s what I do!” mindset, that I just froze. Usually when I write my poems, I giggle to myself and think, goodness, this is silly. Where did that go with the PB draft? Back to the drawing board. Thank you for the necessary reminder, George!

  12. Thanks for the inspiration and your generous offer to give a critique, George.
    Getting that new book idea is “delicious”! And who doesn’t love playtime?
    I will look at the books you suggested. Let’s have fun!
    ….running over to your blog now…..

  13. I totally love the idea of writing as play. My best ideas are from “playing”! 🙂

    Thanks for the chance to win a criique from this fabulous author.

  14. Wow! George is prolific! And what a fabulous post. I especially liked “If you draw a picture of a dog and it looks like a horse then it’s a horse!” It’s important to remember! And the list of books that inspire play is wonderful. Thanks so much. And I’ll be going over to check out George’s blog!

  15. Awesome interview! Thank you George for the valuable info!

  16. Thanks, George, for the reminder that a playful mind is an open mind ;~])
    For the love of children’s books, let the kid within us all come out!

    “If you draw a picture of a dog and it looks like a horse then it’s a horse!”
    We can learn much from little ones. Some things (aka: our stories) will be what they are meant to be. But first we must step out of our characters’ (and our own) way and simply enjoy the experience.

  17. Thank you for an inspiring post. I also enjoyed discovering your website. My boys and I will be rediscovering some of your books today – as I “work” on my writing.

  18. Adults often forget the value of play. Kids don’t. Watch a five year old at play. The intensity! That’s what we must do to be able to create a book a young child will love. I heard this at a SCBWI conference long ago and it has become one of my writing mantras: I’m playing in a sandbox of words! Thanks, George for the posting.

  19. Thank you George for this post. Your words seem to be a cure for my current state of “analysis paralysis!” That big empty white page has been so intimidating lately… and the anxiety of words/pictures not being good enough has kept me from writing/drawing! Today I play!

  20. Thank you for this, “If you want to be perfect then leave the page blank. If you want to create a story then dive in and get messy with changes, dead ends, revisions, and glorious surprises.” Inspiring!

  21. It is hard to let go of that initial conception–but George is right that that is where inspiration really begins.
    Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg is a great book for making something new out of one’s initial idea. Also, Perfect Square by Michael Hall has a similar theme.

  22. Years ago, a little girl who was playing by herself on the lawn of a neighboring apartment building asked me as I was walking by, “Are you playful?” She was looking for someone to play with her, and I was “too busy” in my young adult way. Her question has remained with me. Thanks to your words, George, I shall continue to ask myself, “Are you playful?” and play with my characters and their stories.

    I’m eager to delve into the wealth of books you’ve suggested, and to check out your blog. Thank you for your words of inspiration! My February draft and I are going to have a good time playing together this month.

  23. I love this post! I am sad to admit that I am not familar with George, but Julie, I can see why you have become such a fan. I am going to check out his blog and his books. Julie – it was also nice to hear you went through a period of uncertainty regarding blogging. I’ve recently had someone redesign my blog, and now I realize I have to start actually blogging.

  24. Great tips and resources. I’m going to follow your links with purpose. I won’t even count those in my “oh my gosh, I’m going down a rabbit hole” links. 🙂

  25. Kathleen Cornell Berman

    Thank you George, I love your post. “Maintaining a sense of play and possibility” is excellent advice. I do experience that when I revise, but not
    when I am looking at a blank computer screen. Now I will look at that blank page and think about all the possibilities instead of a set idea.

  26. Thank you so much, George! Your inspired words couldn’t have come to me at better time.

  27. What a wonderful approach to writing! I think we should all aspire to enjoy the process of writing a bit more. Great advice as we approach the next 11 months.

  28. I didn’t quite make it, but I have the beginning and the ending down. I just have to finish the middle, so I’m happy with what I accomplished and I’m going to keep on working on it. Now on to number 2!

  29. thanks for the background. Reading and writing is play for the ever growing writer of picture books.

  30. I loved this post and the way he described an idea as being flirtacious!

  31. Thank you, George! Your words of wisdom are a gift for writing and living! I’m keeping this post at my desk to read often and refuel with courage and joy. I laughed out loud with the truth, “If you draw a picture of a dog and it looks like a horse then it’s a horse!” My young son gave me very similar advice to avoid the stress of my self-imposed expectations, “What you make will not be what you want it to be, but what you make it, what you do,” and it has guided me too. Thanks for the reminder to surrender and win! Janis

  32. Thanks for the great tips! I never thought of writing as Play before, but I like it. I think that attitude shift will help me a lot. Thanks again, Debbie

  33. Thanks, George, for a great post. Be playful – get messy! who knew that we’d get mud on our knees writing kid’s books. This post is a great reminder for me to stop approaching writing as “serious” business and just go try something out. If it don’t work, toss it in the compost and try something else.

  34. Wow, thanks for the great tips. It is so important to stop and review your process at times.

  35. Excellent advice. Writers can’t create successful books for children if they don’t remember what it’s like to just play! Thank you.

  36. Thank you George! I have copied your last three paragraphs onto a sheet that I can put up to remind me to RETURN TO MY YOUTH and PLAY and ENJOY the picture book process! Thank you!

    Louise
    http://louisesblogtoday.blogspot.com/

  37. What a great post. I absolutely love to play, and I absolutely hate banging my head against a brick wall! My hard drive (and 3 backups) are filled with things I’m playing with and loaded with bricks trying to make contact with my head. Sometimes the fun things become bricks and some of the bricks come to life and turn into fun again. Playing is always so unpredictable…..

  38. “Thinking, pondering or musing about writing is NOT WRITING. If you want to be perfect then leave the page blank. If you want to create a story then dive in and get messy with changes, dead ends, revisions, and glorious surprises.”

    Wonderful!

    And this: “If a manuscript is flailing and you’re not sure why, relax and play. Go back to the picture books you love and savor them. Examine them like Lego creations to see how they work so well. The books we love are always waiting to teach us more about writing.”

    Perfect!

    Thank you so much for the inspiration. And the permission to PLAY! See you at the finish line!

  39. Thank you for the reminder to play in writing. I do it all the time in art, but never made that shift in my writing. So, let the play begin!

  40. Good reminder to focus on what we can control. joy, play, and writing.

  41. So, really? If I draw a picture of a dog and it looks like a horse then it really is a horse?

    So inspiring and awesome, George! Printing out and sticking it by my computer. Thank you George.!Thank you Julie! *waving and smiling*

  42. Thank you for the lovely post, George!

  43. I often feel that I have a good idea for a picture book, but then when I try and develop it, I get mired in logical, rigid thinking. I was just thinking the other day that I need to learn to loosen up and be more goofy in my writing. George’s suggestion of turning work into play was very helpful and motivating. Great post, thank you, George!

  44. Bravo, Julie, for “corralling” someone who can inspire us as we begin a new month of picture book writing!
    And thank you so much, George, for sharing your amazing attitude toward picture book writing. My passion for picture books began over 60 years ago…but it wasn’t until I read your post here that I realized why I’ve been smiling ALL of the time this past month…I’m back to writing picture books (thanks to Julie) and, just like a child, I’m happily “playing” with my favorite toy! Never thought of it that way…but I know it will help me in those moments when the right phrase eludes me…just like a child putting a puzzle together…it takes time to make all of the pieces fit perfectly!

  45. As a child I dragged my copy of Richard Scarry’s “The Best Word Book Ever” everywhere that I went! I had a real soft spot for Lowly the Worm and his apple car.

    My February goal will be to determinedly *play* with the spark of an idea as George suggests by “placing the idea in the middle or the end if a story, as well as the beginning. Drop it into different contexts. Try different characters.”

    Thank you for the inspiration!

  46. Wonderful–and just what I needed to hear. Thanks for taking your time to inspire all of us in the 12 x 12 Challenge. As we are attempting to write 12 drafts in 12 months, we must remember that they are drafts and don’t have to be perfect, or we will end up with blank pages…I appreciate you addressing that part of the writing process.

  47. oooooo…I am inspired to go play NOW! Thank you! And thank you for your generous donation of a critique! Good luck to all of the challengers this month!

  48. Perfect sentence I needed to read!
    “If you want to be perfect then leave the page blank. If you want to create a story then dive in and get messy with changes, dead ends, revisions, and glorious surprises.”
    Thank you for the wonderful interview and insights.

  49. Wise words, indeed. Thank you, Geroge — and Julie.

  50. George, thank you so much for your wise perspective. I tend to think too much inside the box where it is safe, and in trying to get out I am battling perfectionism. I’m sure that is what has held back my creative spirit, and the stories in my mind that can’t develop because I don’t know how to immediately make them perfect. Now I feel that I am learning to let the play begin. I’ve had this hovering idea that writing is work, and if it seems like play then it is not valuable and cannot be taken seriously. What a deception! So, thank you, I am hoping that 2012 is the year I am set free into productive play.
    And .. Julie, thank you for your efforts to help us all!

  51. Playing with words – not sure if it’s as messy as playing with food, but definitely worth a go!

    Many thanks for the playful WOW (Words of Wisdom) and the critique for one of us lucky 12x12ers.

  52. Thank you so much George! I love the concept of play. I think that this can carry over into all work that we do. . . when you get stuck, just stop and play. Play always helps to bring in fresh perspective.

  53. i love the idea of returning to my favorite picture books. Luckily, when I retired from teaching 1st grade I kept my collection.
    There are many! George, I know just the one I will pull off the shelf right now to “explore”! TIMOTHY TURTLE by Alice Vaught Davis. thank you. thank you!

  54. George, thank you for this glimpse into your process! It’s very sustaining to see that the spark of an idea can start out in one genre and move to another to find success – it gives me hope for some of my more “out there” ideas. Never stop playing.

  55. “The books we love are always waiting to teach us more about writing,” Love that, and finding it more and more true every day. 🙂

  56. I’m now following George, so I can get my online MFA in picture book writing. Thanks for sharing his sage advice. Now on to nurture my sense of play….

  57. Great post! It’s what I love the most about writing picture books: playing and piecing together the puzzle. I’m getting excited for February!

  58. “A sense of play also means getting words on paper or the computer screen. Thinking, pondering or musing about writing is NOT WRITING.” Thanks for the inspiration to action, George. Gives great new meaning to Shakespeare’s “The play’s the thing…”

  59. I am a big George fan and follow his blog an was thrilled to find out he was going to be interviewed here. “Play toward options no matter how crazy they might feel” this is my favorite quote!

  60. Thank you George for such an inspirational post. I love your idea of a sense of play. Very interesting as I have found myself stressing more about word structure, formatting, etc than on the story itself. I will remember your words of wisdom as I begin February.

    Thanks Julie for another great author guest post!

  61. Thank you, George. Off to find your blog next on my list. I have a lot of dogs that may be horses (or dinosaurs or cats…), and am excited to look at them with fresh eyes!

  62. Bravo, George! As someone who has greatly benefited by my good friend’s advice, co-presenting awesomeness,irreverent sense of humor, and yes, nudges to play, play, play, I applaud you, Julie, on picking the cream of the crop for tackling this topic.

  63. Wow… what great stuff! I especially like the line ‘pondering and musing about writing is not writing’… I ponder a LOT! Time to PLAY! And put it on paper. Thanks Julie for bringing him to 12×12!

  64. “Clinging to our initial idea and plan for a book is not play. It is locking one’s self in box.” How true-how true. I recently took some years old ideas and “got messy” with revamping – and ‘changing the characters’ and they are beginning to work. Thank you, George, for your insights. My favorite quote on New Year’s day that I heard was, “unless you begin you will never finish.” Thank you for giving us a new way to write, by playing!

  65. Thank you for this interview. It is always interesting to learn about how successful published authors began writing. As a toy designer and former circus performer, I totally agree with the “play” theory above. Play with words, play with art – see what develops and no matter what happens, you have fun on the journey.

  66. It’s so nice to play instead of work! Thanks for the reminder!

  67. Love love love thinking about my writing as play as opposed to “sit down now, and write!” thanks so much!

  68. This reminds me of a comment by Joyce Sweeney, when she said, “The first draft of anything should be free-wheeling, stupid, and flawed, or you’re being too careful.”

    Thanks for reminding us, George and Julie!

  69. PLAYING IS MY FAVORITE THING!
    Very cool blog, George. I love all the pictures.

  70. Thank you, George. I recently took a year off writing and it’s been hard coming back into it. I feel like everything I write is just not as good as it used to be. I need to let perfection go and have more fun with it.

  71. Jarm Del Boccio

    Thanks, George! This is just what I needed…the permission to play. I tend to be too serious, not wanting to put the words on the page until they are in perfect order. You have encouraged me to ‘throw’ the words down, see where they land, and start playing!

  72. Thanks for the book suggestions!

  73. What a wonderful and inspiring post. I’m going to go and play with my chicken pb thanks!

  74. Annie Silvestro

    Thanks for the inspiring post. Great motivation to get started and to keep going!

  75. Excellent advice. I started writing because it was fun! It is good to be reminded of that aspect of it once in a while. Make it FUN!

  76. Lovely post! I’m around children every day…reading to them, teaching them, learning from them, playing with them…the possibilities are endless for picture book ideas if I just keep my eyes and ears open!

  77. George sounds like a great guy! Thats awesone that he’s the author for february!

  78. Thanks for the inspiration…loved the subtle Legos reference!

  79. What a great post! I love it……dive in and get messy and make changes. Revision can be fun:)

  80. Such an insightful post. Writers of all genres can benefit. This particularly resonated with me:
    “If we focus on all the aspects of publishing we cannot control we’ll never get out of bed again. But we can control the process by maintaining a sense of play and possibility. That in turn makes the process too enjoyable to avoid, and that makes us eager to write and write and write some more.”

    Too enjoyable to avoid… Love it! Thanks for introducing George to us, Julie! Such a fantastic series. 🙂

  81. Thanks for the reminder to play. This was the start of the ms I just submitted for publishing consideration earlier this week. Must do it more often. And I’m making a note to check out George’s blog. Sounds to tempting to ignore.

  82. Wonderful! I love the idea of books springing from other writing we’re working on. Even if something doesn’t get published, it might birth something that does.

  83. Thanks so much for this post and the list of books at the end!! Awesome stuff, I must say :)!

  84. Thank you so much for sharing your insights. Wonderful stuff.

  85. Thank you George. I loved the sentence ‘the initial flirtatious idea for a new book is always delicious’. I too appreciated the book list.

    Tricia

  86. George,

    You have returned the favor to the Scarry’s by the talismans you have created for the next generations. As a teacher and school librarian, I have been using your books for many, many years. I especially love the ones that get kids thinking beyond the edges–like Tomorrow’s Alphabet, Stories to Solve (and all its companions) and White is for Blueberry. Thank you SO much for being one of my go to guys in the classroom and library.

    Pat

  87. Thank you Julie and George! I love the thought of playing with your words and that some may be messy or in need of cleaning up.

  88. Thanks so much for this post! Wonderful information and inspiration 🙂

  89. I love the idea that some of your books grew out of failed novels – that is thinking out of the box and not feeling restricted by what you have already written – brilliant!

    Ramona

  90. Thank you so much! This was very inspiring! “Relax and play”. Very helpful for me who am very new at this! Thank you George.

  91. Thankyou George for this inspiring post. Thinking of writing my draft for February as playtime will certainly put a new twist on it… who knows I might discover a new storyline within a story, now that would be fun…. Loved that you shared some books for us to check out, and thankyou also for the chance to win a critique from you. Excellent!
    Thankyou Julie …….. as requested my name is: Diane Tulloch

  92. “If you want to be perfect then leave the page blank.” -This is what I did for YEARS! Then I realized that if I was ever going to achieve my lifelong dream of being published, I had to actually write something. I pushed my fear (of not being good enough) aside and started writing again.

    Thanks for a terrific post!

  93. What a great post. Permission to just play around…I am good with this when handwriting…but not on the computer when typing…so, I will have to go back to my scribble, doodle pad and ‘play’ again…(My kids actually love to see the many options that ‘could have been’ too!) Thank George!

  94. “Relaxing into a mood of play may be just the thing to let the right idea sneak in the back door”…this is my favorite comment! So true! Thanks so much for your post!

  95. Such a timely posting for me, George, as I’m now in full play mode with my pb draft. BTW, my picture book THE BUSY LIFE OF ERNESTINE BUCKMEISTER (Flashlight Press) is all about the need for play in our life!

  96. I am now interested in going back to my WIPs and identifying areas where my “dogs” may really be “horses”. The suggestion to play more is freeing. Thank you for this post.

  97. Great advice, George. Thanks!

  98. We put so much pressure on ourselves to write something good. Thanks for giving us permission to think of writing as playtime.

  99. I was excited to hear that TOMORROW’S ALPHABET came from a failed novel. I mean that in a good way. I had stolen a scene from a YA novel I wrote several years ago (that will and should never see the light of day) and thought it could make a compelling, albeit quiet, picture book. Thanks for reminding me that I have yet to work on it! Here’s to my February draft!

  100. Thank you so much – to both George for this inspiring and sincere advice, and to Julie for continuing to host this wonderful challenge.

  101. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post about play. I don’t know how many times I’ve been stuck with an idea, looking at it ONE way, until someone says, “why not play around with it?” I need to remember that advice on my own (it would save my poor head from all those slaps upside it!)

    And I loved George’s blog, too. Thanks!

  102. Hmmm… “a virtual MFA in picture book writing” – I could use one of those! Thanks for introducing us to George and his blog. I’m going to visit (and no doubt ‘follow’) right now!

  103. I absolutely believe in keeping a sense of play as writers. It seems to increase creative thinking and do away with creator’s block. 🙂

  104. I once heard that great writers are great readers. I believe that! George nails it when he said, “The books we love are always waiting to teach us more about writing.” I believe that too!

  105. Great advice, I like the idea of just playing with words to see where it will take you. Thanks!

  106. Words of wisdom, for sure! Our sense of play sparks our imagination which then turns into the written word & illustrations! Thank you Julie & George!

  107. Oops for me too, I changed my posts so they show my full name! 🙂

  108. Thanks so much for sharing this post and the link to George’s blog. Great advice for this beginner…. Much appreciated, Julie and George!

  109. Elizabeth McBride

    Thank you for the wonderful post. Creativity requires an ability to see things in new ways, and that requires giving ourselves permission to be playful, to experiment and see where writing might take us, and to discover new things in our own experiences. I look forward to reading each of the books on George Shannon’s list,

    Elizabeth McBride

  110. I’m a new writer…but your views, George, made me know I’m a real writer–unpublished, but real. What you describe is what happens when I’m writing. That sense of play is central to what I find myself doing. I am frequently surprised by what happens next in the story. It’s like digging in the dirt for the sake of wonder, and discovering treasure in the process. Thanks, you nailed the feeling I’ve been feeling as I am beginning to find myself in writing.
    –Damon Dean

  111. Thank you Julie and George for the insightful words and advice.
    -Melissa Mead

  112. Great post Ms. Hedlund! Great advice Mr. Shannon! It will really help me!
    Erik 🙂

  113. Thanks for the post! I enjoy playfulness as well!

  114. Sara Trowbridge

    This is wonderful – it is too easy to focus on the end before you barely get past the beginning!

  115. This was an excellent read. You have no idea how much it has helped! Thank you Julie for introducing George Shannon to us. 🙂

  116. Wonderful to find George’s blog! I am really enjoying the Illustrators Responding to Text posts. And yes, to the playfulness in my work in this post – it’s a must! – Vera Lisa Smetzer

  117. Hi George Shannon, 🙂

    Thank you for sharing that picture books have come from other projects, and the wise encouragement to keep creating, to trust that the creative project will become what it is meant to be. Wishing you the best of success with your writing. Thank you for offering a picture book critique for the month of February.

    🙂 Abigail

  118. Tracy Warren (@socialTracyW)

    Thanks for the inspiration and resources. Art and Fear is great for any artist.

  119. Thank you, George, for a wonderful post. Sometimes I’m so aware of all the so-called rules that after the fun of coming up with a new idea, I forget the fun and think of it as work. And that’s no fun!! LOL. Thanks again for a thoughtful reminder of why I even started writing picture books!!

  120. George,

    What an inspiring post. I find comfort in your line, “The books we love are always waiting to teach us more about writing.” I often do this with my kids. When we are reading their choice of book at night, I find myself really taking in the words and pictures that makes up it’s magic. This helps to inspire me to take risks and like you say “play” in my writing a little more.

    Thank you!

  121. I’m so excited about all the good stuff peculating in my brain because of this 12×12 challenge. My Feb draft is well on it’s way.

    Thanks, George, for sharing your wisdom with us!

  122. As adults, we don’t often get “permission” to play. I need to do that more with writing- the “adult” in comes out way too much sometimes. Thanks George!

  123. George, part of me can relate to what you have shared about your childhood. I too grew up reading “Little Golden Books” and my favorite children’s author is Richard Scarry. I still have my one his books that I received from the school library for meeting my summer reading goal going into second grade. I read that book over and over in bed many times. When I had my daughter I bought her Naughty Bunny and Busy, Busy town. Growing up I did not imaging becoming a writer but did dream of becoming an artist. That dream is still very much alive through illustrating my children’s books.

    Being very new to children’s book writing I felt the need to learn as much as I could as quickly as I could regarding the “How To” and “Do and Don’t”. It is refreshing to read that I can play when I am creating new characters or stories. After all when take that first leap in penning my ideas and drawing my characters it was all brand new and fun. I did not worry about trends, markets and the like.

    Thank you for your words of wisdom and insight.

  124. This past year (ie, the year I finally became serious about writing fiction), I’ve done a lot of what my mom would call “refrying” — repurposing an idea or story, chucking out the unneeded bits, adding some spice, and hopefully serving up something delicious in the end. Hopefully, I’ll get better at getting things right (or a close approximation thereof!) on the first try, but I also hope I keep that wonderful open mind and sense of play you speak of. Thank you, George, for reminding us that writing is not always — nor should it be — a linear activity.

  125. A great post and wise words. I too, always look back to my favourites when editing my own stories. Such wisdom within each page.
    I look forward to reading George Shannon’s blog.
    Happy play writing everyone.

  126. Thank you for the wonderful post and especially the reading list at the end!

  127. I’ve returned to this post several times so far this month. I love the inspiration and expectation to “play.” I’ve really pushed myself to do more of that this month and it has paid off! Thank you George Shannon.

  128. I’ll definitely have to check out some of the books that nurture a sense of play. Great list!

  129. I definitely need to be reminded to play. Thanks for the nudge. Also, I really LOVE your book White Is For Blueberry!

  130. This is such good advice. If you don’t have fun doing something – why are you doing it? I’m allowed 12 kids’ books on my ticket at the local library. I regularly go and borrow 12 picture books, come home,
    and have a great time reading them. Then I study them to see how my favourites are structured and what makes them work. Then comes the fun (and occasionally frustration!) of trying something similar or using them as a starting point.
    I believe, if you’ve enjoyed writing a book, it’s much more likely to come through the words and be enjoyed by future readers.

  131. Came back to reread the post, and still just love it! Thanks for the inspiration!

  132. Thank you for the great info!
    More great advice and tips to add to my arsenault.
    Don’t laugh…I have a folder filled with clips for tips and advice from many great writers! I turn to them often when my brain has decided to take a break!

    Kathy Phillips

  133. Thanks for suggesting how to play with ideas and with words, and find surprises for ourselves and our readers. Love the Lego simile!

  134. Wow – what a great post! It really hit home with me. Thanks, George!

    Pat Haapaniemi

  135. Loved this post and I thought I previously left a comment, but cannot find it. So here it is again. Thank you, Julie, for all you have been putting together for us!

    Robin Howard

  136. Shannon Abercrombie

    Great advice and inspiration.

    Shannon Abercrombie

  137. Egad! I could have sworn I left a comment. Play time is my fav time. Such an inspiring post. Robyn Campbell here. 🙂

  138. Loved discovering you on Julie’s site. I’ve been having a blast with the 12x12in12. One PB a month is so sane and still a challenge. Perfect. And I get to catch up with you this weekend. How fun is that? Cha-cha-cha…

  139. I remember getting lost in Richard Scarry’s books for hours!

    Thanks for sharing,
    Heather Cyr

  140. George, thank you for starting us out with the intention to play…it’s shown up over and over and over for me. When play speaks, I listen.

  141. Brenda A. Harris
    I have finished my February draft for 12 x 12 in ’12.

  142. Where did February go?

  143. I can’t believe it’s the end of February already – thanks for the insight. And for the contest.

    I also did finish a PB draft in February – that’s two for the year so far. Yeah!

  144. Have now bookmarked George’s blog, too! Thank you for the sage advice.

  145. Thanks, George!! Especially for the reminder: “relaxing into a mood of play.” Helped me finish February’s draft. Thanks, Julie for bringing George on board.

    – Pierr Morgan

  146. Thanks, George, for the fabulous post. I’m bookmarking your blog for sure!

  147. That was so inspiring George! It was exactly what I needed to hear so that I can loosen up and get busy. You are so direct and to the point that one cannot help but see the wisdom in your teaching. Thank you for “telling it like it is” so that I can finally get out of my own way!

  148. Would LOVE a critique! Thank you for sharing with us… This was a wonderful post!

  149. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    -Darshana Khiani

  150. I can’t wait to check out George’s blog! Thanks for posting!
    Marcie Atkins

  151. Shutta Crum–Thanks, George, for sharing!

  152. OMGoodness what a wonderful opportunity for everyone! Like George I had very few books in my childhood. I still have most of them. When I became a teacher I was over the top with my book purchases. When I left teaching I gave away over 900 books. Slowly I’m building my numbers back up again.

    Please put my name (Sharon K Mayhew) in the hat for George’s critique.

  153. What a great post about play. Thank you George, I’ve been inspired:)

  154. George, thanks for your inspiration and the permission to play!
    PJ Sheridan

  155. I’m late!! I’m late!! But I’m here 😀 I’d love to win, too 😀

    thanks so much, George! and you, too, Julie! 🙂

    Love,
    Denise MacLennan Bruce of Ingleside

  156. What a fabulous post! I know I read this earlier in the month — and probably already posted a comment, but I just have to say that this may be one of the best posts about writing I’ve read. So liberating! Play. What a novel idea! Many thanks for reminding me that this really is fun. Will definitely check out your blog — and would LOVE a critique!

    Jennifer DuBose

  157. What great wisdom. Thank you!

  158. Dorina Lazo Gilmore

    Thank you for this inspiration and list of great resources. I always embrace critique opportunities!
    Dorina Lazo Gilmore

  159. What an interesting post! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  160. Great! thanks for the helpful information!

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