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: 12 x 12 Featured Author, 12 x 12 in 2012, Authors, George Shannon, Giveaway, Goals, Julie Hedlund, Picture Books, Writer, Writing