I want to write a story about this seagull and this can of paint but I don’t want to tell you why.
Ikea brand markers on copy paper.
The idea for this week’s book came last night when I was shopping at a local used bookstore. A mom, seemingly at the end of long day, was in there trying to pick a book for her young toddler. I wanted to give the mom some advice on selecting a book but I couldn’t bring myself to.
Anyway, that family was on my mind this morning when I was reading Ounce, Dice, Thrice. An illustration in that book inspired me to paint this baby.
With all my talk about diverse books, I realized, personally, I prefer to write and draw stories about animals and whatnot–anything but talk about myself. But, in case there were any half-Indonesian kids out there looking to relate to a storybook character, I thought I’d write a story about my first days of school from pre-school through elementary.
That’s me running around the kindergarten yard while one of our family’s maids chased me, making sure I ate my lunch.
Here’s me absorbing a foreign culture when we first moved to Indonesia.
This week’s book was inspired by a comment on yesterday’s #kidlitart chat on Twitter.
Not a lot of drawings. I’ll fill this one out a bit more before sharing.
This week my inspiration came from a Twitter post by Adam Rex. Where his truth fairy left an uncomfortable truth for its kid, the truth fairy as I imagined it would leave a quarter for truths left by the kid. The story that suggested itself to me was a boy admitting he likes his dad more than his mom (something similar to feelings I grappled with as a kid). Here’s a drawing, charcoal on recycled paper.
I’m not going to post the whole thing because I’m not sure how I feel about running with someone else’s idea. Though, a quick google search showed that there’s already a book by that title, Jimmy Kimmel uses it for a “kids say the darndest things” bit and there is an actual (?!) Truth Fairy living up in Oregon.
#Bookeveryfriday came on a Monday this week. I saw a Slate article where they gave some staff writers a challenge to make a children’s picture book in one hour. Although the gimmick was to get non-kidlit writers (and non-illustrators) to write and illustrate a picture book and then admit (though I’m sure they already realized) that it’s not that easy, I thought I’d try the challenge to see what kind of book I could come up with in one hour.
The short answer: an incomplete one. I made it to sixteen pages in one hour, then to 25 by the second hour. The next morning I finished the last two spreads and assembled all the text boxes. The total time spent was about 3 hours, the final page count is 32 pages. Here they are:
And some notes on the experience:
1. The materials list included Crayola markers. I love Crayola markers but I had sent our brand new set to school with my son’s back-to-school package. I used a set of Cray-Pas oil pastels instead.
2. I started by doodling some hedgehogs. I was stumped for a story idea until I drew the hedgehog and porcupine. Then I knew what I was going to write.
Immediately after that I made a quick thumbnail storyboard on some folded paper thinking that this would help me keep to the time limit.
After that it was a matter of knocking out as many pages as quickly as I could.
3. The best part of the experience was reading the story to my family after I finished it. At that point I hadn’t added the text boxes and I was counting on the pictures to convey the narrative. The review was a lot like this Cul de Sac cartoon.
4. Speaking of the text boxes, I knew I wanted Hedgie’s song to build as the story progressed. That was the most stressful part of the experience for me.
5. As per the challenge rules, the story was supposed to have a moral (When one door closes, another door opens). For that to make sense in this story, Hedgie should have found food in some way related to the raccoons that ruined his dinner–like they had knocked over a garbage can and Hedgie found some grubs under or around it. That would have felt tidier to me.
6. Finally, I’m almost ashamed to admit I had to google ‘nocturnal insectivore’ to find the third creature Hedgie encountered. And for the story to be zoologically accurate, it should be a badger, not a porcupine.
Would I do this again? Yes, but I’d rather lock myself into a solid hour and also do it with others. Any takers?
This week’s #bookeveryfriday has to do with my kids and the recent shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
One of my troubles in creating new work is that I always feel I have to make something meaningful and important. And then I almost always feel unequal to the task. It’s been a hard year.
The story is about a teacher. It takes place on a world of magic in a magical part of our universe. The crux of the story involves someone taking a bath. A major element of this story is when technology becomes indistinguishable from magic.
I missed the first line, there’s no teacher in my story. But there is a wizard trying to give his dragon a bath. Here they are:
I didn’t give myself as much time on this one as I did on the last two challenges. I did clean it up a bit by pasting it into a new version of my thumbnail template.
Need to figure out the best way to share these. I’ve been spending more time scanning and posting than I have on the actual challenge. At any rate, #bookeveryfriday.
Last week when I was working on the sea turtle story, this line popped into my head:
Bogberry blue, bogberry green
Bogberry biggest one you’ve ever seen.
My brain tried to run with the rhyme, but I knew I was going to want to use it as a starter for this week. So, I fought hard to keep from carrying on and when I finally sat down to start the challenge on Friday I let it all out. I wrote about three pages (not realizing until about halfway through the second page that I was cribbing from “Peas Porridge Hot”) and then started on a storyboard. Here it is:
It was at the top of the second page where the characters and setting took shape. I see the protagonists being three characters who live in a swamp. Maybe a bayou? They’re definitely part of North American mythology. Maybe these guys use human artifacts for tools like the Borrowers do–and I only just realized I drew one of the characters with a tail in one panel. That’s all stuff to figure out. For now, I’m liking the dynamic between the characters and am particularly fond of the pacing in these three spreads.
And this sketch, a direct reference to Roy McKie, pleases me.
Alright, that’s the second #bookeveryfriday.
I must be excited for this challenge, I was up at 4:30 this morning. I didn’t let myself out of bed, though, it’s the first day of summer and I knew I’d want to be well rested for the afternoon.
Here’s a peek at what I made in the morning.
And here’s what I helped make in the afternoon.
I tried to take a nap in that tent but it didn’t happen. Then home, then dinner, then back to the drawing table.
Not as complete as the sea turtle story but I think it qualifies for a legit #bookeveryfriday. Usual scan and post coming in the next couple of days.
So, why this challenge? For fun, really. But also because I’m trying to break out of a bad habit.
I let ideas sit in my mind too long. Far too long. I work and rework these ideas in my mind until I get to where I see a finished book. It’s a book with a proper beginning, middle and end, with catchy refrains, delightful page turns and unexpected twists. It’s a book with a snazzy cover, a cute dedication and maybe even a hidden reference to classic kid lit. But it’s only in my mind. And then, instead of being a welcome and exciting creative experience, the prospect of getting the story, this picture book that’s already finished, out onto paper becomes a tedious chore.
In order to Marie Kondo my brain space (spark joy!), I’ve committed myself to getting a number of those stories out and onto paper this year and have made headway on a few titles. Still, my progress has been unreliable and I realized I need to do something important: change my outlook and remind myself that making books is fun. And that’s why this challenge.
So, on the morning I decided to go with this I saw a post on my Instagram feed that was tagged #worldseaturtleday and I thought, “I like turtles.”
I started with a sketch.
It’s always gotten me down that seagulls, scavengers that can and will eat anything, feast on turtle hatchlings. I remember watching nature documentaries as a kid and feeling a sense of gross injustice as the little turtles scrambled desperately for the water while seagulls sauntered lazily along the beach and picked them off. In this drawing, the protagonist is telling the seagull to lay off the turtles.
That led to this:
There was a lot I liked about this, but it wasn’t feeling right. So, I switched it up.
I would actually like to read a non-fiction story about the sea turtle life cycle from a turtle’s eye view and I really liked the two two-page spreads of the turtles coming out of the sand but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to write that book. At least not during this challenge. I stopped again and went back to the idea of a human protagonist, two protagonists, actually. Two penpals. I worked this time directly in a little book I cut and folded out of copy paper.
It took me the remainder of the day to draw the story. I mapped it out on the fly and had a couple stops and starts while I tried to balance the idea that while wildlife conservation is complicated and often disheartening, it’s not impossible and can have a happy ending. I wrote the story as pictures and only jotted down a few lines. Most of the text was in my head, it wasn’t until I scanned the drawings that I forced myself to put those ideas to paper. It feels a bit like filler, but I needed to start somewhere.
All that’s left is to share it with you. Here it is:
I set myself a challenge to see if I could make a book in a day. I mean, I figured I could, I wanted to see if I could have fun making a book in a day.
I did. It took a better part of the day and it’s going to take me a while yet to scan the pages but once I do, I’ll post it here.