If you haven’t heard of SCBWI before, it’s the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It’s a wonderful worldwide organisation, all about supporting the growth and development of its members.
When living in Brisbane my Queensland SCBWI group was one of my greatest supports, and leaving them was incredibly tough. Now in Adelaide we have just started up our own South Australian chapter, with the help of Chris Cheng, co-director of SCBWI Australia. I’ll be leading the group, helped by all the wonderful members here as we get to know each other.
That’s Chris and I above – Chris generously did a quick fly by visit for our last meeting to let us know all about SCWBI and how we can operate as a newly formed group. A few of us will also be attending the Sydney SCWBI conference later in the year. It should be a wonderful couple of days (I hope to see many of you there!). Also, due to the scholarship I received earlier in the year, I’ll get to attend the SCWBI winter conference in New York in January.
It’s turning into a very SCWBI kind of year for me…
Published June 27, 2010
Sorry I’ve been a bit absent of late. I’ve been squirrelling (or rabbiting?) away on the edits of Squish Rabbit, with lots of to and fro with my editor and art director. When I say this, people often react with something like ‘How much are they making you change?’ I’m surprised so many people feel this way, because I’ve always imagined creating a book is a collaborative process. And not just something that was forced on people, but rather a positive process – something to be excited about.
In no other industry do people work alone. When I was an Occupational Therapist, I might have seen my clients alone, but I had regular supervision sessions – a place where I could openly discuss cases with someone more senior than myself, so we could share the decisions. I also worked in an office with countless other OTs and allied health professionals, and we were constantly discussing cases and throwing ideas around. I loved that process. Even those in private practice organise supervision or maintain links with public services for support and learning.
Yet when it comes to creative pursuits, people harbour this ideal of the ‘lone creator’. The individual slaving away at their desk. The isolated mind. The single genius who creates entire worlds. Ha!
In a way, this image terrifies me. I’d go insane if that was me. Not only that, but I know that my work would never be the best it could be if I worked in isolation. I rely on others’ feedback, in all stages of my writing and illustration – from the very first, rough idea, through to the finished manuscript.
My editor and art director have been so good for me. With encouragement and constructive feedback, they’ve helped me to take the story to a new level. I’ve learnt so much, things that will change the way I work from now on. It wasn’t always easy, but sometimes the most challenging bits of feedback are the most important.
I know not everyone is as lucky as I’ve been. I’m working with people who clearly respect me as a creator, and are focussed on nurturing my vision for the story. But I do think that collaboration can be a wonderful thing, not something to be feared or shunned.
Published June 15, 2010
Tags: baking, books, Characterisation, characters, dougnuts, first drafts, Ideas, Plotting, Writing, writing for children
Ideas are wonderful and wily things. We chase them around, trying to catch their tails so we can pull them to us and write them down – capture them on the page. Creating a new story involves not just one idea, but many. Hundreds (if not thousands) of them must be woven together seamlessly to create the many-coloured threads of a novel.
I’ve discussed before that ideas don’t just pop into existence fully formed, but must be cultivated over a long period of time. Some people let them come together naturally in their mind. Some people do writing exercises to draw them out. Today I decided to bake them into existence.
Many of you may recall that baking is often a bad sign for me – a clear indicator that I’m having a bad day and need cheering up – but not today. For me, ideas best come together when my body is engaged in an activity but my mind is left free to wander. I find if I pose myself a question at the beginning of the task, by the end it tends to be answered. So…
- The Challenge: To create lemon and ricotta baked doughnuts (with the help of my new lipstick-red Kitchen Aid)
- The Goal: To get to know several of my characters better (I’m working on a young adult urban fantasy, and have two ‘bad guys’ that I know in name alone)
I thought I’d share with you the recipe I followed for my idea chasing:
- While I combined the batter ingredients, I considered what I already knew about my two bad guys
- While I kneaded the dough, I realised one wasn’t a guy at all and readjusted my thoughts on her (a sex change takes a while to get your head around)
- While I creamed the ricotta and lemon filling, I considered what they wanted in life and the motivations that could drive them through the story
- While I cut out the dough rounds and stuffed them with filling, I wondered about their childhoods and how their experiences had shaped them as people
- While I watched the dough rise and brown in the oven, I considered the consequences of their choices and how they would carry the weight of them
- And finally, while I dipped the cooked batter in butter and rolled them in lemon sugar, I realised these two characters were more interconnected than I’d initially realised
And the outcome of all this baking and thinking? I came away with:
- Two nuanced characters that I’ve discovered I actually care about (bad bits and all)
- An appreciation for bought doughnuts (this recipe took me a good part of the day)
- A happy but very full stomach
Care to join me in a sticky lemon doughnut?