So, What is Creativity?

i-dream-my-painting

Today, I’m thinking about creativity.

As a former Early Childhood Educator who has studied child development and curriculum, I recognize that creativity is a process, not a finished project. Creativity is about forming original ideas. Creativity gives full freedom to explore both environment and materials.  Creativity, at its core, is about observation, independent thinking, innovation and imagination.

There is nothing more detrimental to children’s creative process than being shown a finished piece so that they can strive to mimic it, if not in totality, then in some way.  You will paint King Tut.  You will ALL paint King Tut.

Currently, there are many so-called art classes for youngsters that are promoted as being creative when, in fact, the instructor hands the kids a stencil and selects the paint colours for them. Only the few finishing touches (like where the eyes are painted or if the cat has black fur or brown fur) somehow makes the piece unique and personal. Um. No.

Perhaps, the instructors feel that parents put more emphasis on the finished piece than on their children finding inspiration and developing self-realization. After all, the parents shelled out $100, $200 or $300, so perhaps the instructor feels compelled to show that those dollars produced what most would view as “art” to ensure the student (customer) returns.

Thankfully, I’ve found a course that will teach my daughter some techniques, but will not overshadow her creative process by telling her what she will create. She will be collaborating on a mural with other children her age. THEY will plan and design its layout and then work on completing the art. .

As someone who writes for children, it is imperative to me that my books encourage self-expression.   One of the books which I’ve written has my main character taking art classes, and I’ve been very careful to show that she isn’t told WHAT to paint.  My protagonist slowly develops her skills and is free to produce the art that SHE sees all around her.

As a former teacher, as a mother, as a children’s book writer, I must nurture the creative process in young children the best that I can.

Am I opinionated about this?  Absolutely.  I say, colour outside the lines, paint the sky gold if you want to and if everyone else is painting King Tut, then go on, paint your platypus as big and bold as you want.

And let art come from the heART.

 

 

 

 

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My Pledge to Young Readers: Diversity, tolerance and Inclusion

Like so many Canadians, I watched the recent American election with horror.   I felt a sense of shock as you-know-who won state after state.   It hit me on multiple levels.  It’s been five days since the results were made known.  In that time, I had to come to terms with what that meant to me as a writer of children’s books.

Books are powerful tools.   They teach as they entertain.  They become friends and they live-on in memories.   Stories encourage, transport us and nurture character.

ruby-bridges   Today, I went to the library and took out several books for my seven year old daughter to read.  One is called, Ruby Bridges Goes to School by Ruby Bridges.  It is about segregation.  Another book which we borrowed is titled Tolerance by Connie Coldwell Miller.  Now, more than ever, it is essential that we discuss racism with our children. It is a difficult subject, but it is one that cannot be ignored or put off.

As a children’s book writer, I realize I have a responsibility during this highly turbulent time.  Acts of discrimination and sexism are increasing.  Swastika graffiti is on the rise.  Minorities are being threatened, and the threats are very real.

Recently, I read a cautionary article about minority characters.  The piece advised against including characters of different cultures simply to include different cultures.

I am sensitive to cultural appropriation, and I understand that culture should not be used to marginalize or stereotype or denigrate.  But I refuse to segregate my characters, to commit literary apartheid.

 

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Milo and Jazz by Lewis B. Montgomery

I live in a multicultural country, and I believe in its diversity.  And the more I think about it, the more I believe it is imperative that I include that diversity in what I write.

So often, I browse through early chapter books and see princesses and fairies and girl protagonists with fair skin, blue eyes and blond hair.  Surely, we are more than this?  What does this say of our diversity, our national commitment to inclusion?  Do best friends need to have the same skin colour, religion, family background?  What are we saying to our readers when characters only play with their own ethnicity?  Aren’t these questions we should be asking ourselves?

So, here is my vow to young readers:

1) The characters in my books will come from a range of cultures.  They will each have their own unique personalities, and I will do my best to respect both traditions and beliefs.

2) Some of the characters in my books will have both a mother and a father. But some will have just a mother or just a father.  And some will have two fathers or two mothers.  Love is love.

3) I will include women firefighters and male nurses. Some dad’s will stay home, and some mothers will be managers.   My characters will enjoy activities based on their interests, not on their genders.

4) Some of my characters will have physical or developmental challenges. Some may be in wheelchairs and some may use service animals.

5) One of my next books deals with bullying and gender roles. I feel strongly that villainizing a bully does not belong in early chapter books.  My stories will allow for change, self-realization, sincere apologies and healed relationships.

As writers, we have a responsibility to our readers. And our stories must embody our commitment to diversity, now more than ever.

Thank you.

Blowing Kisses to ROOM Magazine

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The editors of ROOM Magazine are delightfully energetic and generous with their encouragement. Chelene Knight, the Managing Editor of ROOM, https://cheleneknight.com/about-me/ , has sent the cover for the 39.4 issue to its contributors so they may share the artwork with friends and family via social media.   I am so excited!   Three of my poems will be included in this issue.  I’ve long enjoyed reading ROOM, as the poems and stories they choose target both heart and mind. https://www.facebook.com/roommagazine/  the issue will be available in bookstores across Canada in a few weeks.  To say that I’m deeply honoured to be one of its contributors is an understatement. They receive over 2,000 submissions a year and of which they are only able to publish 80-100. The magazine is in Vancouver and I’m much, much further east.  So, I’m blowing kisses to ROOM, THE literary magazine for women writers of Canada.  CANADA NEEDS YOU!  https://roommagazine.com/issues/bodys-map

 

 

 

 

 

CRUEL TO BE KIND, WRITER VERSION

As a fiction writer, I know that I must put my main character through a series of life trials. The protagonist must suffer.   The reader wants someone to root for, someone with an indomitable spirit.

As I write for children, I need to remind myself that the protagonists in early chapter aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaheidi-spyribooks must also face difficulties, foes and hardships.   And the conflict must escalate into a moment of crisis.  Think of your favourite children’s book .  I guarantee is it chockfull of challenges.

Mother-Me and Writer-Me had to come to terms with my need to make an eight year old girl miserable, lonely, stressed and exhausted. Those of us who write know how real our characters can feel to us. But the biggest mistake that any writer can make is to make everything easy-peasy for our characters.

 

Writer-Me understood how the aaaaaaaaaaa-clovers-luckcharacter grows through challenges, whether the challenge be a school bully, a house fire or the death of a beloved pet. But the Mother-Me wants to coddle my heroine, give her good grades and prevent her from stepping into the messy dog poop of life.

I am so very grateful that I was given the opportunity to rework my story. Writer-Me told Mother-Me that my character is strong enough to experience loneliness, fatigue, failures and frustrations.  Her  growth  and perseverance made my happily ever after all the more meaningful.

Yay for rewrites and the editing process.   Stay tuned as I cruelly throw curveballs at my next young heroine.  Watch as she rises to the occasion and handles each skill-building stressor like the  third grade Super Girl that she truly is! Can you hear her?  She said, “BRING IT ON!”

 

Cheers!

TWO MORE POEMS ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

aaa-snoopy-gets-mailThis week I received an envelope in the mail. Upon seeing it, I sighed.

Decades ago, a writer would not have been certain what the envelope contained . A rejection?  A request from an editor to revise work?   An acceptance?   A cheque?  Who knew.

Things have changed.   Most snail-mailed replies are rejections, in Canada.  Receiving a reply e-mail can mean either rejection or acceptance.  In the case of longer works (i.e. book submissions,) a phone call is the norm, if the work is accepted.  Why? Because  the acceptance signals the beginning of the editing process between author and publisher, heralds the start of a beautiful long-term relationship (hopefully. )

So, back to MY envelope. It was pudgy.  I smiled when I felt its weight.  I figured that the editor had been kind enough to send me a critique.  Every hard-working writer appreciates a hard-working editor who actually takes the time and care to send some feedback.

But the envelope didn’t contain a rejection or feedback.

I opened the envelope to find not only an acceptance letter, but proofs.

BAM, WHAT!

The Prairie Journal has accepted two of my poems (two!), and the literary editor sent me the proofs to show me how my poems had been formatted. HOLY COW.   The journal is ready to go to print!

It was the best of surprises.

I am just thrilled to be included in this wonderful journal that will feature more work by Barry Butson, a poet I very much admire.

I can’t wait to read the journal cover to cover! From the Writer’s Digest Writer’s Market, and in reference to The Prairie Journal: “The audience is literary, university, library, scholarly, and creative readers/writers.”

So, I’m in happy dance mode.

Thank you (big hugs) to all those who are happy dancing with me.

The Best Kind of “No”

revise-and-resubmit

Well, I received a no-but from an editor this week. She has suggested that I rework my book and is willing to read it again, after revisions are made.  This kind of “no” is the best of all no’s.

And yes, it makes me happy. I recognize that I have been given another chance to redeem myself.  This is a rare opportunity.

I recognize what needs to get done, and I need to throw myself into this project. This is difficult when I am so close to finishing another book.

Still, all day long my character has been whispering to me. Which for me is a very good sign.  I’m half way done a new outline, already.  This map has many more hills and valleys.  I should be able to start the revision process tomorrow.

One day to mope is a requirement, I think. Then, carry on writing and get ‘er done!

I will be drinking pots of tea and be barely coherent for several weeks, methinks.