for someone I love
I was fortunate to receive a grant to work on a picture book this summer, which has given me the opportunity to feel out what it is like to take an idea from start to 32 page story. I must admit I found the task daunting at first as I have never been one to do multiple drafts of illustrations, or illustrations featuring the same characters over and over. I'll confess that I tried to get around this at first by considering doing a collection of loosely connected poems. It would have been fun and, yes, challenging, but not in the way I need at this point. I then decided to go back to a story I had written called the Imagifnaries. The story is about a family of explorers. Yet, except for encouraging imagination it lacks purpose and feeling. This was cause for me to look back at why I started doing this in the first place. Why write and illustrate picture books?
The answer to this question has evolved for me over two year’s time. It was two years ago that I first felt inspired to write a book. It was towards the end of my freshman year of college. I had just turned off the light and curled up in bed, but, as frequently occurs, my mind had its bulb on high. I was thinking about where I was at in life. My first year of college had been a year full of growth. I had learned all new sorts of information about social injustices and was a part of all sorts of causes. Yet, I lacked direction and had become detached from my emotive motivations for being a part of those causes. I was also frightened by how quickly I had let my family and loved ones become so distant in my mind because of physical distance. When thinking these thoughts I was struck that I was missing out on some of the best ways to be a positive force in the world. I had lost touch with my motivations for fighting injustices. What about being there for my friends and family? What about being there for those who needed me and knew me? It is these connections that tie me to those who I do not know. A cause to be a better family member and friend took hold of me that night. Unfortunately, my focus has often wandered but that night got me started on a very important path. In order to be there for my cousin Andrew, I decided to try to do something to show my love for him. I decided to write a book for him.
Many authors and illustrators do what they do for a specific "child" they know. It then becomes for more. It is for other "children," for the fun of it, because creating is addicting. Yet, the story often starts for someone in particular. I was reminded of this when deciding upon a story to write and illustrate this summer. Andrew is at an age where the book I started out writing for him may not seem so special, but I feel like having that starting purpose makes the story more worthwhile. It is heartfelt. The emotions portrayed carry deeper truth and feeling.
I allowed these thoughts and feelings to guide me for starting out on the book I am writing and have also entered in the type of knowledge I can bring with an Anthropology background. Good intentions are one thing, but coupled with knowledge can be very powerful. Anthropology brings to the table potentials for exploring child agency and what “child” even means. I will be sure to expand on this in a future post. Yet, to wrap things up, to start creating something worthwhile there needs to be a worthwhile connection upon which it is founded. For me, my love for Andrew is where the story that I am working on emerges from.
Posted by Ben Clanton