Artist at a writer’s workshop

IMG_0691¬†Wow. There have been some serious cricket orchestras playing around here. My apologies. I’ve been meaning to blog, really I have. Just as I’ve been meaning to scrub down the guest bath, trim the lilac bushes, sand down a desk for my son, help my aunt with her website, and a multitude of other things. But none of them happened. I suck, I know.

So what have I been doing with my time? Well, the day job has been a HUGE time-suck lately. My company is growing, which is good, but that means more work. My son has also discovered that mom tunes everything out when the laptop is open so he does his damnedest to get all up in my grill when he sees it open. He’s too cute to pass up.

There was also a couple online synopsis and query workshops I took with the fab C.J. Redwine. She’s awesome. DO IT!

The reason for this post today however, is the recent trip I took up to Honesdale, PA. I’m an equal opportunity SCBWI member and buddied up with my pal Carli for the Eastern PA SCBWI Retreat Workshop. In short, it was amazing. Quite literally in the middle of nowhere, we stayed in some too cute cabins at a facility owned by the Highlights Foundation. A full kitchen staff was on hand for all meals and unlimited supplies of cookies, ice cream and coffee!

The workshop was amazing. Miss Darcy Pattison headed up the UNfinished track I attended. Her tricks for writing will certainly come in handy. I really enjoyed the bit we did on writing a letter from one character to another. It really fleshed out my other character’s motivations; stuff I knew was there, but hadn’t written from her POV. Another bit that I enjoyed was to take a scene from the WIP and flip the feel of it. For instance, the scene I chose is where my guy, Luc, is totally freaking out over the crazy things happening around him. To flip it, I wrote the same scene as if he thought everything where totally lame and predictable. The result? It was hard! But I can see where something like this would help with a pesky block or if you can’t quite get the feel of a scene.

The crowning moment for the weekend, though, did not come from the writing world, but the illustration world. You may, or may not, know that at my core, I am an artist. Or at least I used to be. I seriously think I was born with a set of crayons up my tush. I drew ALL THE TIME when I was a kid. Once, my mother (whom can draw a mean stick figure) asked me how I knew what to draw. She said I told her, “You make a picture in your head, and then you put it on paper.” I was like four or five.

I dreamed of going to art school, maybe doing illustrations for children’s books (before I even knew a writer lurked inside). Then in high school, I had an advanced art class my sophomore year. You had to get an ‘A’ in a prerequisite class to even get IN the class so I was beyond happy. My previous art teacher was nothing but supportive and I knew I was going somewhere.

But he wasn’t my new art teacher; Ms. Yanes was.

Ms. Yanes was the most unsupportive art teacher. Maybe she was trying to push my boundaries or make me ‘see’ more than my trusty sketch pad, but there are only so many “It’s wrong, do it again”s a kid can hear before it starts to chip away at your confidence. In my case, it chipped a lot. After my sophomore year in high school, I stopped drawing. On occasion I would pick up my sketch pad, but I no longer liked what I produced. I stopped showing my parents my work, and my friends. And eventually, it all stopped.

As an adult now, I have a need to reconnect with that inner artist. I know she is still in there. I’ve seen her rear her shy head in various doodles during work meetings or ideas for a book that I need a visual for. But doodles aren’t enough. I want more. After setting my Arwen free, I’ve had an idea for a picture book inspired by my son. The thing with picture books though, is that they include PICTURES. How can I create a picture book if I can’t reconnect with my artist?

So at the EPA SCBWI, I dared to ask. On closing day, I walked up to author/illustrator Selina Alko, with stomach in knots the size of Mt. Everest, and asked what she told artists who’ve lost “it” but want to get it back. After some background info, Miss Selina said the most amazing thing ever, “I believe there’s an artist in all of us.”

Out of nowhere, I started crying.

I apologized, feeling like a total tool, but I think Selina understood. She said to carry a sketch pad with me always. I tend to doodle on note pads, but it’s not the same. Selina said to just let the moments take me. When I felt the need to doodle, doodle in the sketch pad. Which is funny, since what are we told to do when experiencing writer’s block? Yup, we write. Doesn’t matter what it is as long as you’re writing.

The clouds parted and I felt a new sense of peace inside. Then I couldn’t STOP crying. Poor Carli had to deal with the emotional me. But I will remember Selina’s words always. When I got home, I went to JoAnne’s and bought a small sketch pad and travel case for sketch pencils and such. They are in my bag as we speak, right next to my writer’s note pad. Have I drawn anything yet? No, but I know I will.

It was amazing to experience this emotion. I knew I resented Ms Yanes for what she did to me, but I hadn’t thought how deeply it went. Apparently, REALLY deep. As one of those ‘had I known then what I know now’ scenarios, I would have told Ms. Yanes to kiss my ass, but I was an impressionable teen with little confidence in my art. I still don’t have much confidence in my art, but as an adult I know that the best part of my art is that it IS MY ART, not any one else’s. My art, just like my writing, is an extension of who I am. Just as every writer has their own voice, every artist has their own style. No one is perfect and what one person thinks is trash is the most awe inspiring piece of art to another.

In my heart, I have told Ms. Yanes to kiss my ass. It will be a rocky road, but I will reconnect with my artist. I want to create a picture book. I want to be a writer/author/illustrator. That is who I am, and I won’t let her go again.



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