Rejection. I do not like that word. It's right up there with Voldemort and Scrooge. Okay, so it doesn't shoot killing spells at baby wizards or sneer at starving orphans, but it does break our hearts.
You spend hours perfecting your story or painting. Family and friends applaud your brilliance. Your teachers say it's ready to send out in the world. You submit it to a contest, publisher or art director and as you wait for their response, you try, yes you do, to keep hope from building in your heart. But it's there. That dream of hearing your work has been selected, it's won the prize.
When it doesn't, it's hard not to feel defeated.
Every time we submit our art to others for review, we face rejection. There can be only one winner. Maybe there are awards for second best and almost good enough. Everyone else is left wondering what the judges thought of their work. It's so easy to go straight from wondering if they liked it at all to thinking they hated it.
Don't give the Scroogey thoughts in your head a voice. They lead to a slippery slope of doubting your work and your ability. Writers and artists have a natural urge to create. Unfortunately, it doesn't come with ego armor. We have to build that bit by bit, and we have to strengthen it often. Like Harry, Ron and Hermione, practice your shielding spells.
Every book I write, is created with the hope that someday it will be published. That means submitting each and every one to the publishing world and facing rejection.
Here's the thing about publishers: they're people, just like you and me, with different tastes. Some will throw my books in slush piles without a second glance. Some will like them, but not enough. Hopefully, one will love them enough to publish. Unless you hide your art in a closet, it will be viewed and judged by people, and not everyone will love it. I think that's a good thing. I don't want to live in a Voldemort world where everyone likes only Voldemort books and art.
There's room in this world for all kinds of art. Yours will find the people who love it. Keep growing through critical feedback, embrace positive reviews and believe in your work. Don't let rejection defeat you.
I've been thinking a lot lately about art. Not any one art, all art, and how one creative process inspires another. When I studied painting in college, students were urged to explore mediums and other arts: dance, music, theater. Artists collaborate all the time. Theater and dance productions call for artists to do make-up, costume and set design, as well as actors and dancers. Musicians make choreographed videos and help create album covers. Visual artists stage events, using music, performance and video to express their concepts.
But writing is different. Unless, you're writing a picture book or graphic novel, your writing will most likely be represented by words on a page. Yes, an artist will create a cover, but authors aren't majorly involved in that process. I've been a visual artist all my life. Does that sound weird? It's true. I believe I was born with the urge to make marks on paper that expressed what I couldn't say in words. My writing grew from that art. My paintings were always telling stories. Just look at Toto. He's sick of following Dorothy through OZ. He's grabbed the ruby slipper and he's headed toward a tropical paradise with the wicked witch in pursuit.
For me, I think every work of art begins with a story. Seven years ago, a series of drawings begged to be a book and I've been writing ever since. Even though I don't illustrate my stories (mostly because young adult novels aren't usually illustrated), I visualize them. And I wonder, besides standard illustrations and creating imagery with words, how can I use my visual art skills in my books?
Other artists have asked that question too. I'm in awe of author/illustrator Brian Selznick who produces cinematic experiences with image and text in books like The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. And David Weisner, whose images are so powerful, he needs no words to tell picture book stories like Flotsam. At this stage in my life, I'm most interested in creating pictures with words. But I'm glad the artist in me asks questions that prompt my brain to think outside the box of traditional storytelling.
I hope the questions inspire you to unlock the gates in your brain. Pollinate your chosen passion with other art.
A blank page, a white canvas, a lump of clay. Artists experience a unique thrill when faced with a new project. I've never tried to analyze it, but for me I think it's a mix of exploring the unknown and anticipation of what may grow from words, paint and clay. And hope. I want it to be successful. I hope it will come closer to being the type of work I admire.
I just finished a book I've been working on for over a year. I'm a little low on creative energy and still sweeping the last story from my brain. You develop a relationship with each project. Bond with it, commit to working through good times and bad. It can be hard to let go. But I had an idea for a new story so I scratched out a beginning. Then my brain kicked in and started asking the main characters questions. Who are you? What do you want? What's standing in your way and what will you do about it? The answers will fill blank pages and hopefully, another book will be born.
As a visual artist, I face a blank canvas with photographs, sketches or props as guide. I have a vision of what I hope to create and I can't wait to translate it on canvas. I've done very little sculpting and crude ceramic work but I love a lump of clay. What will it be? A pot, a figure, or an abstracted thought? From our minds to our fingers to the medium, we express. What do you want to say to the world? Stretch a new canvas, create a new document, buy a new batch of clay. Start a fresh project today.
If you're wondering why there's a photo of my dog Teddy illustrating this post, it's simple. When we adopted him two months ago, he was a blank slate. He's getting to know us. We're getting to know him, asking questions as we go and eager to grow this relationship. Sort of like his hair. He had next to none when we met him. Now he has chocolate brown spots that shine in the sun like fudge. He's a work of art, for sure
Just so you know, I'm not ashamed of using Teddy as a metaphor and since it's pretty much The Year of Teddy at our house and he doesn't mind being photographed, you'll probably see a lot of his mug.
I said a sad goodbye to the Christmas tree, lights and decorations last weekend. The world always seems a little bleak after the holidays. It isn't just the loss of tinsel and cheerful displays. Spirits also take a dive. Is it because we've lost that sense of anticipation? I don't know about you, but I need something to look forward to, something that makes my insides tingle every time I think of it.
Valentine's Day doesn't do it for me. I have nothing on my writing agenda this year. No exciting conferences, no contests, not even any goals. I'm thinking I better change that. Setting one goal with one date attached can make a difference. If I commit to a children's writer's conference in June, then I'll want to present the best version of my current novel there. That's motivation to polish my messy story. So revision happens. And that little tingle in my belly keeps me typing.
The conference isn't on my calender yet, but I do have a new goal for this blog. While writing November's post, Finding Your Creative Path, I recognized how important it is to find like-minded souls and mentors who support and encourage your passion. The sooner, the better. So I'm adding a second monthly post called LikeWise, featuring venues that connect teen artists, writers and readers.
Last year, I challenged myself to create a sketch for each post. But it held up publication. So this year, I only promise to share sketches IF they happen before I'm done with my post. Don't hold your breath. However, I will be sharing gorgeous art from my set of illustrator biographies published by Peacock Press/Bantam Books in the 1970s. The one above is by Nancy Ekholm Burkert from Hans Christian Andersen's book, The Fir Tree. The text for the illustration was: " . . . a hare would often come . . ."
I hope your 2015 calender is filling up with dates and goals that make your insides tingle. If not, this is a good day to find some.
Students are counting minutes until the last school day and daydreaming about summer adventures. Some kids will find those adventures in books. So for the next few months, I'll review books that lead the mind on fantastic journeys. And for non-readers, I'm only covering books available in audio form. Listen to them on that long car ride to Aunt Ethel's (or some relative who lives hours away and pinches your cheek). I promise you won't be sorry.
My first pick is packed so full of wondrous tales, I'm surprised it doesn't spontaneously combust! The Chronicles of Harris Burdick is introduced by Lemony Snicket who begins, "Is There any author more mysterious than Harris Burdick"? Who can resist reading on? Lemony says Harris appeared over twenty-five years ago in a a publisher's office with a stack of titled drawings. The publisher was intriqued and Harris promised to return the next day with the stories behind the art. That was the last anyone saw of him.
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg (of Polar Express and Jumanji fame) was published in 1984. To this day, Harris Burdick's drawings continue to inspire writers, animators and songwriters, all featured on Van Allsburg's website. Last year, the drawings hatched The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, a collection of fourteen stories by illustrious writers, including some of my favorites: Kate DiCamillo, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, and M.T. Anderson. The irresistable tales flex the mind with titles like ""Uninvited Guests"" by Jules Feiffer, ""The House on Maple Street"" by Stephen King and "'Just Desert"" by M.T. Anderson. My personal favorite so far (I'm savoring them!) is ""The Harp"" by Linda Sue Park. Imagine an old magician who isn't quite ready to retire, two bickering sisters banished outdoors by annoyed parents, and a boy, mourning his mother and facing a miserable summer with an "off the grid" grandfather. The stories tickle the mind, raising questions that will linger long after the last word is read. We found Burdick's chronicles in the middle grade section of the library but the writing is sophisticated enough to entertain older teens and adults. You'll want to check the book out even if you prefer the audio version. The unseen drawings will trouble your sleep if you don't!
This is a micro post week. I'm chin deep in dummy book art for a collaborative picture book that hopes to travel to an editor's desk by May 1st. The images are seared into my eyeballs and they chase me to bed. They feel raw, rough, like a scruffy street orphan. I'm a fine artist with no digital skills so everything's freehand. I have no subjects to model for the dummy and I'm not used to pulling figures from my imagination, much less scenes. My art always relied on concrete references, photos or real life.
There's no turning back now. I made a committment and I'm pouring myself into this project. It's consumed most of my creative energy for the last few weeks. My other stories lay neglected. The dust in my house grows daily. And the condition is likely to worsen. This weekend I'm participating in a day long workshop with author Joyce Sweeney. I'm very excited to learn from her. I'm also hoping to attend SCBWI's summer conference, God willing. That requires other stories be sharpened and another dummy book drawn. Aiyiiii . . . no time, gotta run!
The last few weeks I've been working on art for picture book dummies and some of that art is already discarded after feedback from peers altered the story. You'd think I'd learn. The image at left is from a dummy book I presented at my first PB meeting last April. The story was miles from being picture book material.
Since then, I've learned gobs about the genre and I hope my writing is approaching the mark. But hard as I try, I can't control the urge to create the other half of the equation, to SEE the story. I start with thumbnail sketches in pencil. Then a pen slips into my hands and I ink the lines. Next thing I know, I'm enlarging those images and refining.
The trouble is, I'm not sure of my stories. I take them to critiques, happy with their potential. I come home, knowing they aren't there yet. Tonight, I'm submitting a story for a second review. I've revised it multiple times and scribbled piles of sketches. I hope, oh I hope, it receives the kind of support that screams: It's Ready. Go For It! I've gathered research material for subject matter and I envision the drawings. My fingers are eager to begin.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. And creatures, always creatures. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
Lorin Oberweger - Freelance Editor