The Importance of Imagination-SCBWI Los Angeles

I have been remiss in blogging since my return from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in Los Angeles. I’ve had a hard time processing all of the wonderful inspiration and information and distilling it into something more than just a transcript of the proceedings. However, I think I’ve finally hit on some takeaways in keeping with the spirit of Creating Curious Kids.

First, imagination: Rock star Tony DiTerlizzi’s tag line is “Never abandon imagination.” (And when I say rock star, I mean it. There was an hour wait for his autograph, and I half expected people to ask him to sign body parts.) DiTerlizzi told a powerful story in his keynote. The summer he was 12 and refused to play outside in the South Florida heat, his mom told him to go into his room and find something to do. Tony stuffed a Trapper Keeper full of drawings and encyclopedic notes, using paper, art supplies and his imagination. These drawings would later spark his blockbuster¬†SPIDERWICK series.

Boredom, I think, is a necessary ingredient for imagination to run free. Kids — and grown ups too — need to be bored so we have room to imagine and create. We need time for quiet without distractions. Deborah Underwood, author of THE QUIET BOOK, reinforced this point. The quiet while she waited for a concert to start inspired her popular book, as it allowed her to observe several different types of quiet. Had she been checking Facebook on her phone or talking to someone beside her, THE QUIET BOOK may never have come to be.

Aside from boredom, we also need access to the tools of imagination: art supplies, papers, pencils, computer programs, flour, LEGOs, whatever media you or your children work best in. Famed illustrator Bryan Collier didn’t take an art class until high school, but he remembers the magic of watching the watercolors bleed together on the paper. Meanwhile, puppeteer Kevin Clash (aka Elmo), works in fabric and thread. He famously used the lining of his dad’s good coat to make a puppet when he was a child. Everyone is an artist or creator in his or her own way, we just work in different media.

In my next post, I’ll talk about moments of inspiration and how we can hopefully provide these for our children.

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13 responses to “The Importance of Imagination-SCBWI Los Angeles

  1. I would have been standing in that line to get his autograph. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read The Spiderwick Chronicles. I agree with being bored. I use to tell myself stories all the time as a child. More than once my parents came into my room to find me telling myself my own bedtime story. I was a strange kid.

    • I agree, Susanna, and it’s so easy to fill our mind with “stuff” whether it’s NPR in the car (guilty!), hours spent on Facebook, with video games and TV, etc.

  2. This is an interesting post. I knew I needed quiet to process my thoughts, boredom never occured to me. I also find that the best way to get into my right-side brain is to draw. I tend to draw the character(s) I need to write about that day. It puts their image in front of everythin else.

    • I think your drawing idea is a great one, even for we “writer-only” types. Sometimes imagining what sort of images might accompany the story could help us figure out what we really NEED to say.

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