My Writing Process Blog Tour
It was through my SCBWI critique group that I learned of the fascinating “My Writing Process” blog tour that has been making its way to select children’s authors across the globe. I was intrigued and honored to have been asked to participate, to the degree that this Reluctant Blogger created a blog in order to contribute to the endeavor.
I jumped down the rabbit hole early to thank author/illustrator Anastasia Kierst, who introduced me last week, and fellow critique group member Muffet Frische. You will find more information about them, and links to the insight they shared on their methods of working, here. Each has a fascinating story that I know you’ll enjoy reading.
I also reviewed the posts of a dozen other authors who preceded me on this tour. I loved reading their stories and found their paths and responses wonderfully varied and inspirational. Even the geographic transitions are interesting.
My Writing Process
As For My Story?
I have always loved words.
I love the way they sound, the way they look on paper; I love the white space between them, and the way they begin to look odd if you stare at them long enough.
I love the sound and rhythm of spelling them aloud, and the sensation of pen meeting paper when posting for posterity.
Being blessed/cursed with left- and right-brain hemispheres that compete for attention, I analyzed the word count of prior authors’ contributions, and decided to share my Words on Words in a separate post.
1) WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?
I typically pursue several creative endeavors simultaneously. While not necessarily an approach that I recommend, it seems to be what I do.
With regard to the children’s realm, I am working on a bilingual series that I conceived in 2001 while on sabbatical in France. Entitled THE TALES OF BUN E. BONIFACE®, the series was created as a vehicle to teach history, culture, and language to babies, toddlers, and young readers—through original stories, art, and song.
The first book in the series, Bun E. Learns To Count In French (Bun E. apprend à compter), was published in 2003 by Limestock Press, and included an audio CD with bilingual narration and original music.
I have just submitted a slightly revised Halloween story that I’d penned for the series several years ago.
Although I’d initially envisioned this story to be published in English and French, I was encouraged to submit it for an English-Spanish audience.
While awaiting a response from the potential publisher, I am finalizing the layout, and lettering the text in calligraphy. When the English-Spanish version is complete, I will repeat the process for the English-French text.
The remaining pre-publication aspects are to finish writing the music, and to record the bilingual narration (and music), as I envision this book with an accompanying CD, just as with the first tome.
Other current endeavors in THE TALES OF BUN E. BONIFACE® series include a dictionary–which is also at the calligraphy and music stage–and an adventure story that has been germinating in my mind.
As I plan to introduce a new character in the latter, the process is a bit different, particularly since I envision the new character reappearing in other works in the series.
2) HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
Although I have not done any recent market research, at the time I conceived and began writing the series, there was really nothing quite like it on the market, particularly not for this age group.
The unique aspect of this work is its stealth focus on language acquisition through multiple sensory inputs.
Receptiveness to the idea of children learning a second language at a young age seems to have exploded since I initially conceived this series. While not a new concept, and despite being a mainstream approach in other cultures, the United States was woefully behind in this aspect.
Although it’s never too late, it’s to our children’s advantage that they be given the opportunity to develop the linguistic ability and resultant mental flexibility that their brains are so primed to embrace as babies and toddlers.
3) WHY DO YOU WRITE WHAT YOU DO?
I love words, I love music, I love language. . .I love children. . .I love history, travel, and culture. . .and I love my family!
I realized that my nieces and nephews were growing up in a world in which they would be at a disadvantage if monolingual; further, the United States as a nation was falling behind the rest of the developed world.
Always fascinated with the learning process, and with brain studies, in particular, I studied educational and behavioral psychology, sociology, pedagogy . . . and have closely followed the work of neuro-psychologist Dr. Patricia Kuhl, particularly as related to language acquisition. One of her most fascinating findings is that human interaction seems to be intimately linked with linguistic development.
The real joy of learning a foreign language, though, is the opportunity it provides you to share with others–to learn of their history, their customs, to communicate.
Sadly, the legacy in the U.S. has been to muddle through the requisite year or two of language, bored and discouraged with the drudgery of memorizing vocabulary and conjugating verbs, without ever experiencing the richness and thrill that comes from discovery and exchange.
Music is also a wonderful way to learn language, and the concept of this series provided me with a vehicle through which I could combine so many things that I love. I wanted to facilitate the process, and believe that I have found a way to do so.
4) HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?
It always begins with an idea.
I am fortunate (or cursed!) in the sense that ideas, words, and melodies come to me very easily. The challenge comes in making choices amongst them, and in deciding what to do with them.
I often struggle with the knowledge that “there is nothing new under the sun,” and thus nothing that I can say that has not already been said before—often far more eloquently than I am able.
With words coming easily and ideas perpetually flowing, I write in my head. As much as I love the act of putting pen to paper, or even typing on a computer keyboard (similar to the act of playing the piano), it sometimes feels stifling to transcribe from my mind onto paper, as my hand does not keep pace.
That being said, once the words have made the transition to the tangible realm, I am like Oscar Wilde with my editing process!
In the creative realm, I have always written for myself, rather than for publication.
THE TALES OF BUN E. BONIFACE® is my first venture into sharing my work.
When writing Bun E. Learns to Count in French, I envisioned a baby or toddler being immersed in a world of sound, which they have to learn to navigate in any language.
The rhythm and text of the prose came to me as I was bicycling through the countryside of France’s Loire Valley; the text was written in French, with an English translation.
The premise was a child making sense of the surrounding sights to understand the concept of numbers, but the story is told from a bunny’s point of view.
Works as an educational tool on many levels
I used correlations between the number concept and color in the art, as well as musical correlations between the number and the musical interval (the interval of a Perfect 4th for the number 4, for example, or a triad chord representing the number 5, etc.), so that the work can serve as an educational tool on many levels.
The book’s accompanying audio CD with native speakers offers another sensory method of learning, ensures proper pronunciation, encourages repetition, and allows the children to sing the French text to original music.
The Halloween story that I have just submitted was quite different: It was conceived as a story for my quarterly Bun E. Tales™ newsletter, with an eye for future publication.
The subject matter was inspired my niece, Alyssa–who had illustrated the first picture book at the age of ten–and who, by the time of that Halloween newsletter, was more interested in dragons than bunnies.
I wanted to write about something that she would want to draw.
The dictionary series was also conceived from the outset, inspired by market research I had done, and by my personal critique of what I believed was lacking in the extant approach.
Bun E. Learns to Count in French (Bun E. apprend à compter) is a collaboration between aunt and niece.
One of the great joys of this series has been in sharing the creative process with my niece, and in watching her talent develop.
When we began the series, we got together on weekends to “do art.” The dictionary in particular was challenging in terms of the sheer number of illustrations; I had to find a way to make it achievable for her without it being overwhelming, or no longer fun.
I’m so proud of the work she has done, and thrilled to have chronicled the evolution. The most daunting aspect for me has been to add calligraphy to her original art, as I write with dip pen and ink!
In writing the music, it’s a matter of choosing between melodic ideas that run through my head.
I have always kept a musical sketch pad–a spiral-bound notebook of manuscript paper–wherein I scribble melodic ideas or chord progressions I’ve created and especially liked, and yet when the time comes, I typically compose the music outright at the piano. It seems to be an organic process of germination.
Regarding the music for the recently submitted Halloween story, I have several ideas, but the path I take will depend on how I decide to “tell the story” musically.
Sometimes I sit at the piano and record improvisations on a musical idea, then listen to them while I’m walking, envisioning the scenes that the music will accompany. Often, melodies come to me while walking or gardening, and I simply sing them.
In a similar vein, when trying to make the final determination between an article or potential phrase in the Halloween story, I read the choices aloud to myself to experience how they sounded and felt on the tongue; I later recorded the phrases in question, and listened to them while walking, trying to imagine that I did not know what the upcoming line would be!
The final cut was determined by the rhythm and meter of the prose.
This creative endeavor has afforded me a rich opportunity to collaborate with musicians and artists that I admire, and to create something together that we all love and want to share for posterity.
I feel that I’ve been entrusted with something very special, and I take great care to make this series the absolute best that it can be: a series that children will love and treasure, and one that has the potential to make a difference in their lives.
Note: This blog post was originally published on the domain thirdtimescharm.com.
NEXT WEEK’S author:
It’s a pleasure to introduce Patricia Vermillion, who will write about her creative process next Monday, June 16th. This Southern belle, whom I met through a musical connection, has been wonderfully supportive, in particular through the SCBWI critique group that she founded and hosts each month. At The Lamplighter School in Dallas, she creates opportunities for the students to interact with some of the best-known and best-loved authors and illustrators working in the field today. Her passion for books, children, and reading is infectious.
Patricia Vermillion was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and graduated with a B.S. from the University of Southern Mississippi. She was an elementary teacher for 11 years before completing her MLS from the University of North Texas. She serves as the librarian at the Lamplighter School in Dallas, Texas.
She has written articles for Mississippi Magazine, School Library Monthly, Teacher Librarian, and Library Sparks. She is an active member of SCBWI. Her first picture book, Texas Chili? Oh my!, was published last fall by TCU Press; her second book is already in the pipeline with the same publisher. She is married to a TCU alumnus and has a passion for PURPLE.