Saturday, August 11, 2007

Studying authors, an art form?

There is a lot of talk lately about how art affects our daily lives. Ruth posted about how she wants to find that in her everyday life. After my previous post about not writing, but reading, I got to thinking about my "binging" (oh, I love this word Ruth, thank you!) on stuff that I am reading. My daughters and I have taken a trip to the library every week this summer. Each time we pick an author: Patricia Polacco, Cynthia Rylant, Mercer Mayer, Berenstain Bears, this week was Lauren Child. Each time we check out these stacks of books we rush home to read them. Like drug addicts we are book addicts. My daughters have loved this, I have loved this. We have made studying an author, an art form. We have discussed at length the styles of these wonderful authors. I have watched them read for enjoyment, while they have listened to me talk about the craft that these authors have created. Next week, we are going to be checking out books by Mem Fox. I am so excited, Mem Fox is one of my favorites, I know they will love her too. This led me to this quote that is posted on my blog:

If we fail to nourish our souls, they wither, and without soul life ceases to have meaning...The creative process shrivels in the absence of continual dialogue with the soul. And creativity is what makes life worth living.
-Marion Woodman

While this activity with my daughters hasn't been our creativity it has been immersing ourselves in the creativity of others. I have been learning that picture book authors have very similar characteristics. While not always consistent they reoccur and are very successful.
1. Repetition. Children love repetition. My daughters will for days say a line that has been repeated in a text. Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum.
2. People getting in trouble. They love when the character has done something that gets them in trouble. I think they are glad that it is not them.
3. Animals. My girls love when the characters have a problem with an animal. The Little Old Woman Who Named Things, The Great Gracie Chase, and the puppy that chews the newspaper in Mercer Mayer.
4. Weird text. Lauren Child is just the expert on this. Even my little 4 year old announced during the book, Snow is my Favorite and My Best, "This page is upside down!" They love it! Very savvy as a writer!
5. Grandparents. This one is also for my friend, Jen. We have very proactive grandparents in our home. We have an 82 year old great grandmother that we see weekly. We know the value of grandparents. Authors capture this relationship, my girls love this.

Do you see the art that we see? I am learning techniques, I am learning how to teach this to my students. I am learning this for myself as a writer. I have made studying picture books an art form. I have nourished my soul. And yes, I have started writing again. After my Wednesday post I had coffee with friends. They gave me more dialogue to enter into my notebook.

1 comment:

Jen Barney said...

I am so happy that you see your reading as an art form, because it is... you look beyond the printed words! Good for you, a life long lesson for your babies!

PS. You know I can't help but love stories about grandparents.. I am a mush deep down!