by Francine Puckly
While the fresh-cut Christmas tree in my family room has gifts placed beneath it, the “extra” artificial tree in our sitting room sat barren for years. That is, until I started wrapping empty boxes and placing them under the branches. But those boxes are hardly empty to me. Every time I complete a manuscript, a new gift box is wrapped and labeled, as one main character bestows a gift upon another from the same story. And though I remain pre-published, this visual abundance of my accomplishments brings great joy each Christmas season. And I delight in wondering what might be placed inside each box if the characters actually gave out presents.
As we close this busy year with the busiest of months, let's take the time to count our blessings and abundances, lift a glass and toast our tenacity and dedication to our creative lives, and celebrate our loved ones and the avid supporters who have kept us on course.
24 Carrot Writing wishes you and yours peace and contentment as you tally your many achievements from 2015. We’re honored that you have joined us for this journey, and we look forward to bringing you more writing support in 2016! Just imagine what we'll accomplish in the New Year…and we have a bonus day to boot! What will we do with it? The possibilities are endless!
Francine, Amanda, Annie and Kelly
~ by Amanda Smith
Last week as I was doing my other job, I noticed a strange phenomenon. I was a substitute teacher in a history class, where the students were working on a creative project. They had to research a historical figure; draw pictures of what this person might have been thinking; and write a first-person paragraph for each picture, describing the thoughts and emotions of this person. The students all had devices to help them with their research. I loved the idea of this project which was geared towards the development of critical thinking skills. As I walked between their desks, admiring their pictures and monitoring their internet use, I was shocked to discover what they were googling.
No, none of that.
They were looking up clip art for tomb stones and Jolly Rogers, why ships in general sink, and how to draw a stick girl! Now, that one might have started out as a joke.
Student 1: I can’t even draw a stick figure!
Student 2: Google it.
The joke is funny. What was not funny, was that he actually googled it. And drew his stick figure girl exactly like the one on the screen.
Student 3: I can’t remember what the British flag looks like. May I Google it?
Me: Use your text book. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.
Student 3 flipped aimlessly through his text book.
Me: Use the index. It’s called the Union Jack.
Student 3 turned to back of book, looking in appendixes. After watching him page through his textbook for what seemed like forever, and considering the amount of laptops I had closed for frivolous use of the internet, I allowed him to google it.
Student 3: (Face palm) I cannot believe I forgot this is what it looks like!
Student 4, cracking up at Student 3, places paper on computer screen and traces Union Jack.
By this time I was overwhelmed by the stench of perfectly good brains rotting all around me. Now, don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the use of technology or the internet. The internet is a wonderfully helpful tool. It becomes a problem when it is used as a substitute for thinking, innovation and imagination. Much has been said about the "Google effect" and how it is changing the way we apply our minds. Writer Paul Miller, after taking an entire year off from the Internet, says that we have to resist becoming blobs who "exist on the internet instead of getting into the Internet, using it as a really cool tool, and then putting it away so (we) can focus on writing or something." That day in the classroom, I was saddened by the fact that kids who had been given an opportunity to be original, had chosen to be mundane. I was flabbergasted by kids being so connected that they are completely disconnected from their own thoughts.
But most importantly, as a writer, I was concerned that they were disconnected from their own voices.
And I wondered:
Is this what our future looks like? Where is the creativity?
Innovate, don’t imitate Dan Santat whispered in my ear.
Old school, in big red letters, I wrote on the board: INNOVATE, DON’T IMITATE. After I googled Dan Santat on the teacher’s computer, I cast his lovable, friendly face on the white board with the overhead projector (Hey, it’s cool technology.) And I told these students the story Dan shared with us at the 2015 NESBWI Spring Conference.
About how he was working for Disney. And how he realized his art was being influenced by his environment until he was merely recreating existing Disney characters. How he left this “dream job” and threw himself into his art and discovered his own voice. And how he won the 2015 Caldecott Medal for THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE. Because he dared to innovate.
I hope those kids heard. But my heart leapt a little, because, as I am in the midst of revision, Dan was also speaking to me. Like those students, I am presented with the opportunity to be creative every time I sit down to write. Am I original? Am I true to my voice? Am I inventing?
In writing and revision, how can we be sure we are innovative?
Dare to discover the innovative, creative spirit that dwells within you. Dare to go on a journey to find your voice. No Google required.
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