I had the pleasure, delight, absolute joy of hearing author-illustrator, Richard Jesse Watson speak on Saturday during a special event hosted by the San Diego Chapter of SCBWI.
Oh me, oh my.
Let me first say, if you are planning any kind of writer’s conference, retreat, event, and want to invite someone special, I highly recommend him. He is a passionate, funny, thoughtful and inspiring speaker.
Everyone was a-buzz and glowing after listening to him speak. I usually doodle during lectures and presentations. This helps me to listen and focus. Well, during Richard’s presentation, I made a few of my usual sketchadoodley doodles, but mostly I wrote doodle words. I kept hearing the most delightful phrases that I had to jot down. Ironic, as his illustrations are utterly amazing.
I am in awe of the lengths he goes in order to get his art right. When he illustrated Tom Thumb, he designed costumes for his son to wear so he could see how the fabric would fold as he moved. He makes models of things – for instance the sleigh in his version of The Night Before Christmas – to be sure he gets light and shadows exactly right. Gorgeous results! I’d love to see his studio.
I’d like to pass on a bit of his advice… These are not direct quotes, BTW, but the essence of what I grasped. I think his talk was the kind of talk where each person found something they needed, even if no one else heard it the same way.
Some of what I heard:
- Figure out your (emotional) baggage, your strengths, and your weaknesses – writing related and not – and use those things to write the stories only you can write.
- Tap into your passion and neuroses.
- Take life’s irritations and flip them – see them as gifts instead.
A creativity prompt he led was fascinating. He had us each either draw a quick picture of one of our characters or to write a brief introduction of him/her. Then we passed it to two different people who added and changed, aka “messed with” what we’d started with. Interesting results all around me! It’s a lovely way to jump-start thinking outside your own thinks. I will remember this one for classrooms and groups.
He made feel so privileged to be on this journey, to be working and celebrating the art of writing books for children.
Sarah Wones Tomp
WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK