When I visit schools, kids often ask me if I illustrate my own books. I do not. That is, I do not illustrate the books the kids hold in their hands. But, drawing is a part of my writing process.
I've been very lucky to have some wonderful illustrators work on my books. Jim Kay did the cover and interior illustrations for The Water Castle. Nadja Sarell brought Frankie Sparks to life. They are the artists.
Me, not so much. I do, however, draw as part of my writing process, and today I am bravely sharing some sketches with you from a work in progress.
Bravely because I have long been shy about my artwork. (Side note: when do we start to get self-conscious about things like drawing and singing and dancing. My guess is around age 12.) I'm working on a project about pets. On Monday morning, I took out my notebook. First I wrote descriptions of each character. Then I took out a sketchbook and drew this little bird.
During the pandemic, my kids discovered Kids Art Hub, a great YouTube channel where a dad and his kids teach other kids how to draw. I started by following along as best I could. Then I started adapting it so it looked more like what I wanted. The final version is the yellow one.
Why do this? It's about play.
I believe that play is an essential part of the writing process. This brings me back to those school visits: I always tell kids that if they ever played make-believe, if they ever built something out of LEGO bricks, if they ever drew a picture and told someone about it, then they are a writer. Play is where stories come from. This is true for children, but it's also true for adult writers. I was stuck. I needed to get unstuck. So, I wrote in my notebook. I drew little pictures. And then, after those play sessions, I was able to write.
So, if you are stuck, or you are a teacher working with kids who are stuck, take some time to play. Act things out, draw a picture, sing a song, dance a dance: don't worry about how it looks. Just have fun. The words will come.