Reading and Writer’s Block

Recently our local Arizona indie bookstore, Changing Hands, held a stellar event for those interested in children’s books. Changing Hands does a wonderful job attracting dynamic and popular kidlit authors and illustrators, as well as others industry insiders, to give an annual panel discussion (in the past they have featured local author Stephenie Meyer).

The discussion this time was lively and entertaining, an informative exchange between the experts and the audience. At one point an audience member brought up the topic of writer’s block. Two of the participants stated something that surprised me. They admitted that reading their way out of writer’s block did not work for them.

One author said that he had read a lot as a kid and before he became a writer. Now that he writes, however, he doesn’t want to read anything. First of all, when he has his editor mind working, he finds himself being critical of others. Also, he admits that he is afraid he will pick up other writer’s voices, something that certainly does happen.

Another panel member chimed in that he doesn’t read either. He is concerned he will read something really fantastic (he mentioned Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games), and it would be too discouraging. He thought it would make him want to quit because he would compare himself to that standard and not be able to reach it.

These remarks make a lot of sense. I had always thought that writer’s block occurred when “your well is empty” and you need to read to refurbish yourself. Maybe reading doesn’t make you a better writer after all, at least not when you are actively writing.

Another panel member suggested that blocks are often the result of problems you don’t know the solution to yet, and that walking away or free writing might help the process along. Going to a movie or taking a walk might give that part of your brain that is chugging away on the problem a chance to finish processing.

I have to admit that when I have “my editor’s hat on,” I find it extremely difficult to be creative. Recently I had a copy editing job that continued on for several weeks. Every time I set down the job and tried to do my own writing I would stumble around looking for the perfect words for each sentence I wrote. Now the job is over, the words flow.

What do you do when you are struggling with writing? What do you think of the idea that reading might not be helpful?

Dinotrux Makes Prehistoric Impact in Preschooler World

Dinotrux is a new picture book by Tucson author/illustrator Chris Gall that has made a truck-sized impact on the children’s lit world.

You may have heard the buzz or seen the blog posts: “What a great idea!” “Why didn’t I think of that?” “He’s got a deal with DreamWorks already!” “A book preschool boys will love.”

To get an idea of what the clamor is all about, take a look at the book trailer.

The trailer is funny, clever and well, animated. When I picked up the book I wanted Cementosaurus make facial expressions. (Note to self: don’t make your book trailer so fantastic people want your illustrations to move.) As you can see, the book is wonderful. The names of each dinotrux is based on real dinosaur names like “Dumplodocus,” the dump truck version of Diplodocus. Who wouldn’t find Dozeratops, the Craneosaurus, the Semisaur appealing?. The story isn’t complex; this is a field guide to dinosaur/trucks.

Chris Gall admits he changed his illustration style for this book. The illustrations are darker hues than his previous books with heavy lines giving it a more retro look, probably to reflect the dim past. Gall says he wanted to represent how fiery and dangerous it was in the time of Dinotrux (the shading reminds me of the illustrations in Chris Van Allsburg’s Two Bad Ants). Gall says he creates his illustrations both by hand and on the computer and often goes back and forth between the two.

Dinotrux is incredibly imaginative and humorous. It will definitely be a smash with preschoolers interested in trucks and/or dinosaurs.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316027774
ISBN-13: 978-0316027779
Product Dimensions: 11.9 x 9.2 x 0.6 inches

Father’s Day Books for Kids and Dads

Just in time for Father’s Day, some books for children and one for dads.

Board Book

Daddy Hugs by Karen Katz

A good first book

Picture Books for Children

What Dads Can’t Do by Douglas Wood and Doug Cushman (Illustrator)

Humorous approach to fatherhood for the younger set.

Just Me and My Dad by Mercer Mayer

Little Critter goes camping with his dad in this sweet book.

Ages 9-12

My Funny Dad, Harry by Karen Arlettaz Zemek

A true story of a funny and quirky father

For Dads:

Halfway to Heaven: My White-knuckled–and Knuckleheaded–Quest for the Rocky Mountain High by Mark Obmascik

The humorous story of a stay-at-home-dad who decides to climb all of Colorado’s 14,000 feet mountains and what he discovers along the way.

Hope you enjoy them with your dad!

More Winnie-the-Pooh

After the last post about Winnie-the-Pooh, I see in the latest Publisher’s Weekly eNewsletter (see Book News) that David Benedictus has written an authorized sequel to the Winnie-the-Pooh books. Illustrated by Mark Burgess, the book is to be released October 5, 2009. Now they just need to send Rabbit around to tell everyone.