Hello there! Today I have the honor of having Bonny Becker answer my questions about creativity. A Visitor for Bear is probably one of our most read books in the past three years. My kids love it so much! It’s a blast to read. It’s one of those books that we’re always in the mood for.
She’s written a very different book called The Frightful Ride of Michael McMichael that looks wonderfully spooky and fun! It’s out now!
Grab a cup of coffee and come read about how she persists in her creative endeavors and she has some of the THE BEST advice for aspiring writers.
What did you love about making The Frightful Ride of Michael McMichael?
The Frightful Ride of Michael McMichael actually came out of a love for the tall tales of writers like Robert Service, especially which my dad used to read to us. Such macabre humor, such chewy words! I wanted to capture something of that same flavor. It was especially fun to try to make the rhyme scheme work.
The last line of every stanza had to rhyme or near rhyme with boarded. I think I managed to find just about every word that rhymes or near rhymes with boarded, from the sensible hoarded to the desperate and untenable sore head.
The truth is it took me years, because I was just noodling with it. I didn’t really expect it to turn into an actual manuscript. It was just for idle fun. Then it began to take shape and feel more and more complete, and it eventually occurred to me that I could send it out.
What is it about writing and creating for children that calls to you?
I think in some ways we write about times or situations in our lives that still haunt us for some reason. Maybe it was a time of tremendous discovery, or a time of great doubt, worry, and fear, or a time of insight and achievement. Something happened and it’s never quite left you. I had a wonderful childhood. The world was full of mystery and magic and suspense. Not because of anything special in my childhood, but because it was happy and I had the space and time to feel its wonder. So I keep getting drawn back into that mind–set of childhood. I knew a writer who had a beautiful way of putting it: he called it the “green grove of childhood.”
As a creative person, what do you find nourishes your creativity? (How do you keep that part of yourself filled?)
Doing creative things just for fun is great — like writing poetry for no one but myself. For me, a lot of it is simply giving yourself time and space. True creativity is often slow. It comes from feeding your mind with ideas, images, words, musings, and then letting it all stew in your subconscious for a while. I like to take walks, doodle, read good writing, watch “the wheels go round and round.” It’s the kind of daydreaming time that is so hard to find these days.
How do you have the courage to be creative and to share your work with others? (Do you have a great support system? Do you have a role model/role models? Etc.)
I advise any aspiring children’s writer to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and to get themselves into a writing class or critique group. You have to start to get feedback from others.
But the thing that helped me the most over my career was when I eventually realized that the writing was not about me. It was about itself. It wasn’t about making me look good. The work I did was about making the work good. Then it starts to feel more like someone you love, where you want the best for them and you can put aside your own ego and fears because you care about them.
I went from feeling defensive and hurt by feedback and criticism to welcoming it. (Most of the time!) It was a tool for me. It was what I needed to make the work better. It was gold, because I couldn’t stand outside my own work and see how it was working for the reader the way my critique group could.
But it takes time to get to that place, so just keep writing and gradually putting yourself forward. Put it out there, get hurt, go back, lick your wounds. Rewrite. Repeat. Most writers who make it find out that no matter how hurt they get, somehow they keep coming back to do more writing. They discover they can’t not write.
Do you have any advice for your past self on being creative? (Just in case time travel becomes a thing and your past self is reading this.)
Past Self, quit fretting and get to work. Not in a frantic, worried way, but in a steady, nourishing way. Trust that with each thing you write you are getting better and that all you have to do is simply write that next thing. The next idea, the next story, and, most importantly, that next draft.
How can people learn more about you and your work?
Thank you so much to Bonny Becker for answering my questions! I really, really appreciate it!