My guest blogger today is Melissa Conroy (Yes! She has a famous author dad!) whose sweet new book Grandma is an Author releases today. It’s an interactive story and journal about creativity and writers’ block. But after visiting her amazing website and browsing her many creative endeavors, I have a hard time believing Melissa is ever blocked. And I got a chance to ask her about just that.
JR: How do all your creative endeavors inspire each other – your books, your dolls, your sculpture, your prints, your knits? How do they compete for your time? In other words when you wake in the morning, how do you decide what to do? I’m not necessarily talking about a routine here, but more about discerning which muse is calling to you.
MC: When I made my portfolio website, it was an opportunity to catalog what I had been working on for many years. I know it looks like a huge variety of pursuits, but in real time it has been a slow evolution from one thing to the next. When I had a studio in Brooklyn I could make large sculptures. Now, my life is more suited to making picture books. Ideas come in moments when I am not expecting them. Years ago, the image of a fort of translucent sandbags appeared in my head. It was there to greet me every time I daydreamed. That fort became a mini obsession. I worked on it for six months, piling and securing stiff translucent pillows until it was taller than me. It was a glowing oasis in my studio for about a month before slowly collapsing. If the vision of translucent sandbags came to me today, I would have the inclination to weave it into a story.
The mediums I use go back to when I was a child. I taught myself to sew in second grade to repair stuffed animals. I see a direct connection between my soft sculpture and more recently, my dolls to those early stitches. Drawing was another childhood discovery. The moment I realized I could draw was thrilling. The world began to reveal itself to me through drawing. I began to see details, shapes, colors, relationships and even personality in things that I had never noticed before. When I am feeling stuck I go outside and draw something. Drawing is the medium that is always at my disposal, while other mediums will tap me on the shoulder now and then.
JR: I hear you when you say ideas come when you least expect them. But translucent sandbags? Wow! I would love to see that in a gallery OR a picture book someday. I also love that you sew. And the fact that you repaired stuffed animals is so tender. I think we could have been 2nd grade friends.
With all you do, you can’t possibly EVER be without creative inspiration. So what led you to write a kid’s book about writer’s block? Tell us more about Gus. And tell us more about the journal that comes with the book.
MC: Perhaps doing so many different things can be a symptom of writer’s block. Reach a roadblock with a painting? Take out some needles and knit for a while. Having two options at my disposal helps. I can return to each with fresh eyes. That’s why I enjoy picture books so much. I love shifting from text to drawings and back to text until they are dependent upon each other.
I like to think I have plenty of ideas to work from. But, ideas don’t always equal functioning stories. When I sat down to write Grandma is an Author, every story I started hit a wall after the first page. I felt like there was a writers block ghost floating around in my head, turning my words into mush. At the same time, I found myself helping my daughter create monsters to keep her fears at bay. It started with drawings, then led to monster rugs made from fabric scraps that she put next to the front door. Finally, she took a cardboard box and created a monster. He was like the ancient stone lions placed at the foot of buildings to scare away enemies. She could place him wherever she felt he would be most useful. Then I thought, what about a writer’s block monster? Making a monster that can stand up to writer’s block seemed like a fitting solution and one the main character, Rusty would come up with.
Because Grandma is an Author is about writing, it is designed to look and feel like a composition book. In the back there is a little journal with speech and thought bubble stickers to use. Kids can use the journal to write and draw. But, if they find themselves stuck I highly recommend making a writer’s block monster. I made four monsters while writing the story.
Ha! Four monsters. I think every writer needs at least one. Thank you, Melissa for stopping by!
Now here’s your chance to bid on one of Melissa’s fun and frolicky autographed prints titled “Juliette in the Snow” and help fill a school library in Uganda. Check it out at: