Tag Archives: Mylisa Larsen

Thanks

I have been an emu now for almost three years. (This comment would need considerable clarification if made in any other venue.) So I’ve had plenty of time to say the things I wanted to say about this space in the publishing journey between contract and actual published book.

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Wait, she’s been a what?

Except for one thing and that is how grateful I feel to be working in this industry. Yes, it has oddities (not a few) and frustrations. But it also has some beautiful benefits. I’m grateful to work with people who value creativity and collaboration. I’m grateful to work with people who care about words and kids.

 

Emu’s Debuts is one of those groups that has an expiration date built in. Once you’ve published that first book, you’re no longer a debut author. So while I’ll still be around cheering on the books that are coming (because, oh, I so love some of these books that are coming), I won’t be here in the day to day way that I have been in the past couple of years. As I’ve thought about leaving, there are a few things that I’d like to thank the rest of this Emu mob for.

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Thanks for the fun. From going all out opera to celebrate Adi Rule’s debut to taking Tara Dairman’s character Gladys out to lunch to calling a number in Switzerland hoping to interview the lovely Anne Wilsdorf (and hoping that whoever answered the phone would have more English than I had French), there have been a lot of moments that were just fun. Those of you who read the blog, sometimes get to see the some of the fun in the post but a lot of it is backstage. And I value the backstage moments the most.

 

Thanks for the books. It has been so much fun to get the ARCs and F&Gs of new Emu books in the mail. I’ve read and loved books that I might never have picked up otherwise. I have my often visited shelves of the library but sometimes I need to branch out a bit. It’s been a pleasure to do that as books of fellow Emus arrived in the mail in the weeks before their launches. I’ll miss that. But I plan on actively looking for them as they’re published. So keep me posted.

 

Thanks for the honesty. It was so refreshing to be able to ask all the newbie questions in this group (everything from “is it normal for a contract to take this long” to “where is the best place to get bookmarks” to questions about craft) and always have them answered with both kindness and honesty.

 

Kindness, creativity, honesty, fun. Can’t really beat that.

 

 

 

Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

You can visit her online at http://mylisalarsen.com

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9 Comments

Filed under Happiness, Writing and Life

A Field Guide to Sleepy People

We at EMUs Debuts are all about service. Take, for instance, Mylisa Larsen’s super-helpful and hilarious new book, HOW TO PUT YOUR PARENTS TO BED. And on the last day of the book launch party, we thought we’d give you a little bonus. We hereby present an illustrated guide to recognizing when a grownup needs to go to bed.

Do they start using blankets as pillows and yawn uncontrollably?

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“Look out,” says Katie, “all chaos is about to break loose!”

Do their canine companions give them the hairy eyeball…

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Kai beseeches Janet for his last walk so he can go to bed.

…or try to pull them off the sofa?

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Lucy trying to lead Elly off to bed!

Do they have glassy eyes and seem somehow…disembodied?

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Hayley, collect yourself!

Are they just simply not themselves?

Tired Jason

“This is my face when I desperately need to be put to bed. Not pretty. I get this look not only when I’m tired as all get out, but when I’m hangry or have just heard that “America’s Next Top Model” will not be returning for another cycle. Love, Tyra”

Are things getting hairy?

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Time to brush, Mylisa!

Are they going ape?

Luke Reynolds bedtime

Luke, stop dragging your knuckles!

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, get that person to bed, ASAP! Simply telling a grownup to go to bed doesn’t always work, however. Mylisa’s book will show you how to put all the sleepy people to bed where they belong in no time at all.

But before you tuck yourself or anyone else in, don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a copy of HOW TO PUT YOUR PARENTS TO BED and a gift certificate for snazzy new pj’s. Just use the hashtag #PutParents2Bed in a blog comment or on social media to enter! The giveaway runs until April 1st.

We conclude this Public Service Announcement and Launch Party with a cute and fun book trailer. Then order your own copy here!

 

8 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Launch, Picture books

Pajama Party!

It’s relHow To Put Your Parents To Bed Coverease week for Mylisa Larsen’s sweet and hilarious (yes, both!) HOW TO PUT YOUR PARENTS TO BED and we’re starting out with a pajama party! And a contest!! So you have to check out the ending of this post, because you’ll really, really want to participate in the contest.

First, a few of us reading – or not – in pajamas – or not – our favorite books, or hugging our favorite dogs, or our favorite dogs reading their favorite books, or…

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Anya Gianferrari, not yet reading…

Carole Gerber

Carole Gerber, reading surprise!

Andrea Wang son + Mochi

Mochi Wang, serving as a bookrest…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trixie Florence

Trixie Florence, reading about breakfast…

 

 

Jason & Brodie

Jason and Brodie, dreaming about reading…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kevin Fox, putting his gram to bed…

Elly & Lucy Swartz

Elly & Lucy Swartz, reading a favorite.

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Mylisa herself, ready to waddle off.

 

 

 

 

Tyler & Ben Reynolds

Tyler & Ben Reynolds reading their puppy to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We hope you’ll join us in our party!

Comment on this post, or share on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #PutParents2Bed,  to be entered to win a copy of the book and a gift certificate for pajamas from Lazy One. See the official rules here: CuriousCityDPW.com. The contest will run until April 1.

Find out more about Mylisa and her books here and order your own copy of HOW TO PUT YOUR PARENTS TO BED here.

 

 

19 Comments

Filed under Book Launch, Uncategorized

Building A World

One of my favorite little worlds is this world created by Emilia Forstreuter. Take a minute and give it a look.

Isn’t that lovely–both oddly familiar and magically strange. I think about this animation quite often when I’m working on fantasy novels. How does this world manage to be something I recognize while still being full of surprises?

But picture books are little worlds too. One of the first things I got to do when I became an Emu was to interview the lovely Anne Wilsdorf about her illustrations for Sophie’s Squash. I asked her about her habit of doing illustrated endpapers and she said the reason that she does that is that “A book is not just something you consume and throw away. It’s a whole world. You enter into that world when you enter the book. So it has to be complete–from the cover all the way to the endpapers. I think when it is complete, it allows you to be in the world of that book.”(See interview here.)

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Anne Wilsdorf

I’ve thought about that as I’ve tried to create my own worlds in my picture books. What are the things a writer can do with the text to make that world between the covers of a book complete. And I think one of the most important things the text brings to that creation is voice–that hard to define thing that, within a few words often, lets you know “this is where you are.” This book will be funny or sweet or sad or wise or brave.

I’ve gone to my bookcase to give you a few examples:

1)”One day, a lion came to the library. He walked right past the circulation desk and up into the stacks.”

2)”A cow says moo. A sheep says baa. Three singing pigs say la, la, la!”

3)”Rock, stone, pebble, sand/Body, shoulder, arm, hand/A moat to dig, a shell to keep/All the world is wide and deep.”

4)”Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were. Everyone but Mr. Tiger.”

Even without the illustrations (and if you know these books, you’ll know that the visual voice perfectly matches the heard voice), don’t you feel that you know exactly where you are, that in just a couple of sentences, you have a handle on the world of this story?

Voice. It’s a beautiful, powerful thing. Which picture books that you love  use voice to get you quickly into the world of the story?

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed coming out February 9, 2016 (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

 

 

 

 

 

9 Comments

Filed under Picture books, Voice

And Then There’s a Cover and a Catalog Listing

I think several of us may have mentioned that the period between when you get that call saying, “Yes, we’re going to publish your book” and when the book actually appears on a bookstore shelf is composed mostly of long periods of waiting with occasional flurries of intense activity over edits or titles or whatever.  (Yes, I see we have mentioned that. See here and here. And here. Never mind. We’ve all mentioned it.)

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And, in most cases, before you got that “yes” there was quite a bit of writing and waiting and writing and waiting while you wrote some more. Years and years of it for most of us. We’re not all patient people when we start but we get better at it perforce.

But it can sometimes feel like nothing much is going on. It can feel a little unreal, like maybe you dreamed that book sale and you will wake up and. . . But then your editor sends you some of the sketches and an enormous envelope with printers proofs arrives. So it’s happening. Not for another year and a half but it is happening.

And then suddenly, there’s quite a bit going on. There’s a cover.

Yep, an actual cover

Yep, an actual cover

This lovely fat envelope of F&Gs arrives. You’ve heard of these. They sound mysterious but they’re just your book, all folded and gathered together, but without the binding. You can pick one up and sit down on the couch and read it to a kid, just like you would a book. It feels pretty real.

Then your sister-in-law calls to say, “How come you didn’t tell me you could order your book already?” Umm, because I didn’t know. But you go out to the HarperCollins website and there it is–a catalog listing. You spend fifteen minutes looking it up on the website of every bookstore in the world and it’s there–every time. And I’m not gonna lie. That feels pretty great.

Creative Commons license Ben Smith via Compfight

Now, somewhere in my files is a list of the ten thousand things I’m supposed to be doing to market this book. . .

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

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Filed under cover art, waiting

Unless You Have Already Called 911–Some Tips for Sharing the Summer with Kids

So, it’s summer. Strawberries. Kayaks. Kids in my office.

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Ok, my office is a corner of the bedroom. Or the kitchen table. Or the living room couch. And school’s out.

So if you work from home and you’re in that phase of life where you’re writing and raising kids at the same time, here are a few ideas about how to share the summer so that both the writer and the kids are happy.

Make a sign for your door.

The sign that goes up on my bedroom door during the summer says, “Unless you have already called 911, do not knock on this door. I’m writing.” I know, I know. It sounds a little harsh. But my at-home kids are 14 and 11. They are perfectly capable people. And the sign was made one afternoon when they had knocked on the door to ask “Do we only have creamy peanut butter?” “Can Vi come over tomorrow?” “Do you know where the toenail clippers are?” and seventeen other things that could have waited until after work time.

The point is to set work times and kid times and then honor them. Talk to your kids about what time you need. Ask them to honor that time. But then honor their time too. During the summer, I only work two hours a day. It’s a lot less time than I usually write. But it’s enough time to keep my brain working. It’s summer and I know that in September, I’ll hit it hard again. And once I walk out of that room and take down my sign, I’m home from work and can do kid stuff without thinking about the writing because I know tomorrow at 2:00, I’ll have two hours where no one will interrupt me at all.

You know that cute middle school kid on your block? Maybe they need a summer job.

When my kids were younger, just hanging a sign on the door would not have worked at all. But there were certain fun kids who lived in our neighborhood who really wanted to earn some spending money but weren’t quite old enough for a job. And they were still young enough to enjoy playing. So I’d hire them to come play wild games of soccer for two hours with my boys. I’d get writing time. They’d get money from me and total adoration—hero status, really—from my boys. And it was the best time of the day for my boys.

Create an artificial media shortage.

I’m not sure I’m proud of this technique but I used it for two summers and it works amazingly well. Simply cut off all access to media except during the two hours you’re planning to write. My kids did all sorts of other things because media wasn’t the easy default. And at 2:00 in the afternoon, every device in the house flickered on and an eerie silence descended as the little brains went in for their fix. And I went into my room and wrote like a maniac for two hours.

Teach yourself to work where you are.

You’ve got to drive a kid to soccer/science/art/drama camp and then you’ve got to drive home and snatch some work time. But then you’ve got to drive back. You just lost a lot of time back and forthing in the car. What if you just dropped the kid off and plunked yourself under a tree with a notebook or a laptop?

Enjoy your kids.

You only get so many summers. And as Elaine reminded us last week, it’s all about balance and having those “real-life, non-writing adventures” feeds the writing too. (You can read that post here.) So go climb to that waterfall that you have to let yourself down to with a rope someone tied to a tree. Let ten fourteen year olds invade your house and don’t stop the waterfight that develops. Wake a kid up early and go watch the sunrise from a kayak. Everything goes into the well and we draw it back out and transform it. Maybe it’s time to spend some time filling up the well.

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

You can visit her online at http://mylisalarsen.com

10 Comments

Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Writing and Life

The Delivery System for An Emotional Hit

One of the nice things about a group like the Emus is that while we’re all talking shop here, a fellow Emu may say something that lodges in your brain and helps you think about your own writing. A while ago, Kevan talked about adding dimension to his Monster of the Day series by trying to make sure each monster conveyed some emotion or feeling. (For the whole lovely discussion, click here.)

This started me thinking about how picture books are a delivery system for an emotional hit. I had the opportunity to read Jules Feiffer’s Bark, George to an audience recently and I saw that principle in action. It was a group of preschoolers at a book festival but they had older brothers and sisters and parents in tow. Bark, George delivers a hit of Funny. As I read this book to them, I realized that it was working for all three groups. But they were laughing at different things.

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When you read Bark, George to preschoolers, they scream with laughter over the fact that the dog does not bark, he moos (or quacks or oinks or whatever.) I am not two, I do not remember being two, but I promise you, at two, this dog mooing thing is hilarious. Every single time it happens.

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The older siblings are laughing too but they’re laughing at the visual gags. They get that it is impossible to pull a full size pig out of a very small puppy. Yet it’s happening. And as the animals get bigger, the joke gets funnier. They are also laughing at the vet. They love the “Ewww” factor when the vet puts on his longest latex glove. That moment leaves them a little helpless with joy.

And, oh, the parents are laughing. They’re laughing at their kids’ reactions and the sight gags and the vet are amusing them too. But where are they laughing the hardest? At that poor mama dog and her expressions. They get it. They are the mama dog.

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I’ve long loved that book but reading it to that audience was like watching it be analyzed in real time—seeing exactly what worked for whom.

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One of the joys and challenges of picture books is the dual audience—child and adult. A book can survive if it only appeals to kids but the parents may succumb to the temptation to shove the book under the couch cushion rather than read it one more time. A book can (unfortunately) survive if it only appeals to adults. They own the wallets.

But the best books are the ones where both audiences are absolutely delighted. Then the shared experience of reading the book becomes as important as the book itself. Then a book has a chance to become beloved. And one way of making that happen is to make sure that both audiences are getting a custom-mixed emotional hit.

What are your favorite books that reach both audiences?

mylisa_email_2-2 Mylisa Larsen is the author of Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.) You can visit her online at mylisalarsen.com.

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Filed under craft~writing, Picture books

Thanks for that suggestion. . . I think.

I’ve just rejected my teenage son’s suggestion for a blog post (“Writing a good book is a lot like picking peas. That’s your prompt, Mom. Go with it.”)

What are you talking about, kid?

and that has made me think about how I decide which suggestions about my writing I accept, which I ignore and which I feel compelled to dig in my heels against and fight until the end of my days.

The first are easy. If I read a suggestion and feel an immense sense of relief (“Of course! Why didn’t I think of this?”) then that’s a keeper. Or if I feel a great, implacable dread (“OH NO. She’s absolutely right. Now I have to kill off two characters and rewrite the last half of the book.) then, unfortunately, that’s probably a keeper too.

Um, yeah.

The middle category is a bit more difficult. These are suggestions that might make things better. Or worse. Remains to be seen. And the only way I know to find out will be to (sigh) try it. Which just makes me cranky enough when I’m tired or on a deadline that my inclination is to dismiss them as wrong-headed. So I have a rule that I’m not allowed to reject a suggestion that might make the book better just because it will cause me no end of trouble. I’m allowed to set a time limit on the experiment. I’m allowed to eat Leonidas Nibs while working on the suggestion. I’m allowed to take a kayak break if I need one. But I can’t just pretend I never heard it.

So how do you know when you’re in the third category where you need to dig in and defend something that’s integral to the story? I don’t know exactly. If I find I’m wanting to play this card often then I worry that I’m just not listening. Writing is a solitary thing but making a good book is a hugely collaborative process and my responsibility to the book means that I have to embrace that collaboration. I really do believe that all this working together creates a better book. That’s what I want. Even when it means a boatload of work after I thought I was done.

But there are times when what is being suggested messes with the soul of the book.

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So sorry but I cannot go there.

I am required to protect my book’s soul. There’s really no one else to do that. And to do that, I have to have thought enough about what that soul is that I can explain exactly why I can’t comply and, I hope, help my editor or writing group or critique partner understand better what it is that I am trying to do so that we can, working together, get me there.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Editing and Revising, Writing

Taking Care of Each Other

Last week, I was at a retreat with nine other writers. It was intense. We love our teacher and we work hard. It’s a way of honoring the time and love and effort that she pours into teaching us. There were class sessions and writing hours and daily workshopping and daily editing meetings. It was all incredibly helpful.

But just as helpful was the kindness within the group.Talking each other down from ledges. Listening as someone grieved a book that hadn’t worked. Encouraging someone who was  doubting whether she could do this thing she had set out to do. Sharing something you knew when someone else needed it.

No one was assigned to do this stuff. We just paid attention to each other. We helped where we could. It was a beautiful thing. By the end of the week we were exhausted. We also didn’t want to leave each other.

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This week, I’m at our annual agency retreat. (I know. An embarrassment of riches.) And I know that I will see it again. People taking care of each other.

Look. It’s a hard thing that we do. It can be a little lonely. And we’re never quite there. We’re always trying to write better, to make the next book better than the last book.  We need other friends who are writers. They’ve been there. They know. They’ll help.

 

 

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Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

You can visit her online at http://mylisalarsen.com

7 Comments

Filed under Colleagues, Thankfulness, Writing and Life

Part Method, Part Madness: Luring in a Good Idea

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“Where do you get your ideas?”

 Man, I hate that question. Not because I’m jealously guarding writerly secrets. Not because I haven’t thought about it. A lot. Just because when I try to answer that question honestly, I babble.

Here’s the thing. Ideas are strange creatures. I know they’re out there. I see them out of the corner of my eye. But it might be in the grocery store. Or in the woods. Or looking at me from the window of a passing bus. Ideas don’t seem to have an established, identifiable habitat. Or habits. Sometimes they’re out wandering at 2 AM. Sometimes they refuse to show up at all until sleep needs have been lavishly met. They eat chocolate. No, grapefruit. Spicy fish?

It’s a puzzle. I can’t give a satisfying, tidy answer. But here are a few things that work for me.

Show up at your desk. And get out of the house.

 Ideas like to know that there’s a place for them. Having a regular writing schedule let’s them know that when they show up, they’ll be treated with respect and given the warmest spot by the fire. They tend to show up if they know you’ll be there to open the door for them.

Until. . .they don’t. If for three or four days, I’ve been showing up and the ideas haven’t, if I’m starting to notice this fact and get a wee bit wound up about it, it’s time to get out of the house. Strap on the snowshoes or load the kayak on the car. Go into town. Do something I don’t usually do. Ideas like to slip in unnoticed. So give them that chance. And then get back to your desk.

Really think about form. No, quit thinking so much.

 Ideas come during times when I’m thinking carefully about some element of the picture book form. For example, I’m in love with the page turns in picture books. They can set up a joke. They can be used as time travel devices. Or to manipulate rhythm. So I might just sit and think, “What could I do with page turns?” After a while, my brain will say, “Hey, know what would be funny?” And here we go.

But then other times, a great idea comes from just playing, not thinking about much of anything. This is why you should walk out to the bus stop with your kids and play rhyming games while you wait. Or trade jokes. Or be silly and talk in badly done accents. Or draw dumb pictures in your writing notebook. Goofing off is a fertile state of mind. Ideas love it.

Relax. Or induce panic. Either one.

Ideas like relaxed writers. So breathe a little. Defend parts of the day from busyness. Give yourself space to just be. Space for ideas to float in for a soft landing. It’s part of your job. Nice, huh.

On the other hand, in a pinch, ideas can be flushed from the bushes by a good, old fashioned dose of panic. I hate this method. It has side effects that I do not enjoy. But when I feel like I’m in a rut, like everything I’m writing is recycled from something I’ve done before, it has to happen.

Sign up for a stretch class. Is it something you’re not even sure you can quite do yet? Taught by someone you have immense respect for and would hate to disappoint? Are there assignments that cause you to break into a sweat just thinking about them? Great. That should do it.

Or give yourself a deadline. In the next twenty days, write twenty picture books—one per day, from nothingness to The End every day. Warn your family ahead of time and then shut yourself in your room. Don’t allow yourself escape hatches. The first couple of days will be fun. Then it will get ugly. But part way through, out of sheer desperation, your brain will bump out of its well worn path.

So . . .

 I guess what I’m saying is to keep things lively. Mix it up. Nothing works all the time. When one thing stops working, move to another. Then another. Until you circle back around again. Make peace with the fact that it’s a little weird, a little messy, a little mysterious. And that when you try to answer that question about where ideas come from, you’ll babble.

 

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Mylisa Larsen is the author of the picture books, Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

You can visit her online at http://mylisalarsen.com

 

 

 

17 Comments

Filed under craft~writing, Creativity, Picture books