In March I traveled to Bucharest, Romania to help lead a conference for children's book writers and illustrators. Over twenty talented authors and artists attended the event, and I got to talk about one of my favorite things on this planet--creating picture books for young children.
The children's book market in Romania--at least from what I've been told and what I experienced--is primarily made up of translated books that were first published in other markets. Some of them are translated well, some of them poorly. Many of them do not reflect the unique population or culture of the people in that country. And those books that are written by Romanian authors tend to be for an older child--for a child who can already read independently. So there is this lovely little void, ready and waiting to be filled with books for very young children, written by Romanians themselves.
For two and a half days, I was a teaching, mentoring cheerleader. We talked together about child development. We went over the key factors to consider when writing for young children. We dissected really good books, musing over what makes them connect to the young child. We investigated negative space in art, in music, in speech, in book design. We considered the current market, and brainstormed ways to move forward...
I am so glad I went. It was one of the hardest things I've done in a long time. Not because of the content. Talking about picture books was easy and energizing, but preparing for my time away, right on the heels of a natural disaster in our community, required all of me--my physical; spiritual; emotional; and psychological self...
After the last session of the conference ended, I was thrilled! It couldn't have gone better. It was worth traveling half way across the globe to be with such beautiful, gifted people. Before I returned home I had two days to spend in Bucharest with my friend. We toured the city in the snow, ducking into churches to warm up and soak in the prayer, flagging down taxis to speed us across town (I posted a few photos and thoughts on my instagram page...). We visited an artist's home studio, drank tea, ate traditional food, toured Ceausescu's private home, and bought Pascha gifts. I would love to return in the fall some day with my family, and tour into the mountains and down to the sea, and soak in the loveliness that is Romania...
So much has happened during these few short months of 2018. I'm hoping I'll have time to digest some lessons I've learned before any new exciting events come my way.
It's really hard to be creative in the midst of disaster.
Post fires and floods all I really wanted to do was talk to friends and family, clean my house, pray, and find ways to help my neighbors. Looking forward felt impossible. I found a way to work during this time, but it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. For weeks and weeks I had this horrible fog over my heart and very little available creative energy.
It is possible to go an entire week on 14 hours of sleep and not die.
I didn't sleep on the plane, or when I arrived in Bucharest. I slept two five-hour nights when I was there, but that was it. I didn't sleep on the way back, but instead chatted with a three-year-old for the entire return flight to LA because his poor mom was trying to quiet his one-year-old brother who had an insistent scream. When I arrived home I didn't have jet lag. I just went straight to bed and that was that. I think I had secret sleep angels who watched over me the entire week while I was away.
The Istanbul airport is not for the faint of heart.
A delayed flight meant missing a connection, which meant making new arrangments in other parts of the airport. I probably walked seventeen miles (slight exaggeration) zigzagging through the Istanbul airport in the middle of the night. I pulled a man's hand out of my purse. I got lost three times. A nice fellow named Mert came to my aid around mile fifteen. I finally holed up in a private lounge (best 30 Euro decision ever) and drank tea while I read for many long hours.
Talking about kids books makes me happy.
You know, sometimes when you do things for a long time you forget why you started doing that thing in the first place. I love kids. I love talking to kids in airplanes for 14 hours. I love writing books for kids. It's good to be reminded.
Lesson Number Five
Romanians, who live in Romania, are brave.
The people of that country have been through the ringer. From being a soveriegn kingdom, to being communist, to moving toward democracy, Romania has quite the political past... The people are warm hearted, welcoming, and gentle, but I also noticed that they are distrustful, and avoid being the one to say or do something different. So many countrymen have fled for a variety of reasons. The struggle of staying, and trying to put a country back together, is real... The Romanians who remain are brave to the core.
Published: April 11, 2018 | Filed under: Far