In the twilight months of 2014, I wrote a story for the preschoolers in my class: A tale of a penguin, a moon, and traveling far from home. It started from a question: what if Libai's Tang poem "静夜思" had a backstory? Little Penguin was the result. This was my first attempt at writing for a toddler/preschool age.
2014 Little Penguin's Moon Reflection:
Q4 Review: This project, started literally in the last quarter of 2014, came into my mind fully formed after spending a rainy day indoors with the Panda children. We shone flashlights to the ceiling and through kaleidoscope spheres. Blue, pink and white light danced across the walls, as Libai's famous verse was put to music: "床前明月光, 疑是地上霜..."
That night, I sat down at my computer and typed up the story: of a Little Penguin, as cute as could be, who was (through a misunderstanding) taken away from her family. This was my first attempt to write for a young audience (toddler-preschool), my first attempt at writing in verse, and my first attempt at writing bilingually (English and Chinese), and my first attempt at creating a complete visual narrative in addition to the written. Suffice to say:
this project was an important milestone
in my journey to becoming a children's book author and illustrator.
I see this work in the context of my larger vision:
- to create beautiful and provoking works for children and youth
- provide quality (whole person) education for the same age group
- To be doing something/pursuing something that helps me do #1 and #2 better.
Though doing this project, I discovered my "niche" and reconfirmed my love for creating this type of work: the story as well as the art... and found myself motivated to work on the drawing in particular even when I was tired, or sick. (Ch 23, 27). To borrow a phrase from myself:
"this could be it. Working with children, developing art and materials for them. I sink into this creation process because I want it, will it, to be successful. And for me, success means to touch lives. I want every child to be familiar with these stories. To be interested in them. Inspired by them. For these stories to be a window into other literature, other experiences. To help breath curiosity into things. " (ch 27).
One of the best things about teaching at Panda Cub was the opportunity to share this story with the children: telling them story lines I've been working on, showing them my art in progress - and hearing their reaction.
One of the best gifts I was given was when W. came up to me and asked me to read Penguin's moon again, when the children shone their lights upon the ceiling and started calling frost! frost! ... And my mind spins forward too.
Can I make this more? Is this story ready to be published? Is it good enough, or can I do better. These things I am less certain about. I don't want to be carried away by ambition and "sell out". I fear that no one will buy this thing that I am selling, and that selling out won't even be an option.
I leave 2014 both excited and uncertain about this project. I believe the next step forward is to find a mentor. Someone who has gone on this path before and can help me navigate the uncertainties.
While I'm mentor searching... continue drawing penguins?