The following Essay was what came out of my pen when I set off to write a guest post for the local Toy Shop Dilly Dally where my line Draw Me A Lion is available. I thought it would be neat to talk a little bit about why I created one of the items in the shop. The Story Activity Kit. The outcome of the kit is that you end up making your very own mini Picture book/illustrated story that you both write and draw.
JUMP START YOUR IMAGINATION!
-How and why I created the “Story Activity Kit”-
By Lisa Cinar, creator of the Draw Me A Lion Story Activity Kit.
People often think that all children are chock-a-block full of imagination just by way of being … a child. In my experience this is not the case. Sure, children can have a much easier time grasping the boundless freedom that imagination can provide. Once discovered they may develop and grow their imagination faster, (just like children learn ANY new task faster and easier), but they often struggle just like their adult counterparts to get started. Both children and adults often simply need someone to hand them a little key to their secret super power…their imagination!
Both of these kids have grown up with stories. To them it’s no big deal to come up with a whole bunch of different story lines and ideas just off the top of their heads. Sure, they’re probably not perfectly thrilling stories, and the stories might often resemble one another quite a bit, (ie. next comic is ‘Super-Armadillo’) but still they differentiate from one another and will soon get more and more sophisticated as well as removed from the original story they were derived from to begin with. For example, all of a sudden the comic will be called ‘Armadillo and Frog’, which is now it’s very own story and nothing in it immediately reminds back to the origins of the childs inspiration for making comics in the first place, mainly Super Man.
Long story short, I think that a lot of times we rely on children to be creative individuals just because they are children. But children are not necessarily creative by nature. They have to be surrounded by creativity in order to grow to be creative themselves. Creativity needs to be encouraged whenever an opportunity presents itself.
I have written and illustrated two children’s picture books and I teach illustration and writing for children’s books. I teach adults, not children. But I have also taught workshops with young kids and visited many elementary schools on my booktour that was sponsored by the BC Bookprizes a few years ago.
A year ago I started teaching a companion class to my introduction to illustration for picture books class that I teach at Emily Carr. This second class focuses more on the writing aspect of creating a picture story book. The end result being that students complete an entire ‘Dummy Book’ (ie. sample book of a story they have both written and illustrated) ready to submit to a publisher.
Here’s what I did. I would print out a funny image from the internet. Something that has potential to be part of a story, for example a dog sitting in the drivers seat of a car with sunglasses and a hat on. Then I would ask my students questions like: Who do you think this is? Where do you think they’re going? What city do they live in, etc…
From just a few of these ‘prompting questions’ presented along side the image the most diverse stories were spun by my students. And most of all, they loved it! All of a sudden writing was fun and easy! And once it’s fun the gates are open. If you use prompts as often as you need to get started, soon the idea that writing can be intimidating is lost. Instead you will learn to associate writing with fun and play.
The end results of the kit are always great! Sometimes you can definitely relate the story back to the poster print, but sometimes the kid has veered into a completely different direction. For example I remember a story a boy came up with about a guy swimming through a shark invested water and then encountering a stop sign in the middle of the ocean. There is no trace left of the starting of the story to the poster print. The activity book and prompting questions were merely a jumping board for him to dive off into his imagination and create this fantastic story of his own. All these kids and adults needed was a little push. A key that helped them open up that little hidden door inside themselves and fire up their imagination! After that anything is possible!