Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When Words Fail, Make Puppets

I'm at a blank! 

I know my plot, my scenes, 
my characters and their backstories to the nth generation.
I have tidy rows of index cards in Scrivener
spelling me all the way to the end.

I know what NEEDS to happen next
but I just can't picture WHERE it happens.

On a ship? In a shack?
(Sounds like something from Green Eggs and Ham)
Outside? Moonlight? Storm clouds? Hammocks? Dock? Bridge?

This is no end of frustrating!

I recently read this advice from author Molly Blaisell
about writing novels. 
One of the gems she writes is to Stop Rushing Yourself.
So I'm playing with the kids. 

A fruit box puppet theater is a good way to try different settings for the novel...right?

While a fruit box has a perfect open shape 
for marionette-style puppets, 
my kids wanted stick puppets.  

So I cut a hole big enough for four pairs of hands 
plus puppets.

Sugar Snack helped me paint. 
He's in love with "orangey."


A bamboo garden stake made an easy curtain rod.
The bunk bed ladder niched over two chairs became the base.

I scribbled with my carved bamboo pen
and India ink for the backdrops.
A chateau to start.

And a throne room for all of the kings and queens and fairies.

I sketched a few royal personages and let the kids color.
I think they're inspired by all the makeup I wear.
Especially the lipstick.

Pip and Winnie made necessary extras:
fairy godmother, more princesses, knights, horses and a dragon.
We cut out our people and glued them to foam core board
(with glitter glue, no less).

Once our people dried, I cut them out with kitchen shears
and skewered them with extra long toothpicks.
(Nice, safe toddler play!)

Happy discovery: puppets from family photos!
Same principle: I cut out our people, glued them to foam core,
cut them out with kitchen scissors
and stuck them with toothpicks.

Birdy and her cousins go for a ride...

Sugar Snack wanted to see his puppets better, 
so we inverted a shallow box 
and poked holes in it with a screwdriver.
Now we can do dioramas. 

Has the writing blank gone away? 

Uh... blank what? 
Did you say something about writing? 
I'm off playing with puppets.  


How do you deal with your writing blanks?

A picture book that rises above the competition:
Have you seen Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet?
This book tells "The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade."
The story is fascinating; the art is a beautiful combination of painting and collage.

You can even print your own puppets and activities from the book here.  Fun, and free!

And speaking of Melissa Sweet, she'll be presenting at the SCBWI Western Washington conference, April 21-22. 
Are you coming? 
If you're a writer or illustrator in the Northwest and want to hone your craft, 
and get connected with writers, illustrators, agents and editors, I highly recommend it! 
Check it out here.

2012 Conference banner
2012 Conference faculty

Another clever treasure from Melissa Sweet:
Carmine, A Little More Red 
Did you see Bonnie Becker's name up there? She's the author of one of our favorite picture books, A Visitor For Bear. I am so excited to hear Bonnie Becker's thoughts on writing!
So, there you have it.
The next time you're at a writing blank, try puppets!


Vijaya said...

Perfect! The castle and diorama and little people are great. You can even have them act out your story and see in which direction the kids take them. Fun for all.

Yes, when words fail, I do something else as well -- walk, play the piano, play with the kids/pets. I even wash dishes and fold clothes. And cook. I find that the blankness almost always goes away when I'm away from my desk/computer.

M. Bloom said...

FABULOUS!! Thanks for the great (and inspiring) post...


MollyMom103 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MollyMom103 said...

Love the puppets. Love your creative spirit. Wish I had another chance to hear Bonnie. Maybe some day. I am going to think about setting today and give you my best tips on the blog.

Candy Lynn Fite said...

Wow, you're so crafty, Faith! Hi, I'm Candy, following from over at Molly's world! I look forward to getting to know you better. It's great to connect with other artsy peeps.

I blog, too, so feel free to stop on by The Trail to Publication.

Faith Pray said...

Vijaya, thanks for the advice. I think I will try to be more active in the proactive part. Folding clothes - maybe it will turn into something magical.

M. Bloom, Thank you!

Faith Pray said...

Molly, I am so grateful for the setting post! Thank you! Wahoo. I am at work on the collageS! Excellent ideas.

Candy, thanks for stopping by!

barefoot mama said...

Oh how fun! You are such a creative mama!!

Dawn Simon said...

You are amazing, and your kids will have such wonderful memories of creative time with you and each other! :)

Yes, I saw Molly's post as well. It was excellent. I was struggling with part of my story today. I think I have to just keep trying again and again, whine a bit, and go back to taking swings at it. I finally hit my groove after several false starts. Puppets would have been more fun... ;) Seriously, though, I think creativity inspires more creativity.

And oh! I'll get to see you again at this year's conference! Yay!

Kjersten said...

So fun! I wanna play!


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