I recently had the great pleasure of producing and directing the above book trailer for Anika Denise, a wonderfully talented and wise children's book author. We had a blast filming her delightful family (and - extra bonus - there was copious amounts of chocolate cake!) Anika wrote about the production experience on her blog here, and I'm thrilled to feature her here today as she answers six questions about creativity and business.
1) Anika, can you tell us a little about the creative work you do? I'm a writer—mainly of children's books, although I also write poetry. Picture books were a first love, and I continue to enjoy reading them, writing them and collecting them. I love the interplay between words and illustrations, the perfectly placed page turn, the wide open wordless spread, the economy of language, the rhythm and pacing. As an art form, picture books are unique to me and endlessly fascinating. I'm not a visual artist, but I think visually—and write that way—so perhaps that's why I'm drawn to the them. I also write early chapter books and middle grade novels.
2) How would you define creativity? Creativity is channeling the gifts within you, outward. It's energy. It's how you enter the world. It can be derived from joy, pain, grief, bliss—whatever, but creativity to me is the essence of an individual, put forth. Something of the person is then recognizable in whatever he or she has created.
Conversely, I think our creations shape us. We understand ourselves a little more. We grow and change through them.
3) What are your daily and weekly habits and practices? I'd love to be able to answer this question with a more assured "this is what I do regularly," but my life doesn't work that way right now. I have three kids, one not yet in pre-school, I'm married to a freelance illustrator whose schedule can be erratic and demanding, so I work when I can, for as much time as I can manage. I have an informal bargain with myself to write at least five days a week (which I routinely break). My writer's life is unbalanced at best, consisting of long stretches of productivity followed by just as long periods of distraction. I think the key is, I understand that this is a temporary situation, that my schedule will normalize as my children grow older, and the time for a more stable writing routine will come. In short, I don't sweat it. I congratulate myself on being able to create among the chaos! If I do anything with regularity it is this: when inspiration strikes, I give over to it entirely and enjoy the process. I get outdoors for a little while every day. I try to get enough sleep. I read. Books are vital. They're the air I breathe.
4) How do you handle the balance between the creative and business ends of things? That's a very timely question. I'm in the midst of launching a new picture book and doing everything I can think of to publicize it. Publishers' marketing budgets are shrinking, which means more of the promotion falls to the author. So, at this particular moment, it feels like the business end is eclipsing the creative side, but again, it's about acceptance. Giving my book a better chance in the marketplace is a worthy endeavor, and although it pulls me away from writing, it's what I have to do. Also, I feel like marketing is creative work and try to view it that way. The book trailer we did, for instance, felt very much like making art to sell art. I love that.
5) Any advice for aspiring children's book authors? Read as much as you can. Keep writing and finish, even if you feel it's not perfect, or needs work. Finish the draft. Join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and go to the conferences and local chapter events. Put yourself out there. Be fearless.
Practice, patience and perseverance rule the day in this business.
6) What's next for you? Next up is a picture book with HarperCollins Children's called, "Monster Trucks!" releasing in 2016. Until now, I've exclusively worked on books with my husband Chris. This will be the first one I do with a different illustrator, so it's a new experience for me. Nate Wragg, a visual development artist for Pixar, has signed on to illustrate. I'm excited to see how he brings it to life. Chris and I have another picture book in the works, and I continue to slowly develop longer works of fiction that I hope to have under contract soon. I just need to follow my own advice: be brave, and finish.
Anika Denise is the author of “Baking Day at Grandma’s,” (Philomel, 2014) “Bella and Stella Come Home,” (Philomel, 2010) and “Pigs Love Potatoes” (Philomel, 2007.) In 2016, HarperCollins Children’s Books will release her forthcoming title, “Monster Trucks!” Her books have been praised by Parents’ Choice Foundation, The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews and the Rhode Island Center for the Book. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Barrington, Rhode Island. For more information about Anika’s books, visit her website.