Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pre-Retreat Interview with Wendy Wahman

The brilliant Wendy!
One feature of this year’s fall retreat, Inspiration and Motivation for Creatives, will be the option to take part in two sessions with local author/illustrator Wendy Wahman. Our region’s creativity coordinator, Joni Sensel, asked Wendy a few questions about those sessions so you can get a sense of how exciting they’ll be.

Joni: How did you come up with your Insight Books process

Wendy: I learned how to make the books from my friend Arni Adler, who learned them from Darwin Nordin. One change I made was adding collage. It’s a simple concept, these little books, but each one blossoms into something entirely unique. And I have enough lesson plans for these babies for a 6-week course.

Joni: It sounds like a launch point for a lot! Maybe we can do more with them sometime soon. What’s your favorite thing about the process?

Wendy: They surprise me. It’s hard to take yourself unawares after decades of doing art, isn’t it? Though, wait. I’m lying. I surprise myself daily. But these little books begin with surprise. You take the random lines you’ve drawn and tie them together. Or maybe you untie them? You definitely untie something in yourself – and they’re way cheaper than therapy.

Joni: Ha ha, I actually think there may be a lot of inadvertent therapy happening at this retreat. We’ll see! Do you have other favorite things you turn to when you need inspiration or feel discouraged?

Wendy: Besides crying and snivelling? I take a walk, weed, pick up poo in the backyard. Yoga or meditation. Call someone. Look through books. All kinds of books, not just kid's or art books. The thesaurus is a dear friend.

But generally, I don’t struggle with motivation. I’ve always been a workhorse. I just get to work. Although, I do get very anxious and fearful. Exercise and meditation helps that enormously. (Say, it would be really cool to offer a group guided meditation at the retreat for anyone who wants to do it.)

Joni: I’ve been toying with that idea, actually. Our schedule’s packed with choices already but it’s designed for small groups following their heart and instincts, so we’ll see what folks are interested in and maybe we can fit it in.

Another of those choices is your two-part session for creating a picture-book dummy, of course. What’s your favorite part of that process?

Wendy: Oh, well, talk about surprise! Surprise, surprise, we just *think* we know the story that’s our little darling! Even if you do the art yourself, you can't see it all in your mind. We’re short-selling our darling by not letting her stretch out full length in her very own dummy, bon bons and all. 

Dummies are a great tool for unearthing “The 3 Ps” — pictures, page turns, and pacing. When you create a dummy, you see where pictures can tell the story, so automatically you see where you can trim words and even scenes. A picture’s worth a thousand words. Use the art to your story’s advantage. You see the flow of the story – where the pacing is off, the climax comes too soon, too much up front or behind. You find your page turns. Then you find better places for a page turn. It’s fun.

Joni: We can’t wait! In the meantime, what’s your next book coming out?

Wendy: I’m very excited about Pony in the City, which releases Sept. 12. The launch party (please come! Bring your pony!) is at 3:00 p.m. on Sept. 17 at University Bookstore in Seattle. There’s a book trailer! And right now I’m working on the color and cover art for Nanny Paws, which is coming out in the spring.  After that, I’ll be working on sequels for both.

Joni: Thanks for the, er, insights, Wendy! 

We’re looking forward to more at our Inspiration and Motivation for Creatives: Weekend on the Water retreat, which will take place Oct. 13-15 at an exciting new venue we've been eyeballing for years. Registration will open soon; watch your email and this space for details!

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