Exhibit Opens May 1, 2013 at the UAB Mervyn H. Sterne Library
Flannery O'Connor wrote, "Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days." Eudora Welty said, "Place is one of the lesser angels that watch over the racing hand of fiction." With the words of Flannery and Eudora in mind, my focus as a creative writing teacher is to help my students find their voices, discover place as character, and learn how a strong sense of setting breathes both life and voice into their fictional worlds where they are the story-catchers.
So when UAB artist and professor, Doug Baulos, suggested we try to do something together with our students I jumped at the opportunity. Doug came and spoke to my workshop about the business of writing and publishing, and he gave them an incredible lecture on the history of picture books. He also emphasized the great importance of taking themselves seriously as artists and to protect their work when it goes out into the world and how not to get “used” by those who would take advantage of young writers and artists. I spoke to his students about the writing life and finding stories to shape into everything from picture books to novels. I talked to them about maintaining courage and focus in the writing life even amidst a steady flow of rejections and struggles.
In writing picture books, it’s rare that writers ever meet their illustrators, and so to give our students a “New York publishing” experience, I collected my students’ manuscripts and delivered them to Doug’s art students, who illustrated excerpts. We decided the students wouldn’t meet until the end of the semester for the Mervyn H. Sterne Library installation and publication party in early May. It’s been such a professional collaboration, and the students have learned to storyboard, make book dummies, and ultimately release their words into the world to be interpreted by other artists. This is what professional writers do, and Doug and I wanted to give our students a real experience of what to expect when working professionally either as illustrators or writers or both. I cannot imagine teaching this class without continuing to collaborate with Doug’s students, because it’s taken the experience of writing for children to a whole new and professional level with my students.