This is a reprint from an article from an interview I did for Child Art Magazine a magazine for young readers.
Growing up in Shawnee, Kansas, I spent much time outside playing. I loved being surrounded by nature, spending time in the forest, where I searched for snails or frogs. My mother worked at a camp over the summer, and I spent summers with her there. The happiest memories I have from that time are of being in nature every day. Immersion in nature drew my curiosity and inspired my creativity.
When I was in third grade, we moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, where the library was a mile away, and my parents let me walk there by myself. I spent a lot of time in the library. I could check out only six books a week, so I would read them all and bring them back the following week for another set. Here's a picture of me at the Kansas City Zoo after winning a color contest.
Even before I could read, I was fascinated by Roger Hanes' illustrations of C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. I marveled at how beautiful the pictures were. My mother, a music teacher, and my dad, a journalist in college, fostered my creativity. These were the sparks that ignited my ambition to be a writer. They also kindled my interest in pursuing other creative outlets. My dad would read and edit my stories. My grandmother would take me to Kansas City museums, ballets, and children's plays. The authors and stories I encountered when young became lifelong creative companions.
Since the arts inspire each other, I wanted to become a writer and an illustrator. Writers and illustrators work together to create a story. I had an English teacher in middle school, Mrs. Steinhauser, who encouraged me to be both. She sent one of my stories about my lost kittens to a magazine. They rejected my story. It was painful, but the thing to remember is not to give up. Perseverance is the key. Find a group of people who will continue to support you in your journey, whether to be a writer, artist or anything.
Perseverance pays off. I did become a children’s book author and a poet. My poetry also carries the stories I gleaned from my parents and grandparents from childhood. I have a poetry book for children coming out next year called “Ring, Shout, Bend!” It, too, holds those small moments of joy:
You like chocolate?
So do I
Let’s hold hands,
we're friends you and I
My first picture book came out this year: Tomie Q. Barbeque, illustrated by Dodge City artist Mary Anne Hendrix. I worked on it with award-winning author Jacqueline Briggs Martin. She and I worked through many drafts together; I was up to draft number twenty by the time the book was complete. My favorite sentence I have ever written is in this book: "When this land was only prairie and buffalo, Tomie was born on a ripe blue day, and he let out a howl as fierce as the sun itself."
My advice to any young author is not to forget that everything you do has significance. Finding your voice is essential. You could start a comic strip for your school, work on a newsletter, or find a tale to tell others. Stories can affect people and stick with them. Art can inspire you, and writing can give you energy. Creativity is fun! So keep reading! My favorite authors and folk tales still inspire me today. Find authors who inspire you.
Polly Alice McCann is a poet, writer, and artist. She obtained her BA in studio art from Messiah University and her MFA in writing from Hamline University. https://pollymccann.com