If Creativity were contagious, every struggling author and artist would want to hang around with Anna Caroline Grant. To this bright, articulate, life-loving ten-year-old, creating seems as natural a thing as breathing… or dancing, in her case. Her recent works include such novelties as the legend of why the willow tree weeps, and the chronicles of a traveling bouncy ball. I’ve had the pleasure of proofing quite a few of her illustrated stories, and my reaction is always the same: “How does she come up with these amazing ideas?!” followed by, “Why can’t I think up ideas like these?!” The answer is simple: because Anna Caroline is one of a kind, and her stories and pictures reflect that to a tee.
Anna hails from the USA, but lives in Spain along with two parents, four siblings and one dog. I was lucky enough to pin down this little sprite in the midst of her busy, creative daily life and ask her a few questions about her creative process. Read the interview below & prepare to be inspired!
Q: When did you first start writing & illustrating? A:“I knew I was going to create children’s books since I was 4.” Of course, back in those days, Anna’s stories were much simpler — a description of a flower or a fairy. But Anna explains that her stories have grown along with her. “I’ve been writing stuff like that until now, when I’m writing stuff I feel like I’m going to publish.” And with her winning attitude mixed with dedication to her craft, getting published is only a matter of time for Anna. So next, I wanted to know…
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: “That is a very good question!” Anna exclaims, stopping to consider. It seems her sources are myriad. But one stands out from the crowd. “So the key to this is reading other books.”Anna gives an example of recently reading E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web and getting an idea to write about an unlikely animal friendship. “Not a pig and a spider, because that would be copying.” The key is mixing bits of inspiration together to form something new, Anna explains, like cooking up a story stew. “I put that idea with an idea from another book, and it makes a new story that’s a bunch of other stories mixed together.”
Funny thing is, I recall a very similar description of story-making from another, much older author by the name of J.R.R. Tolkien. Looks like Anna’s in good company!
Besides books she’s reading for fun, Anna also gets ideas from her language classes at school. She explains how studying parts of speech gives her the tools she needs to write descriptively. And then it’s down to practice. Sounds like a lot of work goes into these wild and wonderful stories, so I’m wondering…
Q: What’s the best part of writing and illustrating? A:That answer comes easy: “Illustrations!” I recently attended an interview with some of Britain’s most celebrated author/illustrators included Oliver Jeffers, and I was curious to hear how Anna would answer this question that they all seemed to struggle with…
Q: What come first, the story or the picture? A:“I always think of an image in my head first,” Anna answers without a moment’s hesitation. “For example, I read a fairy book and think of a fairy that can’t fly.” For Anna, all it takes is one image like that flightless fairy to give birth to a whole story. She makes it sound so straight-forward, so easy! So I have to ask…
Q: What’s the hardest part? A:(Having been pulling my hair out over my latest book this week, I’m bowled over by her answer) “It’s mostly easy… but if I had to pick a hard part, it’s when I can’t think of the next story to write.” But Anna is a classic glass-half-full person, so even those stuck-in-the-mud moments can’t keep her down for long. “In those tough times… you just write descriptively,” she says confidently, as if it’s a given that stories come out of writing what you see just like apples come from apple blossoms. And why not? It’s clearly working for Anna, though I still suspect she has some secret super-power when it comes to Creativity. So I ask her to spill the beans…
Q: What advice can you give to kids or grownups who want to be writers but don’t know where to start?
A: Anna’s top tips are GOLDEN NUGGETS: *(DO NOT MISS THESE!)
- Do the first thing that comes into your mind. If you don’t like it, you can just do something else.
- Keep practicing and keep reading
- Look back at old stuff you’ve read or written. Sometimes you just need to put the pieces together.
- Anna’s #1 piece of advice:
The secret to drawing and writing is to try to have fun doing it. Not just thinking ‘this is important. I have to do this perfectly.’ Don’t take it too seriously so it’s ‘Think, Think, Think.’ Think about it for a moment and then write it! Just do it!
My suspicions prove true. The pixie dust that gives Anna’s Creativity flight is special to her, but it’s also something we can all take away from her approach to creating stories and art. It’s supposed to be FUN!
And that’s what inspires me so much about Anna Caroline Grant. She works hard, but her stories flow out of a joyful, life-loving spirit. After all, what’s the point of writing if you don’t love doing it? Take it from this 10-year-old, and watch this space! You’ll be seeing her name at your local bookshop ‘ere long! But for now, here’s an exclusive sneak peak at Anna’s new venture: illustrated poetry!
“A Child’s Dream of Nature”
by Anna Caroline Grant