Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Brainstorm! A Place to Retreat

In June, I was lucky enough to attend a writing retreat at the secluded Norbertine Abbey here in New Mexico with a dozen other children’s book creators (writers and illustrators).  I’ve been to this gathering before, so it wasn’t new, yet it always is — new people, new ideas, new forms of expression, new emotions.  These kinds of retreats are good for my spirit.  Those who are in any of the creative arts understand how easy it can be to lose heart and confidence in your work and abilities (and sometimes in the industry).

Coming together with others, learning about their journeys, gives me perspective and fills me in ways nothing else can.  We write and draw.  We talk and walk together, experiencing nature and life in ways different from what’s possible virtually.  I always come away being a little bit, and sometimes a lot, changed.  I come away inspired, humbled, and motivated to keep going and to try something new.

In thinking about the creative process, I am reminded of one of my favorite picture books from 2022 — Brainstorm! by Rebecca Gardyn Levington with illustrator Kate Kronreif.  I love the playful, rollicking language Levington uses to capture the creative process.  The storm metaphor is marvelous and the need to rotate the book this way and that to read some of the text adds to the real experience of brainstorming.  Her perfect rhythm and rhyme is impressive (a challenging feat) and adds to Levington’s brilliant way of turning writing into an adventure.

Brainstorming can be a retreat of it’s own, a retreat into one’s inner self to discover what might be possible, to fan that little spark of genius, perhaps, which often goes into hiding and must be coaxed to the surface.

Levinson’s book isn’t just about writing.  It can apply to art, music, or any situation where the creation of something meaningful, something beautiful, is the goal.  I’ve found this process can lead to something even bigger — the making of a better self.

I did much brainstorming at the retreat — book ideas, of course, but also life ideas.  I am filled with gratitude for this opportunity.

Many thanks to everyone who shared that special space and gave something of themselves that enriched us all.

Here are some other great picture books about creativity:

Hold That Thought! — written by Bree Galbraith, illustrated by Lynn Scurfield (2021)
I Cannot Draw a Horse — written and illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper (2022)
My Pen — written and illustrated by Christopher Myers (2015)
Tell Me a Lion Story — written and illustrated by Kara Kramer (2022)