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Sophia Marie

June 29, 2007


Sometimes I wonder why it is I am so driven to do what I do.

I decided I wanted to write and draw stories for children my senior year in high school. My art teacher, Tom Wetzl, gave me a one-on-one assignment of my choosing for my portfolio. I chose to re-imagine and re-illustrate Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Re-reading the book had me hooked in ways it had never done before. I saw a deeper working to the words and pictures and tried to find allegories in it that I could relate to. Almost the way we try to associate to the meanings of lyrics in our favorite songs. I ended up re-reading all of my childhood favorites, House at Pooh Corner, The Lorax, Where the Wild Things Are, etc, and KNEW this is what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Anyways, I finished art school, worked for Dungeons & Dragons and bunch of other fantasy projects that were rich and rewarding to me. And all the while, I tried to sell my children’s book ideas to publishers.

Finally I was successful at doing it, and a logjam of ideas and concepts for stories (some that had been in my head since I was very young – especially one about a certain fantastical field guide) began to flow out of me. Every day, I feel like there is never enough time to tell all the stories and create all the books I want to in my life. But I never really asked myself why I HAD to do this.

There were so many directions I could have taken my art – right after receiving my degree, I tried submitting caricature and editorial work to all major magazines. I did fine arty modernism paintings in college and hung around a lot of local art galleries curious as to how one made a living as a painter. I even came pretty close to becoming a puppet builder for Jim Henson’s company. But somehow, I really only wanted to do books for kids. Why?

I suppose because I felt that if I had something to say, I wanted to say it to the younger generation and the families that surrounded them. I kept my childlike wellspring free of the clogs of cynicism and the muck of reality – no matter what Angela and I were experiencing in the world around us. I felt that was my job, my duty, to tell children to keep imagining, keep dreaming, and keep going on adventures of fun.

My idea wellspring is still very full and very unclogged. But last month, my daughter Sophia was born, and something got in my waters of inspiration that had not been there before – something that made me even more excited about doing what is that I do.

I can’t quite put my finger on it at the moment, I am still basking in the amazement and joy of this event, but I think that all the time and energy I have put into entertaining and inspiring other kids (and kids at heart) has come back in the form of a baby of my own so that I can relive and recharge my childhood as Ang and I experience the world again through her eyes. What a grand adventure this will be.

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Never Abandon Imagination Tony DiTerlizzi: Never abandon imagination.

Imagination is a world of possibility that exists within each of us. It is what makes us uniquely human. It is our creative fingerprint that touches and influences the world around us. Imagination is essential to art and science; to innovation and prosperity. It gives us hope, calls us to action and leads to change.

Whether it’s fairies, dragons, robots or aliens, all of my children’s book characters are siblings born of my imagination – an imagination strengthened through years of encouragement from family, teachers and friends. While so many others abandoned it during their transition from childhood to adulthood, I fiercely held onto mine, hoping for a day when I could share it to inspire the next generation of dreamers. Innovators. World changers.

Imagination empowers us to envision and create a reality of what could be. We must hold it dear, foster it and never abandon it.