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Back to the Drawing Board with special guest Matt Phelan (and a cool book giveaway!)

© Matt Phelan

Dear Teachers, Parents, Kids, Homeschoolers, Writers, Artists, Librarians, Readers, Curious Souls, and others, 

Our book, Spilling Ink, is coming out this week and we want to celebrate it. Imagine hundreds of brightly colored virtual balloons rising into the air, each one containing a special insight about creativity. That is what we hope to achieve with our Creativity Blog. Each month, a new guest blogger will share his or her thoughts about the creative process here on this page. We have an exciting lineup of amazing children’s book writers, so stay tuned! 

We’re thrilled to have Matt Phelan inaugurate the Creativity Blog. When we were writing Spilling Ink, we often chatted about what the illustrations should look like. “They should be full of warmth, life and fun,” we decided. “But they should have depth, sensitivity, and soul, too. ” It was up to our editor, Nan Mercado, to find the perfect artist. When we downloaded Matt’s first sketches for Spilling Ink, we were bowled over. Matt beautifully captured the spirit of our book in his drawings of young writers. They were everything we wanted and more.

Please make sure to read the very bottom of this post for a chance to win a copy of Spilling Ink in our giveaway. Enjoy, and thanks so much for stopping by! 

Anne and Ellen

Matt Phelan is the illustrator of Spilling Ink and many books for young readers, including, The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal. In 2010 Matt's graphic novel, The Storm in the Barn, was honored with the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction.  


I actually have a Drawing Board. It's big and old and it's where I both draw and write. I draw and write other places, too (the kitchen table, coffee shops, the zoo, waiting rooms) but the drawing board is where the real creativity tends to happen. And when I am being creativesketching, doodling, jotting notes or refining a final illustration – I feel absolutely exhilarated. I love creativity in any form, big or small, professional or for the sheer fun of it (that's often the best kind).

© Matt PhelanAnd yet... I seem to spend a lot of time NOT being creative. Procrastination is a strange enemy.  The worst thing about it is that when I'm procrastinating, I am fully aware that what I really want to do is be creative. That if I just went back to the drawing board I would eventually once again be swept up in that peculiar exhilaration that comes from making something up.

What to do? One solution is to look at what other creative people are doing. Whether you are an illustrator or not, you can't help but be inspired by reading the amazing illustrator profiles that Julie Danielson puts together at the stellar Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog. Honestly, this never ever fails to make me want to grab a pencil as soon as I finish reading. I also get a creativity buzz from browsing through Etsy or one of the many DIY culture magazines around like MAKE and ReadyMade. It all inspires me. 

Is it envy? A little, maybe. But mostly I think it’s the recognition that these creators have tapped into that peculiar exhilaration, that place of sheer fun that is the heart of creativity. I want to experience that again, too.

And so I go back to the Drawing Board. I always do.

Here is the trailer for Matt's graphic novel The Storm in the Barn.

Thank you, Matt Phelan! To celebrate the publication of Spilling Ink, we are giving away five signed copies! For a chance to win, leave us a comment under this post, with the word “Celebrate” at the end. Please be sure to fill out your email address  (only we can see it) so we can contact you if you are a winner. Winners will be randomly chosen. You have until Sunday, April 11, 2010 to enter this giveaway. One entry per person please. Good luck!

Reader Comments (65)

Thank you for sharing your book and this website with the world! We hope to see you here soon, in Abilene, Texas, at the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature (NCCIL), so we can help you CELEBRATE!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl A. Foster

Really intriguing--I look forward to reading it.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkathleen duey

I would love to read this book. Helping my students learn the how and learn the love of writing has been one of my goals this year. We have been writing a lot, reading to each other, "publishing" our work, and it is soon time to look at our progress this year and CELEBRATE!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJamie Forrest

I've already ordered a copy for my library! Now I want one for myself!!! CELEBRATE!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Trumble

Celebrate sellabrate CELEBRATE CeLeBrAtE cElEbRaTe celebrate etarbelec....anyway it is written, it is GOOD!
Spilling Ink- CELEBRATE

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKarla Duff

A great blog. I can hardly wait to show my students the Storm in the Barn book trailer. I'm looking forward to reading your book. Celebrate!

April 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDornel Cerro

Celebrate, indeed! This is just what my 7th graders need!

April 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatie Dixon

Congradulations!!! It is great that you could write a book for the young... They need more people like you for roll models....Pat, Interlaken Librarian

I have so many burgeoning writers in my 5th grade class. I know that with this book, we'd all have even more reason to celebrate.

April 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Can't wait to read your new book and share it with my students. The weather is changing, testing is almost over, and a new book on writing - you know I want to CELEBRATE!!!

April 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill Colaw

I am a pastor and my wife is a teacher. Anyway to enable children to read, think, imagine, and use their creativity is a blessing to us all. If our children are our future, we need to invest in them. Thanks.

April 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChuck Link

It must be destiny! I just finished Slob by Ellen Potter and The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan! Coincidence...I think not! LOVED the two books. They have been on my TBR list for quite a while. Now there is a totally hip book that would teach my sixth graders sooooo much! I can't wait to read this book and use it to make my students' writing even better. Time to celebrate!

April 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDA Tyo

I am really excited to read this book. The teacher resources you've posted here are fabulous. Currently, I work with 5th graders but am looking to move into a middle school Language Arts position next year and already plan to use the "I Dare You" and "5 Ways" PDFs in my writing program. Thanks, creativity is definitely something we should celebrate!!

April 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCrista Anderson

Congratulations on the new book Spillling Ink! The Abbey Hayes books are a favorite of my 7-year-old daughter loves reading, writing and drawing too. She received the first 4 at Christmas and 19 and 20 in her Easter basket today. She was surprised to find out there were more than 10 in the series. Now we've got to find them all! She reads at a 5th grade or better level and can read a book like Abbey Hayes in an hour or less! So as you can imagine keeping her in books to read becomes a challenge. We take 8-10 books out of our library each week. Reading about Matt Phelan was very interesting. We will be checking out his books as well as Ellen Potters. Will be checking back here again to read more! Thanks for all the great reading for young kids!

April 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShari

As a teacher of young writers, I am, indeed, interested in reading this book. And if it's all that I anticipate, I'm going to just have to stop and CELEBRATE!

April 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaulen Swope

This book looks so great. Even if I don't win a copy I am going to order it for my library--I know several young writers who will totally love it. And anytime Matt Phelan illustrates a book is a time for me to celebrate!

April 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJana

What a great "book talk" this is - I can't wait to share it with my 6th graders. They will surely celebrate!

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJanine

Congrats guys!!!! Wow. I have been looking forward to spilling ink for a really long time. Almost like waiting for a birthday, or a trip, or summer vacation, or hanukwanzamas. Since it came out, I think it is definitely time to celebrate this great occasion. here I go celebrating: celebrate celebrate celebrate celebrate celebrate celebrate celebrate celebrate celebrate celebrate celebrate celebrate celebrate celebrate CELEBRATE

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAdina

This much inspiration in one place is a GREAT reason to CELEBRATE!

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary Blow

It's always nice to see something you've worked so hard on between two covers! *gets out his party hat and prepares to CELEBRATE!*

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRandall Drew

I want to read it and quote it when I go into classrooms! (Stephen King's On Writing is good, but really appropriate for fourth graders!

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLee Welles

We're ending this school year with a strong focus on writing and winning this book would give me something to read over the summer and celebrate!!

April 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichele Stansley

If you pick me, my oldest daughter and I will do a happy dance and CELEBRATE!

April 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Renegar

Would love a new released copy of "Spilling Ink" to share with students! The book is g8-celeb8!

April 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKarla Duff

Lovely post on creativity. I've been looking forward to this book for months. My eldest child is a really keen writer and will get a lot out of it, but it's been very exciting in recent weeks to see how my middle son has been rediscovering the joy of storymaking under the influence of his Doctor Who obsession. He can happily spend hours creating his own "episodes", and until recently rather sweetly believed that the novelisations came first, with the TV episodes then hurriedly scripted and filmed... So I have to close my comment with the words of the electronic Dalek in his birthday card: "Celebrations are authorised. Celebrate! CELEBRATE!"

April 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFlossieT

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