Review: The Dot (AKA Step One on the Path to Creativity)

Creativity is an intangible thing. It can’t be held in your hand or bought with money. Each of us knows (or is!) someone who claims, “I’m not creative.” Yet I would argue that creativity is accessible to all of us. Maybe we just need a little help getting there.

Part One: The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Art class is ending and Vashti’s page is blank–she’s convinced she can’t draw. Her wise teacher suggests she “make a mark and see where it takes [her].” Vashti jabs angrily at the paper–just once–and an artist is born. As the story progresses, Vashti experiments with her own creative expression and is given an opportunity to guide another “not creative” person on the path to creativity. Her story is charming, making this book perfect for, well, everyone! Vashti is so likeable, and her artwork so simple, that it’s impossible not to be drawn in. Artsy kids will love it immediately, but the message is accessible to all types, even adults. The first time I read this book, my son hadn’t been born, but I want to share it with him now and talk about how Vashti’s experience can be applied to all kinds of situations in life–from building with Legos to experimenting with different sports as he discovers who he is.

Part Two: Creativity in Life

As Vashti’s learns, creativity starts with one action–any action–and expands with the opportunity made by that choice. “If I can make little dots,” she realizes, “I can make big dots, too.”  From this point, creativity can travel in so many directions. One podcast I’ve been enjoying lately is Sara Zarr’s This Creative Life. She interviews various creative people about their creative process, and I always find it freeing to see how diverse that process can be. That makes space for me to try whatever I want. But what if you need a bit more help? If you’re a writer, you might enjoy Sarah Selecky’s Daily Writing Prompts. These are short writing exercises designed to help spark out of the box ideas.  If you’re not a writer, or if perhaps you’re one of those “not creative” types (said lovingly), Vashti’s journey still might apply to you.

Either way, make a mark and see where it takes you.

Review: Rosie Revere, Engineer

Rosie Revere Engineer CoverRosie Revere, Engineer

Written by: Andrea Beaty

Illustrated By: David Roberts

Harry N. Abrams, 2013, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Creativity, Persistence, STEM

How We Discovered This Book: This book was in the new books bin at our library, and it caught my eye.


Rosie loves to create and invent things. She takes what other people would discard (broken toys, gears, etc.) and makes things. She tries to create solutions for people she knows, but it does not go well. Then her Aunt Rose stops by to give the right kind of encouragement just when Rosie is ready to give up.

What I Liked:

Both of my children are very mechanically-oriented, and they are fascinated with how things work. As I consider their education, I seek opportunities for them to expand their talents through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs and activities. I also believe that girls need just as many opportunities to succeed in these fields as boys. This book showcases a girl who uses her creativity (and her apparent obsession with cheese) to make the world a better place with a few stumbles along the way. Additionally, there is an inference that Aunt Rose was a Rosie the Riveter-type trailblazer during WWII. The author includes a note at the end about this time in history.

What Did My Kids Think?

My kids liked Rosie’s persistence – she kept trying difference things until she figured out what worked. Elizabeth especially liked the silly parts – like when she made helium-inflated pants.


Abrams Books has two whole pages of great activities related to this book. Check them out!

One and A Half Yards of Fleece

This past weekend I experienced a rare and somewhat bewildering burst of inspiration. If this burst had had anything to do with writing, I might feel surer about it, excited to run with it. Because isn’t that where I want to direct my creativity? To my manuscripts in revision and to the new ideas swirling in my head? Instead, here are the outcomes of this inspired rampage:

One fleece sweatshirt.Two fleece hats. One cardboard dinosaur head. One dinosaur tail. One pair very baggy pants with a drawstring. One pair mittens. A host of cloth sandwich bags.

That’s right. I crafted.

All weekend, basically. I sewed and cut and measured and sewed again. I glued and taped. I cursed my inability to plan ahead and started over. It began with my son’s Halloween costume. (Obviously, he’s being a T-Rex). It ended with a headband for myself made with scrap fleece. Oh, and I finally hemmed those pants that were dragging in the mud.

What makes this all so monumental is that I don’t craft. I don’t sew. I don’t—and didn’t—use patterns. Yet somehow I managed to CREATE all these things from scratch.

In two words: LOVED IT.

I don’t really *make* that many things. Things you can hold. Every once in a while I experiment with something in the kitchen. But by now I’ve chosen my easy-to-bake artisan breads, so there’s not that much enjoyment from the experimentation (oh, but the eating…). Writing itself is a drawn out, abstract process. I probably won’t feel complete in the way I do now until a book is published, in my hands, being held in the same way I can hold the mittens I just sewed.

Creating tangible things is such an important process for me, but one I haven’t really embraced for a long time. I used to paint, but my paints and brushes have been in some kind of cryogenic deep freeze since I started writing. I don’t know if I’ll take them out, or just keep on this sewing kick. But the pride I felt at having made something concrete was so overwhelming it made me realize I wasn’t meeting all of my creative needs. I’m predicting that attending to both the abstract and non-abstract sides of my artistic self will better serve my writing, though I’m not precisely sure how to detect or measure that influence.

What have you discovered about different forms of the creative process? Do you experiment with both abstract and tangible forms of creation? What have you made with fabric scraps lately?

(Also, email me if you want those bread recipes. The dino costume you can figure out on your own like I did…)