I first got to know Margaret through our involvement with the Debut Picture Book Study Group. And now I'm thrilled that we're both members of #Epic18, a group of authors and illustrators with debut picture books releasing in 2018. I absolutely love Margaret's book, MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS, illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow, and I can't wait to add a copy to my picture book collection!
Here are Margaret's thoughts on stories . . . creativity . . . and connection.
STORIES – Discuss what inspires your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog, Melissa.
There are many ways that I’ve found inspiration for my stories:
I’m lucky to have kids who still fall into the picture book age range. I’ve been inspired by what they say, watch, fight over, laugh about, eat (or refuse to eat), and do (or refuse to do).
I’ve also felt inspired by other things: interesting news stories, pictures, stories from friends, observations of animals, my own childhood memories, and even random thoughts I have while doing chores.
Since I’m always on the lookout for story ideas, I try to be ready to catch inspiration when it strikes. If my funny bone is tickled, if I’m feeling awed by something, if I’m feeling an emotion that I want to savor, if my curiosity is being piqued—these are all signs to me that a seed of story is floating around.
My debut picture book, MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS, which comes out August 28, was inspired by the Despicable Me movies. These were the first movies to capture my kids’ hearts and attention. They loved the colorful characters, their ridiculously ambitious goals, and their fun tools (fart gun anyone?).
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
I showcase my creative side through:
Word play. I love the subtleties of what words mean, how they can mean two different things at once, how they sound. I also love playing with words: making them up, finding puns that fit my stories, creating alliteration, and writing a fun to read-aloud rhythm. I guess you could call me a word nerd (ha ha).
In the bigger picture, I like to play with my characters and put them in situations that would amuse or fascinate the kid in me.
Outside of writing stories, I show my creative side when I’m playing with my children. When I play “pretend” with my youngest, I try to “yes and” whatever she makes up. That means I go along with whatever she says (it’s much more fun than being the parent who says no all the time). When I do this, her play becomes more and more creative, which is so delightful and fun for me. I also like to draw—I did Inktober for the first time last year.
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
I hope to connect to my readers by creating stories that will resonate with them—ones where they “get” what the character is going through, and maybe even recognize themselves. Also, I hope my stories make them laugh.
I stay connected to the KidLit community through my invaluable critique groups, my local SCBWI chapter, and social media: Facebook (12x12, kidlit411, Debut PB Study Group and my amazing Epic 18 debut group), Twitter, and Instagram.
Margaret Chiu Greanias was inspired by her children’s love of the Despicable Me movies and all things Minion when writing Maximillian Villainous, her debut picture book. She lives with her husband, three children, and a fluffle of dust bunnies in the San Francisco Bay area.
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