3 Question Interview: AMY MURRELL
I'm so happy to feature my writing friend, the multi-published author Amy R. Murrell, on the blog today! Amy finds inspiration everywhere - drawing from her family history, gardening, music, movement, and more. She shares her ideas about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection below. Welcome, Amy!
STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
I'm grateful to share my process on your blog, Melissa. Thank you for the opportunity. I aspire to write stories that help children see themselves in diverse ways and to know that all their experiences are worthy. I, for example, told my second grade teacher I wanted to be a child psychologist and a professional cheerleader. I often use myself and children in my life as muses. I find inspiration in lots of ways, though. Sometimes I use formal writing challenges. Other times, I get ideas from song lyrics or television plots. And others seem to just appear.
I have several works-in-progress with very different inspirations and writing processes. One is a story about intergenerational customs around Jewish food. It is written as a series of short poems that each stand alone but move a plot forward. It was inspired by two things: a recent webinar and finding a collection of poems written by my grandmother. The process includes reading a lot of recipes and poems as well as re-taking a course on rhyme. Another WIP is a less emotional story about words that sound the same but have completely differently meanings. The process for it is more linguistic study and fine-tuning ways to leave space for the illustrator. Finally, my most recent published work was based on fulfilling a contract in which I was given a specific task. I knew I had to teach children to follow through with actions that they valued. I needed to brush up on my developmental humor as well as learn about gardening, which was the valued action I chose to write about. I guess the thread that runs through all of these is that I am always researching. I also consistently do my best to include a good mix of heart and humor.
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
I showcase my creativity in my writing by channeling my inner child. I almost always map out general ideas for illustrations even thought I know they will look horrible and I know they may not look at all like what the illustrator chooses to do, just to help me think in more than one way. I sometimes write songs (both music and lyrics that are separate from my actual manuscript words) to set a tone for my story too. Those kinds of things just help my very non-linear brain get more in a groove. With respect to other pursuits, I cook a lot – and I have a lot of food allergies and sensitivities – so I have to be creative. I also like to watch and listen to nature and look for bright and subtle sounds, textures, and palettes to get inspiration for my garden or my own movement exercises. I think I incorporate creativity in every therapy session I conduct and in every class I teach, or at least I hope I do. I think I showcase creativity in the way I can see goodness in every person and situation – sounds cheesy, but I also believe it to be true.
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
I had my first school visits in person right as the pandemic hit. I was having fun gathering props and organizing book-related activities. In addition, I went to the local library and to a couple of local community trade fairs to do book readings. I transitioned that work to a few virtual events with book and other give away prizes like bookmarks and stickers. I mailed goodies to the kids who won. It has been fun, but I miss seeing the joy on kids’ faces in person.
As far as the KidLit community is concerned, I have been really fortunate to have good critique partners and be a part of several critique groups from the beginning of my kidlit writing journey. I communicate with them through social media and by phone on a regular basis. I have participated in multiple conferences and workshops both in person and online. As examples, I feel like my attendance at SCBWI meetings and Highlights Foundations workshops helps me stay connected with up-to-date knowledge and writing tools as well as meet people who are great role models. I feel blessed to have been able to participate in ReFoReMo, Making Picture Book Magic, and other challenge groups that have ongoing social media components that allow me to connect with the community. I also frequently check in on the Facebook page of KidLit 411 and Twitter pages of authors whose work I admire. I think that one good thing about the world being so online these days is that we can take advantage of opportunities to communicate with people with whom we may not otherwise have a chance!
Amy R. Murrell is the author of The Becca Epps Series about Bending Your Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors (published by Shawnee Scientific Press), which includes six picture books designed to help children with acceptance, mindfulness, and behavioral modification. The series includes: I See Me: More than One Tree (2017), Becca Epps Learns to BE (2018), Hugging the Hard Stuff (2019), Bird on the Brain (2020), What Matters Most (2021) and Becca Builds a Garden (2021). In addition to this six-book series, Amy has co-authored an acceptance and mindfulness self-help book for parents (The Joy of Parenting; New Harbinger, 2009) and approximately 50 other manuscripts – comprised of a combination of empirical and theoretical articles, magazine interviews and articles, chapters, newsletters, and treatment protocols.
Amy is an active member of SCBWI and several picture book challenges such as 12 X 12 and Story Storm. She is a licensed clinical psychologist in Texas and in Tennessee. For fifteen years, she was a full-time professor but left academia in 2020 to have more time to write. Her favorite pastime is to have funny conversations with her African Grey parrot. He is a great source of writing material!
CONNECT WITH AMY:
Becca's Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BendingThoughtsFeelingsandBehaviors
Professional (Psychology and Writing) Instagram: https://www.Instagram.com/docamymurrell