Sunday, August 5, 2018

Eliza Wheeler Keynote


Eliza Wheeler
Eliza Wheeler is the extraordinary author-illustrator of Miss Maple's Seeds, which debuted as a New York Times best seller list. She's illustrated many picture books, including Wherever You Go by Pat Zietlow Miller (an SCBWI member who just hit the NYT list this week!)

And she's illustrated several novels, including the Newbery Honor-winning Doll Bones by Holly Bolack, The Left-Hnaded Fate by Kate Milford, and the Cody series by Tricia Springstubb.

A SCBWI suc cess story, she won the National Grand Prize for best portfolio in 2011, and was a Sendak Fellowship recipient in 2017.

Here are some of her very beautiful books.






Eliza's keynote took us on a journey through her process, through the human brain, through JRR Tolkien's creation of a language and the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series, which took 18 years to be published in three volumes when Tolkien was 63 years old.

Eliza identified 7 stages of creativity (with 1/2 stages for checking in)

  • Dig
  • Inspire 
  • Collage
  • Runner
  • Ignite
  • Refine
  • Assess

She deliberately breaks her work into phases to keep productive and happy. It's vital that she not try for perfection in initial stages, she said.

A lot of her process involves deep focus on her brain and its state. Your mood affects your work.

  • In an anxious mode you're less likely to take a chance on creativity. 
  • In a positive mood, dopamine floods into the brain and makes you do two things. 
  • When it comes to getting great ideas, the farther and more freely your thoughts can roam, the better.
She shared with us how we can best prime our brains—and it's a delightful surprise. Pick a familiar chore and do it in a state of enjoyment. So, for example: 


  • do the dishes
  • take a walk
  • take a shower
  • nap

Eliza recommends we keep a notebook or phone within reach so we can document flashes of inspiration wherever you are. This ignite phase often comes in short bursts. Don't try to push it.

And if you're feeling frustrated with how your work is going, remind yourself that the marks you make aren't you. The marks are a map to where you need to go next, and they will guide you to the better marks. (And you can always go take a nap and come back to them later.)

She talked about some of the feelings we can get, and what they mean, including:

Anxiety: You're judging yourself
Boredom:  you haven't spent enough time saturating yourself in your ideas
Stress: you're trying to consider too many pieces at once
Fried: you've pushed it too far. Go refresh yourself and come back later.

Learn more about Eliza Wheeler
Eliza Wheeler on Facebook

From Wherever You Go by Pat Zietlow Miller and Eliza Wheeler

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