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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mind Your Muse

By Adjoa J. Burrowes

As much as I love writing and illustrating children's books, I've found a new love—presenting art and writing workshops to children and adults. With young children, watching them cut and paste colored papers to illustrate their Haikus or encouraging adults to put on paper what's being mulling about in their heads, energizes me. As I get older I realize more and more, that one of my life purposes it to help people realize their creative goals, no matter how small.

I recently had a pivotal experience in Memphis, TN while conducting a writing workshop at the National Civil Rights Museum that clarified for me why I do workshops in the first place. In one class I had three generations of women participate. I talked about using family history as a catalyst for story writing. We talked and shared memories and laughs. I read from my book Grandma's Purple Flowers which draws on memories I had of my grandmother when I was a child.

One girl about 13 years old, fondly shared a memory she had of her grandfather, who recently passed away. She giggled and talked about how much she looked forward to visits with him, especially when they barbequed in the backyard. She recalled how what she hoped would be a private afternoon with the two of them, would inevitably end up as a community event. As neighbors would catch the scent of succulent grilled meats, more people found their way to their backyard. Before she knew it, the yard would be filled with people and she would eventually get angry, frustrated and cry.

Perfect! I said to her. That's the stuff stories are made of. A little bit of conflict, a little bit of tension and a whole lot of love. She carefully drafted a story that afternoon with her mom and grandmother. Her baby sister looked over her shoulder. She promised me she'd follow through with her story after I was gone. She gave me a big hug after that session and held the story close to her heart. I hold that memory in mine.

Adjoa is a printmaker, mixed media artist and children's book author and illustrator. She has illustrated 17 books for children including Grandma's Purple Flowers which she wrote and illustrated, and conducts art and writing workshops for children and adults across the U.S.

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