THE CREATIVE PROCESS
Welcome to the RuthAmanda 100% Organic, perpetually colourful, tasteful in the most small-animal-friendly way, Observation Post! Here we will discuss the RuthAmanda creative process, provide amusing anecdotes, observe some garden, beach and wilderness friends, and allow some of those friends to provide insights and observations of their own.
I currently live in Barbados with my delightful husband, Dave, my imagination, and several geckos. Geckos are wonderful things to have around the house. They provide hours of amusement for us and help keep the nasty bugs (annoying ants, pesky flies, irritating mosquitoes, bustling beetles and suspicious spiders) from taking over the world. I enjoy watching them, recording them and photographing them. This sometimes leads to me being found in some rather odd positions by some of the neighbours.
For context, we live in a villa in a little subdivision with lovely gardens, a community pool, pathways and neighbours of all descriptions. The day before I wrote Geckos in the Garden, I was lying on my belly in the grass under a hedge in the gardens near our villa. I was attempting to take some cool photos of a gecko I had spotted between the leaves so I had moved carefully, crawling slowly on my belly.
As I was worming my way under the shrubs, a young family with two small boys was approaching. I didn’t notice them until two small feet plonked down near my head, and a small boy asked, “Whatcha doing?”
I whispered, “Looking for geckos…”and pointed at the rather brave gecko who had not (as geckos normally do) run away as fast as his legs could carry him at the sight of this intruder. The little boy flopped down, in an un-stealthy way. The gecko still didn’t move. The boy’s brother plopped down on the other side of me.
I pointed out the gecko and then spotted another one, which I pointed out.
Questions streamed from the boys. “What’s he doing?” “Do geckos bite?” “Why doesn’t he move?”
I tried to answer these questions while still getting a good photograph. I also was quite surprised the gecko hadn’t moved and wondered if it had, in fact, died of fright.
Ah, no! With a flick of its tail, it was gone. The second gecko was instantly not there also. Poof! A magician would have been proud.
As I stood up, brushing grass and leaves off my shirt, I answered as many questions as I could. Realizing the parents were looking at me rather oddly, I introduced myself with a sheepish look and let them know I write children’s books. Looking unconvinced, they gathered their offspring and headed for the pool.
I laughed quietly.
Philistines. No appreciation for fine literature.
The next morning, while enjoying my breakfast in the sunshine on the patio, I spotted a gecko hiding nearby. Into my head popped the words that will forever more be enshrined in the pages of Geckos in the Garden:
In the morning, after breakfast,
In the garden, in the sun,
I can see my little neighbour--
It’s a tiny gecko. ONE!
I grabbed the notebook and pencil that are usually nearby. I wrote it down. Then I spotted some movement and saw two more geckos. Before my eyes, the whole story unfolded on the page. Organically. I scribbled furiously. I crafted. I smiled. I added some more. It kept coming. I styled, I shaped, and the geckos ran amok. They were everywhere. Now there were six. Then seven! Ten geckos, TEN!
I set the notebook aside and finished up my breakfast.
Later in the morning, I took the notebook again and scratched some bits out and added some bits in. When I was happy with it, I typed it into an email and sent it to my husband David thinking it would make him smile. Dave did indeed smile. Dave requested more. Dave wanted pictures. Dave's a simple soul.
With some encouragement from Dave, I started sketching what I thought the pictures would look like. I put pencil to paper, and added ink. Then the colours. And then, the images began to flow from my pen and palette on to the paper. The geckos were alive. They were dancing. They were playing with my brush and chasing each other over the pages. It was all I could do to contain them.
Dave said: "Wow!" and then: "More!"
So from the seed planted under the shrubs with two little boys, there grew a story, that blossomed with pictures, and ripened into Geckos in the Garden. Home grown with love.
That first story has now sent runners and roots out to begin other works - several more books in a similar vein are coming, including garden and ocean colouring books, and more. From that small seed several months ago has grown a veritable jungle of colour, happiness and sunshine.
I owe much credit to both my husband Dave, and my good friend, Sandra. The two of them have supported me and encouraged me through this whole journey of getting it from my head and into print! They too are certified 100% organic! (And, I might add, very, very patient). (Dave interjects: patient? OMG. You won't believe how the tendrils of Ruth's imagination totally infiltrate your brain until you have no idea which day of the week it is, and whether you remembered to get the cat out of the washing machine before you added the spaghetti and meatballs. Oh no. Did I really add spaghetti instead of a soap cube again? Where are my reading glasses?)
I also owe much credit to granddaughter Jessa, aged three, who acted as my Focus Group and enthusiastically hunted for geckos in the pictures. Her demands of “AGAIN!” let me know I was on the right track with this one.
The folks at Friesen Press have also been magnificent, with helpful guidance, clear insights and excellent production experience. My writing/creation group, organized by Hollis Gross-Citron at I Am Creative (www.iamcreativephilly.com), have also been very supportive and I am very grateful for their support, encouragement, and friendship.
THE ORGANIC WAY
Was artificial intelligence used in the making of this? Only in that I’m not really as intelligent as I like to think I am! Real pencils, pens and brushes were used in the making, only transferring the finished product to computer once complete. So I think I can label this 100% Organic with some authenticity. And just a little pride.
In these days where video games and social media posts are taking the place of books in our lives, I am hoping to inspire the imaginations of our children. I hope they read my books and want to go outside and hunt for bugs and things in the garden as my sons used to do. I hope they have adventures. I hope they name all the little animals that share our world with their own names, and give them characters that make them laugh, become intrigued, get excited and just generally have fun.
I have deliberately stayed away from controversial topics since the point of all this is a love of life and a joy in the natural world, and there's too little of that today. These books are safe for everyone and designed to be that way. If I have made any child happy--made them smile, made them want to google what a gecko eats or why they sometimes lose their tails, or create a painting with creatures found in their local park or garden--then I have succeeded.
Most of all, I hope you all enjoy reading them!