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The Roundabout Blog

Red Markers for Everyone!

Almost sixty years ago, a boy named Harold arrived on the scene with a purple crayon and his imagination. Harold’s introduced several generations on several continents to the wonders of creativity. Last year Aaron Becker published his first children’s book, a wordless adventure featuring a little girl and a red marker. Journey is an amazing work! It was honored as a 2014 Caldecott Honor Book. Aaron’s is an amazing story, too, with a ten-year wait to be published. (Learn more on his website: www.storybreathing.com.)

An unmistakable homage to Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon, Becker’s Journey follows a girl through a door of her own conjuring to a world as colorful as any setting on Avatar’s planet Pandora. Travelling by boat, balloon, and magic carpet, she is joined in the creative fun by a boy with a purple marker. Is he an older Harold? Is he the boyish illustrator, imagining himself into the story? She is you. He is me. They be us! We are them!

As we share in The Compass, Redbrush’s publishing guide, your instrument might be a brush, a roller, or a quill; a soapbox or a baseball bat. Your creativity is your gift to share. Maybe your project is a children’s book. I firmly believe that everyone has at least one children’s story simmering away inside, just waiting to be released. It might be something completely different from anything you’ve done before. That’s okay. Diversity is its own reward!

Chances are, you’re reading this because you have already given yourself permission to take crayon to a blank page or a red marker to the wall. Good for you! If you need a little coaxing to get started, consider this your nudge. Start with some blank sheets of paper. Jot down a storyline. Sketch out some action. Let it be rough. Less is more. Think about the characters’ journey or adventure. What are they doing? Where are they going? What is point A? Where is point B? How do they get from one to the other? Help’s available if you need it with the editing and illustrations.

There’s no harm in trying. Whatever your story is, let it grow. Whoever your characters are, let them breathe. Give yourself permission to try. Tell your story to a friend, your child, a neighbor’s child, a coworker’s child. This is called “testing the market.” You’ll find out pretty quickly if the story works; what words are age-appropriate; what vocabulary goes right over their little noggins; what delights and what puts them to sleep.

Maybe you’ll never need a copy of your book. Maybe you’ll only want one. Maybe you’ll need 100. Depending on your goals and your ability to share your story—and its ability to reward you back—you might need thousands. Give it a go.

When in doubt, get out your purple crayon or red marker. There’s a world of possibilities waiting to be released.