Viviane Elbee is a children's author creating fun books for fond memories.
When not writing, Viviane explores all kinds of adventures with her family, both at home in the Carolinas and abroad. Her debut picture book, TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI, came out in November 2018. Her work has also appeared in Highlights High Five magazine.
A lot of my creative process involves searching for ideas. I read a lot of books and make notes about the kinds of ideas and stories that appeal to me. I pay attention if the kids say or do something that's funny or interesting - for example, if they are making their stuffed animals ski! When I'm out and about, I'll observe my surroundings to see if there are any story ideas. When I have an idea I write it down - usually in my phone. Then I will think about this idea for weeks or months. An idea is usually something simple, like, a giraffe on skis. But that idea isn't a story yet. To become a story, it'll need a beginning, middle and end, a plot, some humor and heart. At one point I will sit down and start writing. Sometimes when I write that first draft, I look at it and decide that the story is not there yet. In that case, I set it aside, and think about it some more - trying to find another story out of that same idea. This actually happened with the Teach Your Giraffe to Ski story. The first story attempts did not work at all, so I had to keep trying different story ideas that could include a skiing giraffe. Other times, when I write the first draft, I think this story has potential. If a story has potential, I'll start the revision process. I make book dummies (a 32 page booklet) and imagine what goes on each page to see if the book has any problems. After some revision, I'll show my drafts to critique partners. They are very helpful in pointing out story problems and writing problems. Then I'll revise some more. Most of my stories go through multiple rounds of revision with my critique partners.
I strongly encourage parents and others who are trying to raise readers to start a daily reading habit when their children are very young. I started reading "bedtime stories" to my children before they were one year old. I would get short board books, which only have a few words, and rhyming song & poetry books for children. The bedtime story time was short (and the books were short), but it established reading together as a fun bonding moment that the kids could look forward to daily. As the kids got older, I picked out a variety of picture books and early readers to read with them. I have continued to read to the kids even though they both know how to read now. Our story time varies between 5 minutes to 30 minutes depending on how hectic the day is, but we try not to skip it. I also let the kids pick out their own books at the library. Yes, this results in them picking out books that I would NEVER pick out. But it has helped both of them become readers. Usually at bedtime story time, I pick books that everyone can agree on - the kids know that if they've picked out books I dislike that they'll have to read those on their own. I also used the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with them. I think this book has a great approach to reading based on phonics, and it makes it easy. If the kids got antsy while doing the book exercises, I would bring stuffed animal students into the mix.
I love to go outside and walk / hike or do some other exercise when I feel I need inspiration. Nature, fresh air and exercise are really good for your brain.
I love testing out story ideas with my family, especially the kids. They can have a very different response than my critique partners, who are all professional writers / illustrators. If the idea is kid-approved, then I'll also share it with my critique partners - as professionals they are quick to point out which ideas are marketable for this industry.