Parent/Child Collaborations

I used one of my daughter’s drawings in Good Things I Wish You.  She was asked by her pediatrician, at age 4, to draw a picture of her family.  She refused.  After that, she periodically (and gleefully) mentioned the fact that Dr. Ivy had asked her, and that she’d refused.  About 5 months later, she came home from school one day with a drawing that included 17 people, each of them labeled phonetically, plus a note from her Montessori teacher saying she’d worked on it all week.  The striking thing about it is that all the figures in it are smiling except me.  The teacher said, later, she’d been told it was because I was “lonely,” but what she didn’t know what that my daughter used “lonely” as a synonym for “different.”

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That same night, after my daughter was in bed, I wrote what became Chapter 17 of Good Things I Wish You, one of the shortest patches in the overall quilt that shapes the book.  Even typeset, it’s less than a page. I wonder how many other writers have been inspired by their children’s art (or words) to the extent that they’ve physically incorporated those images/ideas into their own projects.   William Maxwell used his son’s artwork for the cover of So Long, See You Tomorrow, and as I mull this over, I’ll probably think of more examples.

An obvious writing prompt here, but for those of you with young children, take a closer look at what’s hanging on your refrigerator.  Choose one detail–or one section–of one masterpiece and re-imagine it in words.  Just because it is a child’s drawing doesn’t mean you need to work from a child’s point of view.