Hi, folks! My name is Michelle. It's good to finally meet you.
I write picture books for children. That means I squish character and place and plot and heart into a neat little 300-600 word package, then revise, and revise, and revise. Then I like to drink a warm beverage before revising one more time. I think most in my industry share a similar ritual. But today, inspired by Andy J. Pizza of Creative Pep Talk fame, I want to talk about one of the things that makes me weird in my industry.
When my daughter was only a few months old, I happened upon The Personal Bill of Rights, written by psychologist Edmund J. Bourne. It’s a mental health resource for adults, which outlines 25 rights that we are all entitled to in our relationships with others. As a parent, I imagined my tiny, not-yet-verbal daughter asserting I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings, or I have the right to expect honesty from others. I realized that all children, from infancy, are entitled to these same rights, and will maintain that entitlement throughout their lives. I wondered if I could raise an emotionally intelligent child, when I still had so much to learn.
Shortly thereafter, I became intentional about writing picture books - a someday goal that I had held for years - and my first step was taking a class from the self-proclaimed "polyfidelitously employed lifeaholic," Melea Seward, called Create Your Own Quest. A component of the course was crafting a “social object,” a physical something which could encourage a dialogue about my creative path and goals. I’m not much for relics and symbolism. I racked my brain, I procrastinated, I quietly naysaid.
Then, I remembered the moment I had with the Personal Bill of Rights, and it hit me. I wanted these messages to be at the center of the stories I would go on to produce for children. I wanted kids to know that they have the right to access their emotions and consider their doubts. I wanted to help them explore concepts like boundaries and privilege and consent.
After scouring the thousands of photos of my daughter’s first year for images to represent each of those rights, I had found my social object and the result was infinitely more powerful for me than I could have imagined. Choosing this path has given my writing focus and form, and sharing these images with others has created connections which get right to the heart of values and voice. Below are the 25 images I created, which inspire me every day as a writer and as a parent. Please scroll through and imagine a world where all children are encouraged and empowered to freely exercise these personal rights.