This year's SCBWI, Tomie dePaola competition, has a beautiful prompt that spoke to me immediately.
... cast yourself, as a child, in a picture book. Show your autobiographical character in a scene and make sure to convey the emotion of your character. The viewer should be able to read the emotion of the character immediately and clearly.
After I read that, the timeline of my life flashed back to 1981, directly to "my moment."
My mother and father divorced in 1978(ish). My brother was six and I was four. Our mom didn't have much money, she ran her own flower shop in Lindenwold, NJ. She did the best she could with the money she had. She has always been a creative influence, and taught us to respect others and never give up on our dreams.
The setting was a concrete parking area, behind my mother's flower shop. It was our play area while she worked. In the piece, I was dreaming of flying. I was convinced if I had the right positioning and strong enough gust, I would lift off the ground. Of course, I didn't want to leave my mother and brother, but I was curious of exploring the sky. I would have been sure to be home by dinner.
Recently, a friend asked why I didn't take flight in the piece. In situations I am not too sure about, I tend to play it safe. I hold myself back. In a sense, I come back to the safety of my mother, and wait until the time is right. My mother has always said I do everything late, but when I finally decide to move on something, I do it with determination and all of my heart. I am getting into children's literature a little late in the game, but I'm following my dream and I'm not letting go.
Whether you take the time to enter the Tomie dePaola competition or not, I think it's an idea worth exploring for all of us. It was such a meaningful process for me, and who knows, it may be for you too.