The CLiF Year of the Book grant is a huge deal for schools that are selected. It’s a massive infusion of funds, support, and events designed to help a school build a culture of literacy over the academic year. And, of course, they get lots of books! Students (grades preK-6) each get to take home 10 new, high-quality books that they choose for themselves from a diverse selection.

The grant starts with the kickoff event, which is really a pep rally for books, reading, and writing. This is an extremely important event because it sets the tone for the entire year. We rely on the incredible authors, illustrators, and storytellers from the CLiF presenter pool to bring energy and enthusiasm, and get kids super excited for what’s to come.

Marty Kelley, a longtime CLiF presenter and author/illustrator who lives in New Hampshire, visited a number of CLiF Year of the Book schools this fall to deliver his signature blend of humor, ease, and insight into how an author/illustrator works. In his presentation, Marty talked a lot about the creative process, delivering a powerful message that appeals to kids and adults of all ages. 

Here’s some tips from Marty on how to cultivate your own creative superpowers:

  1. Take time to play
  2. Ask yourself “What if?….” when writing & creating
  3. Fail
  4. Ask yourself “How can I make this better?”
  5. Be curious!

Marty emphasizes that the creative process is supposed to be fun–hence taking time to play! For example, he likes to weld funky rock and metal sculptures and these, in turn, inspire new characters to draw and write about. He’s also a refined portrait artist, an aspiring rockstar drummer and a backyard pizza oven builder, and these activities help him diversify his craft. He reminds students to follow their curiosity, keep at it, and know that all writers and artists go through many, many iterations and setbacks before landing on the finished product.

Marty also asked students about their favorite art materials and got a lot of answers, including digital tools. Students are always interested in knowing what apps Marty uses when creating his digital artwork. In case you’re curious, Marty’s favorite materials to use are a pencil and paper. He likes to sketch and doodle quickly, asking himself silly questions like “What if…a kid astronaut crash landed in the woods and prompted a bear wearing underpants to come explore the wreckage?”

Jon Sessions, principal at Putney Central School, offered this feedback on Marty’s visit for his school’s Year of the Book kickoff: 

“At one point during his presentation, Marty talked about how he forms a story. He talked about starting with a girl, and then took us down his creative path involving nachos, a space station, etc. After his presentation, a 3rd grader wrote and illustrated that book! It was incredible–she turned his concept of the girl and nachos into a fully formed and engaging story.

“It hit me–that’s the point! The chance to show kids what writing and creativity can look like in real life really launches a love in that direction. Thank you for bringing Marty to us. It was a great way to start the Year of the Book!”

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