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Living the Creative Life: Brianne Farley’s New Book Drops on March 14

If you’ve ever wondered what living the “creative life” is all about, then check out this fantastic speech by Neil Gaiman, addressing the 2012 graduating class of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Gaiman explains: “Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.”

Gaiman’s point is that, in order to make something remarkable, you need to make some unremarkable things – even glaring mistakes – along the way. That’s because to have good ideas you often need bad ones first. In fact, most prolifically creative people make far more mistakes than others. This is called the creative process. The alternative is called playing it safe.

Here’s the thing about making mistakes – it means you’re doing something. Many people just talk about what they’re going to do. Or, more commonly, they talk about why (no time, no money, no support) they can’t do something.

In most cases, those who we deem “creative” are not innately gifted. They just create again and again. They are makers. They experiment. They are dreamers who do. They have lots of bad ideas. But among those bad ideas are some really great ones. And those – the great ones – are what we all remember.

Today we’re featuring Traverse City resident Brianne Farley on the blog. We’ve gotten to know Brianne a little bit over the past year, bumping into her at social events and through mutual friends, and always appreciate her fresh, funny perspective.

I have no idea whether Brianne has bad ideas, or makes mistakes. But from a distance I have observed that she is ubiquitously-creative – her work, her ideas and point of view are shared throughout town and across social media. Because she has so much great work in the marketplace, I suspect that there is some work in her old sketch pads, discarded canvases and the recesses of her hard drive that she doesn’t consider her best. If that’s the case – well, then that’s her creative superpower.

She’s not afraid, as Neil Gaiman implored, to “break rules” and “leave the world more interesting” for her being here. Put simply, and from the outside looking in, she works hard at living the creative life.


Go Meet Brianne at Her Book Release Party

And her creative reach has expanded far beyond Northern Michigan. Next week, on March 14, her third children’s book will be released by a major New York publisher. Brianne illustrated Charlotte the Scientist is Squished, which was written by Camille Andros. Brianne both wrote and illustrated her first two books, Ike’s Incredible Ink and Secret Tree Fort.

Brianne will be hosting a release party at Horizon Books in downtown Traverse City on March 14 from 4-5 p.m. There will be a read-aloud, drawing demonstration, book signing, and more. Brianne hints on her website that “more” may relate to the fact that March 14 is International Pie Day!

We’ll be there – and can’t wait to check out her work. And join us in buying her new book (available for pre-order now on Amazon) to support the creative work being done by her and others in our community.

We had a chance to catch up with Brianne to get a bit more perspective on her creative process and life.

What inspired you to create picture books in the first place?

As a kid, I loved telling stories and drawing and reading. I especially loved reading books by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake; in fact, I wrote a speech in elementary school about how I wanted to write and illustrate like they did when I grew up. So I guess that worked out.

How did growing up in Traverse City influence (assuming it did) your creativity and work as an adult?

I wrote my last picture book, Secret Tree Fort, while I was living in New York and really missing Michigan. It was very much inspired by many summers spent with my sister in nature without supervision, toys, or goals. That time was a phenomenal workout for our imaginations and, I think, made us into creative adults. I think! I hope!

You wrote and illustrated your first two picture books. What was the experience like working with another author as the illustrator of Charlotte the Scientist is Squished? For example, did you have a harder time envisioning the characters?

Drawing for another author is like solving a riddle with just a few hints. What was Camille imagining when she wrote “Charlotte tried an experiment to make herself disappear. But that didn’t work either”? What did she imagine robot bunnies might look like? I love writing my own stories, but I also loved the challenge of solving the visual puzzles in this world Camille created.

How does it make you feel when you see a kid reading one of your books?

It’s wonderful! I love when kids tell me what’s going to happen next, or point out little details in the pictures. I ESPECIALLY love when I see drawings or stories the kids have made that were inspired by the books. It turns me into a goo puddle.

I’m always curious to hear which picture books authors and illustrators enjoyed growing up – can you share some of yours?

Growing up I loved Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, Dr. Seuss, P.D. Eastman, Maurice Sendak…the classics! Some recent favorites are A Letter for Leo by Sergio Ruzzier, Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis, and Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson. I could spend all day listing favorite picture books so I’ll stop here before things get out of hand.

You moved back to Traverse City from Brooklyn, NY. What drew you back and what are some of your favorite things about living here?

I was working as a graphic designer for Random House in NY and making picture books in my spare time. I always thought I would end up in Traverse City some day. When my sister told me she and her husband were moving back to TC and were expecting a baby, some day was suddenly today! I wanted to be near family and nature, and I hoped that I would be able to afford to make picture books full time in TC. So far, so good!

What’s next on your agenda?

Camille and I have already started work on the next Charlotte the Scientist book, and I’m working on a manuscript for a new picture book that will be set in Detroit. I also teach the Workshop Social art classes out of my studio in Slabtown, and we host various free art events around town. It’s been a great way to get to know my hometown again and all the lovely creative people here.

You can learn more about Brianne on her website, and make sure to follow her on Twitter @briannefarley and Instagram @briannehfarley.