This article, by Megan Hellwig, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star, opens a new window on December 20, 2020.
When the quarantine closed down the library, my first thoughts were for our young visitors. What would they do without Storytime and an ample supply of picture books? The image of a child isolated at home, missing out on the opportunity to socialize with others their age saddened me. There would be no singing or important conversations about favorite dinosaurs in the library for the foreseeable future.
More selfishly, I missed their enthusiasm for stories. Virtual Storytime allows children to see the librarians performing on camera, but the librarians cannot hear or see the reactions on the other end. Just like a comedian on stage, librarians work with the energy from the crowd. It is always easier to come up with silly voices for each character in a book and dance with a beanbag on your head with the infectious laughter of toddlers filling the room.
We needed a way to fill this gap…thus, Story Sketches was born!
With Story Sketches, youth ages 5 to 18 submit stories up to 500 words (and art if they wish) to the Library. Stories are then turned into narrated videos featured on the PCPL Kids YouTube channel.
I had a blast creating the first two Story Sketches with the help of my awesome coworker Elaina Brabant, who provided narration. Kendra Davey, the Literacy Initiatives Program Manager; Carl Murdock, Library Associate; and Leila Duncan, Student Support Librarian; all helped get the program running in time for the 2020 Summer Learning Program.
More than five months since we launched the program, Story Sketches is going strong! I have the pleasure of working as the illustrator and video editor. I get to draw pretty pictures and put the pictures and sound together to make the video. When we first receive a story, the artists get the first crack at reading it and deciding who the best person for the job is.
If I get to do it my first step is looking through the text carefully to see what actions should get their own picture. Since each story gets around six pictures, I pay special attention to the parts of the story that most need to be illustrated.
The next part is the most fun—sketching! I draw out all of my ideas for each of the pictures as quickly as possible. Once I am happy with them, I add color to liven it up.
While I create, the narrator records the sound. They send me the sound file when they are finished, and I edit out the white noise and add music. Listening to the audio recording also gives me a good idea how long each picture should be on the screen. I use a video editing program to put the images and sound together. It’s really exciting to see the movie coming together!
What makes this process so thrilling is that we never know what type of story we will receive. Each type requires a different style of art and color scheme to bring it to life. I also love that the program encourages children and teens to share their creative writing. We have so many talented young people in our community—all with such diverse perspectives to share. It is an honor to provide a platform for their creativity.
Megan Hellwig has worked at the Library since January 2020. She is currently the Children’s Library Associate at Kirk-Bear Canyon Library. Do you know a young person ages 5 to 18? Megan would love to illustrate their story! Visit library.pima.gov/storysketches, opens a new window to learn more.