Children’s Author Rilla Alexander on Ideas and Inspiration

Creative Mornings puts Portland-based designer, illustrator, and children’s book writer Rilla Alexander on the stage to talk about procrastination and the creative process.

By Larisa Owechko March 19, 2015

Graphic designer, children’s book creator, and Portland resident Rilla Alexander is up early on Friday, March 20 to hold forth on process and procrastination as part of Creative Mornings, a morning lecture series that brings talks to creative communities across the country.

Alexander, who was born in Australia and retains the accent as evidence, will be shedding light on the stop-go energy of her creative process that led to books like Her Idea and The Best Book in the World. Ahead of her talk, she told us about Portland, writer’s block and finding out that you might not be a genius.

From Rilla Alexander's The Best Book in the World


[There was] one particular idea that I procrastinated on for about five years. I did all the pencil drawings and just couldn’t finish it. It got to that point where the project just overwhelms you and you feel hopeless. The biggest problem is always getting from the point where I worked out an idea to the end of actually doing that thing.


Moving to different places has been a massive inspiration for me. I lived in Berlin before moving to Portland about a year ago. It was time for something new, and I love it here. It’s fantastic. It’s also such an amazing change after Berlin to be surrounded by people speaking English again … I speak some German but not enough to really get into long conversations.


From Rilla Alexander's Her Idea

I think if you keep your mind open to everything that’s always going on around you, there is just no end to the ideas. Ideas can come from anywhere. The problem is more how to turn those ideas into something.


I am absolutely obsessed with [author and illustrator] Tove Jansson, who did The Moomins. She’s my ultimate hero. Those stories are completely created from her life, and I also write things about my own experiences. I try to simplify them in that way where you can express complex ideas in simple form.


I think it’s that anxiousness about finding out that you’re not a genius. You think something will be fantastic and then when you start working on it - actually working on it - it’s disappointing because it doesn’t just come out fully formed. 

Hear Alexander hold forth in person on Friday, March 20 at 8.30 am at the The Gerding Theater as part of the Creative Mornings series.

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