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...it's Amanda from SouleMama

Friday, 14 March 2008 by Irene Hoofs

I'm very happy to have Amanda Soule as our guest this week...I met Amanda through her blog SouleMama....Amanda lives with her husband and three children in Portland, Maine.  She is the author of the inspiring book: The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections and currently she is working on a new book...

1.) Why did you want to write this book and how do you begin writing one…?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been writing things down. It’s always been the way in which I learn about myself, my past, the future and what’s around me. Blogging became another way for me to do that; and with no pressure or expectation, it became a wonderful writing ‘practice’ for me. Then from the blog came the opportunity to write about something I was deeply passionate about. The Creative Family is about the life I live with my family – the things we do, the things we’ve done in the past, and the things we’d like to do in the future. And it’s about what we gain as a family from those things we do creatively and together.
{The Livingroom}
2. )Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and this very cozy livingroom, no tv, am I right?
No, there’s no TV in our living room. We do have one in a bedroom closet that comes out for movies and such. I prefer to keep it out of our main living space. For me, its presence always feels like an easy answer to the ‘what to do’ question, and before you know it, hours have been lost. I don’t really want to lose hours like that, nor do I want to encourage my children to do so. So it works best for us to keep it out of sight.

Our home is fairly small (cozy, I remind myself when I feel crowded!), and we spend a lot of time in this room, so I’m constantly mixing things up and moving things around to reflect how we live and what we need in the moment. In here are all of the important things to us - lots and lots of books, plenty of toys, and baskets of handwork tucked here and there – for both the children and myself. As well as plenty of squishy chairs and pillows and quilts for snuggling up with.
{Adelaide is playing in the livingroom}
3.) What are your children’s favorite toys and why do you prefer wooden toys?
Without a doubt, the favorite toy has been their play kitchen.(made by Elves & Angels, a Maine company) Hours have been spent cooking and playing there. In addition to that, we have several different kinds of wood blocks that see daily use. Our farmhouse is a big favorite too. Art materials and dress up are equally as important as the ‘toys’. (the farmhouse, made by Ostheimer)

There are many reasons why I prefer wooden toys – environmentally and aesthetically, for sure. But I also love the simplicity, and the way in which they leave room for imagination. Toys and tools that leave room for interpretation really can grow with a child and be used differently at different ages. The same blocks my child used at 2 to discover stacking are the same ones he uses now at 7 to create elaborate castles and labyrinths. I value that immensely. It’s the whole ‘less really is more’ thing.
4.) where is this fabulous playroom located and what decoration ideas or useful tips can you give when decorating a playroom?
This ‘playroom’ is our sun porch, which we use three seasons of the year. We love it out here – the big open windows make it bright and warm. There are built in shelves on either end of the room, which makes a perfect stage (there are lots of performances around here!). In the winter, we bring most of the toys inside and distribute them throughout the house.

Most of our toys are stored in baskets which makes for easy access as well as easy clean up – even the youngest among us can help toss things in a basket. I think it’s important not to have so many toys around that it becomes overwhelming. When it appears that something hasn’t been used in a while, I move it to a new spot, or rotate it out of the play room for a while. Sometimes seeing the same thing with new eyes can really open us up to the different possibilities that it holds, and I find this to be true for little ones as well.
{diningroom and lovely details}
5.)You can clearly see your love for fabrics, can you tell us a little bit more what it is that you like so much about textiles and why you collect them?
As a child in the summers, my grandmother and I went out ‘treasure seeking’ as she called it – at yard sales and antique shops. I was always drawn to the textiles. I think it’s the connection to the past that I love so much, combined with their simple beauty. Made with fewer resources than we have available to us now, and yet they were made to last, and made to be truly used. Beautiful things made for the everyday. I really like that.

Why did you choose this beautiful color blue?
The color is Sweet Rhapsody by Behr, and it’s actually the color of a Tiffany’s box. Not that I have a Tiffany’s box, mind you, but this is what I’m told. So I’m sure there’s some kind of magic to this color blue and there must be some creative inspiration that comes from it, because I see so many studios and craft rooms in this color! It’s a really soothing color, and lovely for photographing against.
{The studio}
6.) Is your studio, or atelier I should say, also the place where you write your books? What will be the next thing you are going to make and is there a specific topic you would like to write a book about as well?
Yes, everything happens in this room – writing and making things. Right now I’m working on some small quilts for a gallery show at Edith & Edna (in Portland, Maine) which opens in April. I’m also working on the photography for my second book.

These two books were written essentially back to back, so I’m looking forward to taking a tiny break, and focusing on a few big family projects that have been waiting for me. And then…we’ll see what happens after that!
7.) How long did it take you to write your book and what were the business aspects of it that you did and didn’t like?
I wrote my first manuscript in six months, but the book took nearly two years to make from the initial contact with a publisher to publication date. The second book took me a little longer to write, but it will have a similar two year concept-to-publication timeline.

Before I wrote The Creative Family, I thought of a book as primarily the work of the author. I had little understanding of all the other pieces and people that go into making a book. I’ve fully enjoyed getting to know, watch and be a part of that process – from the concept and editing, to the design and marketing. I’ve been so lucky to work with the other people involved in this book, and I’m also grateful to call upon them for the aspects of the business that I’m less than knowledgeable/comfortable with – negotiating contracts, marketing and such. I find it a little ironic that one of my favorite parts of writing -  such a solitary activity by nature – is the collaboration with others, but it’s true. I’ve been really blessed by a great team to work with.
{crafttable for the kids}
8.) How important are crafts for you and your children, what would you like them to learn from it or is it just play and relaxation?
“Crafts” in a glue stick and glitter kind of way is just a small aspect of what we do. But creative play in general? It’s very important to us. In the moment, the focus is always on the fun and play of it all, but I do think they are learning so much in the process. I think creative play and exploration is one of the most natural ways of learning – by experimenting; questioning what exists and the way things work; and making new ideas, things and experiences. Whether we become ‘artists’ or not isn’t the goal – it’s about taking these lessons and skills into whatever it is that we are passionate about.
{Dressup gear}
9.)’Dressing up’ is such a fun activity you can do with your kids, are there any tips you can give, like a game you can play or where to find cool stuff for dressing up?
The games they plan when they dress up usually take off on their own. Sometimes it’s about a ‘performance’ and sometimes it’s just about the dressing up (again and again). Almost all of our dress up gear comes from thrift shops, or grandparents attics. Again, like most toys, I think the key is being able to see and access what they have available to them – pegs, racks, hooks, baskets are all really helpful for dressup things. There’s quite a bit in The Creative Family about dress up – tips and activities.
{ByeBye and thank you Amanda}
10.)…and finally what is the magic tip to run such a creative household and being a author of such a successful book?
His name is Steve Soule. Seriously, besides being a wonderful Papa, he’s also my partner in all aspects of the creative work I do – he reads everything I write before anyone else sees it, we look at photographs together. He challenges me to see things differently, and gently pushes me out of my comfort zone when I need it. Most importantly, he reminds me not to take any of it too seriously, and he – along with my three little ones – remind me to play every single day. It’s really all about the play – I guess that’s our magic tip.

..you can order the book here..
..or here..

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