April Hedge a Gram
This month, I'm hard at work on the "dummy", or simple version of my new
book. I've written the story around a South African tale that my husband and I
heard around the campfire in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Our guides, Ali
and July are extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife, not just being able to
name the six hundred creatures that live in southern Africa, but how they
interact together. One of the most fascinating relationships is of the
Honeyguide bird and the people that live in Africa. The bird eats beeswax, but
its hard to get at it because the bees protect their honeycomb by hiding it deep
in a tree. The bird has learned if it leads a person to the hive, he or she
will very likely break it apart for the honey and the Honeyguide can have some
too. In Ali's version of the story, which is told all over Southern Africa, he
warns that if the person doesn't share the honeycomb, next time the Honeyguide
bird will lead them to a lion! I wanted to illustrate this story because I
could re-live my trip to this beautiful place and even go back to see if I could
find the Honeyguide bird.
Once I got re-telling the story, I knew I did not want to draw some poor
person being chased by a lion. In my reading, I found that one other creature
had the same relationship with the bird, the Honeybadger. I had seen a
Honeybadger in Africa and I thought it would make a good character, especially
since it's low to the ground and roly-poly, and it had an over eager quality to
it that makes it humorous.
As you may know I like to put borders in my books, because I can add visual
information. It's fun for me to preview what's coming next. I'll tell you how
I got the plan for this book's borders. It just popped in unexpectedly.
In this unspoiled part of Africa, there are no telephones of TV. In one of
our lodges, a snake made its home up in the thatched roof, and it was a topic of
conversation because it was a Black Mambo, a very respected snake because it
injects venom into its prey, so it can eat. The guides thought up a good way to
make the snake go away. You can't bring weapons into the game reserves in
Botswana, so they sprayed the area where the snake was hiding with diesel fuel
from one of the land rovers. The snake didn't like the smell and moved on.
It turned out, that everywhere we went after that at the game lodges, the
people already had heard the snake story. Even though the lodges were so far
apart that we had to travel with a small airplane. The explanation was people
had heard it through the "bush telegraph". One person told another, who told
another, who told another, and so forth.
I decided that I wanted a bush telegraph in my book, so that's what I put
in the borders. I think my two trips to Africa will really help my book. When
I look at our photographs, I can hardly believe the beauty and excitement of
being in the Okavango. That feeling is what makes me want to paint every minute
of every day. I hope you all are able to travel to Africa one day and
experience the hospitality of the Africans and see the amazing wildlife. Then
you'll just have to draw it and tell stories about it because Africa makes you
want to do both those things!
Bye for now. Good luck and happy writing and drawing.