Happy April,

     This is Jan Brett and this is my April hedge a gram.   I like to share what I'm doing as an illustrator in hopes young people and aspiring authors and illustrators will get a perspective on what my job is like.
     I've always wanted to be an artist, but it wasn't until I started looking for a job as a children's book illustrator, that I realized I could write a story.  Now, that creating children's books is my job, I find the most satisfying part is to create the whole book.
     It's not easy for me to write a story, and I'm always on the lookout for an idea that will be compelling.  Sometimes I look back on my childhood and something will pop up.  My mom always would say "use your imagination" and then give us lots of inexpensive art supplies.  My sisters and I loved to sit up to our counter with paper and our crayon drawer.  We would use those crayons until they were tiny stubs.  One of our favorite subjects was outer space.  We loved to create our own planets with weird vegetation and life forms.  Now, I'm working on a space book all these years later.  I would encourage you to make up your own planet, it stretches the imagination and it's fun to create your own world.  This month I'm going to visit Wilson Elementary School in Sanford, Florida.  A wonderful teacher, Martha Rydenbark was the winner of last years Hedgie contest on my website.  I am always so impressed with the lively, creative work children do, just naturally.  You can create amazing pictures and stories if you give yourself time.  Last week I visited my next door neighbor's school.  Because my books take so long, I don't usually visit schools, even though I like to.  In the children's classes, I was stunned at the different art styles the children used.  Some had big bold images, and others had delicate details.  I loved them all.
     Sometimes when I'm writing I get stuck.  It's easy to get discouraged.  One way for me to get unstuck, is to go for a run.  First I have to think about the problem I need to solve in my writing.  I don't know if it's all that oxygen going to one's brain, or if it just is giving oneself time to think, but I usually get a new idea out of nowhere when I run.   With all the sitting down and drawing for hours that I do, it's good to exercise.  Right now, I'm training for a long race.  Sometimes I start out in a dull lazy mode, but I'm always exhilarated when I'm done.  Yesterday, after a  few miles, I got a good idea for the space book I'm writing.  It was a big relief!  Maybe this way to solve writing problems will work for you.
     The race I'm running this month is a challenge.  In the story I?m writing, my Hedgie character is challenged too.   I wonder if I see myself like the hedgehog character in my book.  When you write a story, after you've finished, look for similarities between you and your characters.  I'd love to hear if the same thing has happened to you.
     For me, I have different sides of my character, and sometimes when I write or draw they are very different from each other.  My book characters may be very adventurous and I'll feel timid in real life.  But there's always a little bit of me in everything I write and draw.  That's why I love to see children's drawings.  I'm getting a special glimpse of a unique person, fresh and vibrant, it's inspiring!
    Something wonderful just happened at our house.  A new member of our animal family has joined us, a young boy hedgehog.  He's very gentle and very small.  He has been getting used to us by sniffing us and feeling our warm hands.  I hope he'll grow to trust and like us.  We've named him Astro, because my fall 2006 book that I'm working on now will be about a hedgehog astronaut.

     Good luck and happy reading.   Your friend,

                                  Jan Brett