Happy December!

      Happy Holidays to all of you.   We are expecting our first snowstorm of the year and I'm very excited about it.  I'll be looking out at the snow for this month rather than being in it, because I'm hard at work finishing GINGERBREAD FRIENDS.   This is my December Hedge-a-gram, the time I put down my paintbrush to give all the future illustrators that visit the website and write to me, a glimpse into the book making process.
     About deadlines, I thrive on them.  If there is too much time to think and vacillate the oomph goes out of my pictures.  Once I'm at work, there's an imaginary finishing point that if it had a title would be,  "This is the best that I can do."  All of you working on your own creative projects probably have a similar feeling when your art feels finished.  One of the "helper" ideas I like to pass on to kids is when you are working on a long project, try to take a break when your artwork is going well, then you'll be eager to get back to it.   Children often ask me how I get ideas.  If I'm stuck I think about the problem to be solved very clearly just before going to sleep.  Like tonight I might ask myself, how can I portray the magical cook book in GINGERBREAD FRIENDS as "out of the ordinary"?  This is important because the cookies in the book come alive when Mattie does not wait the eight minutes it takes to bake them.  The recipe says, "Do not peek!"
     In my book, GINGERBREAD FRIENDS, the Gingerbread Baby flies off in a sleigh pulled by his pet rooster.  When I finish the art, I am going to try to teach one of my roosters to pull a little cart.  Anything is possible with mealie worms as a reward!   If I succeed I will certainly have to put Roo on the Internet site for you all to see.
     When I was little, my mom decided to drive from Hingham, Massachusetts to Aspen, Colorado with all three of us kids to visit her sister Jackie.  We brought a loaf of bread, peanut butter and jelly and a carton of milk.  We'd drive until lunch and then find a fun spot to have a picnic.  We had no idea what adventures were in store, and one of the amazing sights we saw involved a very strange animal with a cart.
      Our first stop was at one of the beautiful finger lakes in upper New York state.  If you look on a map, you can see how the lakes look like fingers and thumb on a giant hand.  After our pb and j sandwiches, we talked our mom into letting us explore the crystal clear lake, wading in with pants rolled up.  As we looked down at our bare feet we saw what looked like a huge fake turtle head sticking out from behind the lake stones.  My sister Sophie found a big stick and tried to find out if it was real.  There was an explosion just under the surface as that turtle bit the stick in half, inches from our bare toes!  We made record time splashing back to the picnic tables.  The next day we made it up to Canada, taking the northern route.  It was dense fog and we got lost on a dirt road.  As we neared a crossroads we saw a shape looming and we slowed to ask directions.  As we got closer, we could see it was a giant pig, it was as big as a cow.  It was pulling a cart, and was fitted out in a red leather harness with brass buckles and ornaments.  I may have imagined it, but I remember seeing pointed leather ear covers with tassels on the ends.  The cart was as if from the olden days and the man driving it had a buggy whip that must have told the pig which direction to go in, because it did not have a bridle.  All four of us were so amazed that we drove off and then turned around to make sure we really saw it.   We never saw the pig and cart again, the fog swallowed them up.  That was just the beginning of the adventures we had on our trip to Aspen, and that's probably why I love to go on a road trip to this day.  When I come up with an unlikely idea like a rooster pulling a sleigh I think that it doesn't hold a candle to the giant, ear tasseled pig seen through the fog!
     Here's hoping the magic of lights, evergreens, snow and festivities ignite a creative story for you.  Bye for now, your friend,

                                Jan Brett