Happy December!

     This is Jan Brett with my monthly report on my book progress. I write and illustrate a children's book every year, and I chronicle the process monthly, thinking it might be interesting for people that are working on their own creative projects.
     Since I started HOME FOR CHRISTMAS last January I'm coming into the home stretch. It is exhilarating to look at my bulletin board where I hang all my completed paintings, and see a world take shape. And it is a world that evolves some spread and spread. I've always been able to see the Arctic Swedish setting and my troll characters in my minds eye, but once I'm familiar with them, it's amazing to me how they dictate the way they should look. I don't feel I'm inventing them as much as I am discovering them. The trip to Sweden last spring gave me a lot of ideas about the setting. It's that magical atmosphere of a rarefied place that I want to capture in the paintings. The mountains up there, have very recognizable shapes, and especially one called Skerfe in the Rapa Valley. It is known as the sacred mountain of the Lapps, and ancient legends tell that the Lapp people sacrificed to the gods there. I've always been fascinated by the idea that human beings with a similar brain capacity to ours have lived on earth for 30 to 40,000 years. When I wrote and illustrated THE FIRST DOG (1989), I was inspired by an exhibit about early man at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Many artifacts were displayed that had a soulful, sacred quality - animals carved from stone or bone. It makes you wonder about little pockets of mankind that may have built on themselves and become insular and strange to other humans. Just looking at hidden cultures today that have custom so different from ours makes one ponder. In many cultures, children, traditionally boy children, complete a solitary journey before becoming a man. Rollo's walkabout in HOME FOR CHRISTMAS seems very natural to me. Many of my favorite books when I was a young girl or about a young person being tested by a harsh world, often with an animal guide. One book was JULIE OF THE WOLVES by Jean Craighead George and another MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN also by Jean Craighead George. I also am enamored of HATCHET by Gary Paulsen.
     I love to read as a child and still do, but my picture books evolve from the visual part of my expression, and my words aren't as natural. I think everyone has different paths for their creative energy, and it's like a psychic eruption when the story takes hold and presents itself. We'll it to ourselves to be on the lookout for stories that want a breakthrough, they may come in the form of dance, music, painting, or who knows? We just must be on the lookout for them.
     As I finish tallying up sequences of paintings that will make my book, I'm astonished at how it can be so hard and so easy at the same time. I would love to encourage or stories to take shape - it's illuminating!
     Happy reading, drawing, and creating,

                                                        Jan Brett