Happy February,

     It's great fun to sit at my art desk and look out on the wintery world of our back yard. There are animals tracks everywhere, and the last few nights with a full moon everything is perfectly visible when I go out to do a late night check on my chickens. I have a12 year old East Indie duck that can no longer oil her feathers, so when she gets out of the little pond I have for them in their enclosure she is soaking wet. I'm afraid she'll get chilled, so I have to carry her into the warm chicken house. She doesn't like this one bit! Luckily her mate and son follow her everywhere so they are all inside together. If you have never seen an East Indie duck, they are very beautiful. The glossy beetle green that you see on a male Mallards' neck is continued throughout its whole body. I also have a pair of Mandarin ducks which many consider the most arrestingly beautiful in the world.
      I would love to do a story someday, set in Japan, about Mandarin Ducks, the Japanese Serow (a kind of woodland antelope/deer) and a Japanese Golden weasel. We saw the weasel last month when we were skiing in Nagano and it was very fluffy and playful in the deep, deep snow. We have some pretty deep snow right now and are expecting 8" tonight. I'm out at night a lot, and I heard a Great Horned Owl calling.
     I feel like I'm in a bit of  a lull between books. I'm writing a Gingerbread story but have still to work out some rather large gaps in the plot. My editor and my husband Joe are very helpful. I'm thinking tomorrow I will eat a pancake breakfast and see if some ideas will spring forth! I usually get ideas when I run but with our high snow levels it's too dangerous, at least until there is a shoulder on the road, I have to drive to an indoor track to get my run in. When I'm outside running I often get ideas , but on the inside track I do not.
     No one ever writes about how hard it is to finish a book and say goodbye to all the characters. Also there are no more opportunities to fix mistakes or make the art better. When I go to New York and deliver the final pages I always say "I could work another 6 months on this book". I don't think that's what they want to hear.
  On a more positive note, Valentine's Day is when I really feel that spring is on its way. The Chickadees change their song, Robins appear and my chickens start laying. The young cockerels that  have been a brotherhood all winter start being scrappy. They are always nice to me, but not so nice to each other. I keep Polish Bantams, Silkies, Phoenix Largefowl and Dutch Bantams. All those breeds have very sweet male birds. I use Valentine's Day to put together the pairs I would like chicks from. Its really an art, and I'm only fair at it. I won't see the results for a year.   My husband Joe and I have been celebrating Valentines Day by taking the ferry to Martha's Vineyard and staying in Vinal Haven so I can run in a road race there. You run by the ocean on the first leg and go by the town of Oaks Bluff where President Obama has vacationed. The course is nice and flat but it is 20 miles which is a long way. Joe has a gym he likes to go to there.   The reward is a fantastic romantic Valentine's dinner, and the next day we go to The Black Dog Cafe which is filled with antique from Martha's Vineyard's maritime past. When I was a girl, my family had a big wooden sailing boat and we cruised the waters around the Vineyard and Buzzards Bay. It is always nostalgic to go back there. I imagine I will have plenty to muse about my Gingerbread story during my race although admittedly, if I am seriously running I am concentrating on my time.
    Kids often ask me what I draw for fun, and this is the time I get to do that. Once my book is formed up I have a hard time stopping to do other things. Right now I'm starting a knitting project, a Fair Isle sweater. The pattern is very colorful but very traditional. The sheep from the Shetland Islands is of a high quality and is famous. My yarn is from the Hebrides Islands, nearby I am also painting a picture for my husband's Christmas present. I always do one of an event from the last year that we want to remember. This year in the picture we are Hedgehogs on our book tour bus and Little Snow our rabbit is leaping out of his box and hopping around the seats on the bus.  He came with me on all of the book signings.  He has become a nice pet although he's a little moody. He can be very endearing and has a new trick, of hopping onto our backs when we lean over his pen, then he walks around on our backs, and then jumps off and gets a piece of dried Papaya. He makes a big fuss about getting his treat and paws and scratches at the treat bag when we offer it after his trick. I am also going to do do a painting of my pullet (young female) Polish named Regent, who won a big prize at a show.
  I hope you all have creative projects going in this creative month of February,

                             Happy Reading, Jan Brett