Happy February!

        I have just come back from Penguin Random House after delivering my almost finished THE SNOWY NAP. The art is mainly painted at the same size as the book trim size, and mounted on thick paper boards. I have a large cork board in my art studio, and this time of year the book is displayed sequentially. I like to be able to look up and make sure there are no visual mistakes, for example a piece of background distorting a face that is featured in the foreground. Also I have to be keenly aware that the fold in the finished book will take away a little visual area in the center of each spread. It is also a good time to make sure color nuances in the backgrounds match. I am always changing the clothes on my characters and the colors or details on the animals, and because I don't always paint the art in sequence I have to remember to check the consistency. The days before the deadline I go over and over the finished spreads to try and find the mistakes and places I need to change. When I get to Penguin Random House in NYC I meet my very talented editor, Susan and very talented art director Marikka. The first part of the meeting is exciting because I see the jacket and title page design that Marikka has done. The display type I had seen before, but she always "polishes" it with little surprises that bring up the visual quality. I have always loved the visual look of type and art together and Marikka is brillant. She knows what is my aesthetic but she adds her own unmistakable artistic mark which I love. I like to have a buoyant, childlike feel to my jackets, as if they are a little welcome mat for a future reader. In 2018 and the advent of so much computer generated art, and clip art and sampling, I love to have a feel of craftsmanship. There is a wonderful designer from Belgium, Axel Vervoot, who designs houses with antiques and pays attention to surfaces that have a patina that catch light in a certain way. As if each object has a story to tell. I admire his work so much, and I look through his large books of his photographed rooms for inspiration. When it comes to the typeface and book jacket, I like it to feel like the reader can sense the intimacy of a crafted assembly. My editor, Susan reserves a conference room and spreads out the art on a large table, 16 spreads plus the jacket art. Above each spread is a mock up with the type in place. My heart is in my throat at this point because I have yet to present a book where I feel everything is just right!   I am really grateful to have two more pairs of eyes to look things over. It is amazing that even the way I look at the art changes, now that it is out of my studio and at the publisher. Being self critical is a double- edged sword, because if I am too exacting I'll get discouraged or loose the spontaneity and momentum of the book. So I am ultra critical of the art in the meeting. This means I often find things this late in the process that I want to correct. This week I will correct any discrepancies and add finishing touches as well as correct a giant mistake where I need to do a page over.
      We also added the word "hibernation" to the text. The plot is that Hedgie the Hedgehog never sees winter at its most beautiful because he hibernates. "Hibernates" is a very long word to put in a picture book, so I used "winter nap" with a little explanation, and put "hibernation" in the flap copy as part of the jacket.  I was unsure about that decision, so I asked my sister Sophie, a grade school teacher and also a speech pathologist. She brought up that it was a word that could easily be sounded out. Then on the book tour I asked (when I had time) all the teachers and librarians what they thought.  I think almost everybody said to use the word and many added that in first grade it was used in their science curriculum. I really appreciated all their advice and we added it as a last minute change. Susan also added a tense change which added a little more a immediacy to the context on another page. I think most people don't realize how much goes into the text. It's great to have an editor that is so well educated in the language. There is also a copy editor who goes through every word. When I was in first grade I was fascinated by hibernation and when went skiing up in Maine I imagined that if I looked really hard, I might spot a little steam escaping through the snow from the den of a black bear sleeping underneath.  When I was little, our family would visit the wonderful Museum of Science in Boston that has a diorama showing cutaway views of furry creatures curled up in their burrows and I learned it was "hibernation" not "hide or nation"   like I thought!
               Happy creating!   Your Friend, Jan Brett