Happy January and Happy New Year 2008!

     This is my January Hedge a gram, which is what I call this collection of monthly personal thoughts.  I focus on the ups and downs of creating a children's picture book and I like to give some insights on what it's like to have illustration be one's job.
     First, some New Year's wishes.  Most of us say "Happy New Year."  Maybe one of things that will make 2008 happy for you, is to create a project, a work of art.  Start with a plan, assemble you materials, and go for it.  Right now, I am finishing up on GINGERBREAD FRIENDS and I am starting to think about my new book.  I always start with the plot, because that is the hardest part for me, and most people.   The basic plot is, the Easter Bunny asks all the rabbits in the rabbit warren to make an egg and he will choose the very best one to celebrate Easter.  In many of my books, I choose a place to set my story, a real country, but for this book it will be a fantasy land where the rabbits speak, wear clothes and live in underground houses.  As I work on the plot, or what takes place in the story I think I might add a bad guy, which will be the natural predator of rabbits, the fox.  I haven't thought of a name for my main character.  So for the next month or so, I'll try different ones.  I'll rule out the names I would usually hear in a classroom, like Ryan, or Brandon, and I'll choose one that is a typical animal's name like Fluffy or Pepper.
     You will need to do a little work to get to this point, since the plot or turning point of the story is important.  Ask yourself, am I fascinated and emotionally charged with my idea?  For me, the story of the bunny with hidden talents came from a meeting with a total stranger many years ago.  A mom came to my booksigning, asking to have a picture book signed for her son.  When I asked how old her boy was, she said sixteen.  She said he had not learned to read yet, but he loved stories and if a book had detailed illustrations and complex ideas shown in the drawings he didn't feel left out.  She was very emotional suddenly , and without any words I could see how much this mom yearned to have her boy share the wonders of books.  I thought to myself, what an amazing boy she must be the mother of, to make her care so much.  Right then I decided to create a character that offered talents and qualities to the world that weren't conventional to the surprise of all around him.  I would like to dedicate my book to this mom and son, but our short meeting was so intense I never exchanged names and addresses.
     When you write your story, maybe there will be an incident that happened to you that will be a guiding light.
     One of the more exciting prospects of writing this rabbit book will be learning about all the different kinds of rabbits.   I'll start by going to the Internet and ordering some illustrated books.   Then, the next stop, rabbit shows!  Maybe I will even find a pet rabbit of my own!
       # 1, Choose a subject you want to learn about.
       # 2, Write it down.
       # 3, Think up a plot.
       # 4,  Create your own book in 2008!

      Bye for now,

                      Your friend,
                            Jan Brett