January Hedge a Gram

Happy January!

     This is Jan Brett, and this is my January hedge a gram, the time I stop my artwork to do a little communication with all of you that are interested in children's book illustration as a profession or like to make books for fun.
     My books go in a yearly cycle, and I finish them at Christmas or thereabouts. I'm on the last page of HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. I'll bring all the artwork to New York City by train and the "team" consisting of Margaret my editor, Cecilia the art director, and Marikka, the designer all trouble shoot. They will look for practical things, like if there are important parts of the image near the gutter, I might have to move it. The gutter is the fold of the book, in the center of the page. Also, if one of the characters looks too old or too young, I can fix it. Another problem that comes up is that the colors of clothing may not match from page to page. After they have had the artwork at the publishers for a couple of days, I will take my paints and brushes and go by train from near Boston where I live to New York City. I spend the day making corrections. We want to avoid sending a year's worth of picture book art back and forth, because we could get very unlucky and have it get lost.
     I've been doing a lot of long distance running, getting some training in for the Boston Marathon in April. I think about my new book MOSSY which is about a turtle while I'm running. I originally had the timeline for the story be about 10 years. Turtles live a pretty long time, like 40 years, but as I was running I thought I'd make mossy's story be told over a period of a year. She is discovered by a biologist when the garden growing on her back is noticed. The biologist brings her to a natural history museum because she is so unusual. But what the biologist doesn't know is that mossy leaves her best friend behind. I will show the friend turtle in the borders. He waits for her for a year, but for him to wait 10 years would be too much of a stretch. So I do work on my story when I'm running.
     I love new beginnings, and I like to think I'm an optimist. Every book I begin I like to pretend is my first book and my last book. Mossy will be interesting, because I'm not going to a foreign country to get ideas, like I did for THE 3 LITTLE DASSIES. Often I use a trip to a foreign country to fuel my excitement for my project. There are new colors to see, and folk art in a new place, and I like to learn about the wildlife and natural phenomena of the area. For mossy though, I'll have to do some field trips in New England to learn about Turtles. So far our turtle pond hasn't attracted any turtles, so I'll do some hikes around ponds where we live in Plymouth County. We have 365 ponds in our county, one for every day of the year. I remember seeing turtles when I was little and spending a lot of time in the woods, but I have only seen snapping turtles in the last 20 years. I do have a massive turtle book which is given me a lot of ideas. It describes a biologist discovering that turtles lure earthworms to the surface by tapping on the ground. The tapping mimics raindrops falling on the ground, and the earthworms crawl up through the soil to get to the water. Turtles like to eat earthworms. They also like fruit and vegetation. I'm going to plant some strawberries around our turtle pond in hopes that the turtles will find our pond is a good place to live.
     Now that it's 2011, I'm going to try and be more creative with my book this year. I like to make New Year's resolutions, and my resolution is going to be to answer e-mails on the day they arrive. I hope 2011 will be a creative and productive year for you.

Happy writing and drawing,

Jan Brett