July Hedge a gram

Happy July!

     This is my July Hedge a gram, the time I take every month to talk about what is going on in my life as an author -  illustrator of children's books.  I am getting very involved in the creation of my new book, GINGERBREAD CHRISTMAS.  Every month I write down my thoughts as a children's book author and illustrator, and since I create one book every year, I am usually well into the process by July.
     Today my editor called with some great news.  In my story, the Gingerbread Baby, who has been a character in two previous books, again leads the villagers of the little Swiss town he lives, on a merry chase.  His final hiding place is in a huge Christmas tree in the town square.  I envisioned the tree illustrated to be a fold-out and that would be a happy surprise at the end of the book.  I want it to be as large as possible so the Gingerbread Baby, trying his hardest to be quiet and perfectly still, could be hidden among the hundreds of ornaments.  The good news is that the production department and printer have agreed to the concept.  As the illustrator, it's my job to create a world in the book and it's often a challenge to remember that there are certain guidelines I have to adhere to.  Usually a children's picture book is 32 pages.  It has to be a multiple of four because of the way the paper of the book is folded and cut.  The four page sections are called signatures.  They are actually sewn together, and then glued into the spine.  Lastly a hard cover is glued on with decorative paper, called end papers keeping it all together.  If a story is a little bit too short for 32 pages, additional pages can be taken up by the front material, such as a half-title page and a dedication page along with the copyright page which is necessary and a title page.  I usually need more room than 32 pages and that is why we edit the story until it is only the essential words.  My editor is very good at looking over the story and illustrations and trouble shooting, but in the beginning I like to have some time to work the book out myself.  The ideal is to have a little time between painting to go for a run and turn over the images in my mind, looking for the best way to express my thoughts.
     It's curious that the Gingerbread stories are about baking, a process that is very common but downright mysterious when it happens.  If you take the ingredients in a Gingerbread cookie, one at a time, and ate a mouthful, it wouldn't be a happy experience.  A bit of raw egg, or a bite of flour would be unappetizing, but the ingredients mixed together and cooked are delicious.  Heat is energy and I like to think I'm cooking up a story that is more that the sum of its parts.  I once read that the human being is a pattern seeking creature and I agree.  I also think our minds learn from and enjoy information in the form of a story.  It's an unusual occupation to spend days and months shaping a story that comes clear by its illustrations and words.  For me it makes waking up in the morning an exciting time as I piece my book together.
    Happy reading, writing and creating.

                           Jan Brett