July Hedge a gram
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.