June Hedge a gram

Happy June,

This is Jan Brett and this is my June Hedge a gram. I stop everything once a month to tell about what is happening in my professional life as an author/illustrator. The BEA or Book Expo America is a big convention in New York City. The nation's publishers present next year's offerings to bookstores, libraries and book lovers. I was there thanks to my publisher Penguin and I saw bound copies of my fall 2013 book CINDERS, a chicken Cinderella for the first time. It looked classic but very ornamented, with special treatments on the jacket to make it stand out. My name is in a lovely copper foil, the display type for the title is in a raised, lightly textured pale sparkle ombre, the image of Cinders in her pumpkin sleigh pulled by Swedish Blue ducks is highlighted by a varnish which gives the image both depth, and lastly a jewel-like patina is added to Cinderís ornaments. Sheís in a fancy ball gown. The options for the jacket printing are ordered in advance and added during the printing. That means the full effect is only guess at. When I see the finished book it is very dramatic. I signed advance copies of the book which are given out for free at the Expo, and book lovers line up to receive an autographed copy. I'm even beginning to recognize some of the loyal BEA goers that stand in line every year.
At the publisher we spoke about our fall book tour which will last three weeks. Since the chickens are the main characters in this book, we had a great time imagining how fun it would be to have chicken owners across the country bring their feathered friends to the booksignings. However, the book store owners did not share our enthusiasm. My chickens are very docile and personable, but our bus is a very small space to share with chickens, and I would worry they would miss their coop where they have plenty of room to run around and perch at night.
My editor and I had a constructive meeting at the Standard Hotel before a party put on by our publisher, Penguin for authors, illustrators and booksellers. I have been working on my 2014 book, THE ANIMALíS SANTA. I've completed the dummy, but a picture book is 32 pages and although I usually write for that amount of pages, this time I have one scene too many. We discussed which scene would be left out, and we will probably have to go back and rewrite part of the manuscript. I have a completed dummy, which is a smaller size book I sew together out of typing paper so I can visualize how the art will look in sequence, the way one would see a finished book. Not only does that problem have to be solved, but I was not happy about the border design. I have the "window" in the shape of an owl which gives a hint from page one about who the animalís Santa is. In the past, the windows have been in the shapes of eggs, hearts, gingerbread cookies, mittens, and in the case of ON NOAH'S ARK in the shape of various animals. I like the owl windows, but I chose porcupine needlework as the background or to use the computer term, wallpaper. Because it is a native American handicraft that I love and collect I thought it would be perfect, but once painted in it looked drab, not beautiful and nuanced as it is in reality. I love the birch bark I used in THE MITTEN and HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, but I wanted to try something new. I'll spend the next few days trying different solutions perhaps using knitted patterns that have a wonderful texture and are colorful and have a cozy feeling. I might also add some evergreens in the border, since the fragrance of balsam is so much a part of Christmas.
Once the book is finished and I see the beautiful bound copy, I sweep away all the challenges and disappointments I feel when creating the book, and revel in the world of creatures and folk crafts that form my new offering. Some books stall out during the writing, some take a long time for the characters to feel real, and this one may take extra time to iron out a perfect balance of narrative, in the big images and decorative flourishes in the borders. Although it is a Christmas book, I donít want it to look like a Christmas card. It is childrenís literature first and foremost.
Good luck with your creative projects, and join me in doing all that good problem-solving work that will hopefully produce a dynamic an artistic result.

Your friend, Jan