May 2001 Hedge a Gram

Happy May!

It's May and the book I'm working on (we're calling it Knocketty Knock, It's Christmas Eve) is starting to come alive. I've finished the book "dummy" or cartoon version of the book, and I'm going to go to New York city to talk about it with my editor, Margaret and my art director Cecilia. I've started on the finished drawings too, which is my favorite part of my job. Maybe you've experienced this also, but it's easier to think with a pencil in hand. Slowly as the scene forms on the page its as if you know in your heart how everything should be. That's not to say that I might rearrange things a little. Often Margaret and Cecilia will notice something I didn't think about. Right now, I'm drawing trolls that appear in the starry sky. The Aurora or Northern lights appear as a fiery glow in the sky, and I use that luminescence to form the trolls wild funny hair. I saw the Aurora Borealis in New Hampshire once. The sky flickered with blue, green and red lights. It was unworldly and magical, just like the trolls. In my book, their appearance in the sky will foretell their entrance in my story. I wanted the trolls to look different that the ones in Trouble with Trolls and Christmas Trolls, books I created a few years ago. When I was looking at some very old paintings in Norway last January, I saw people in Medieval costumes. They had ruffs which are fluffy circular collars and pantaloons or bloomers When I saw the painting I knew the trolls should wear costumes like that. Only they would have to be scruffy. I want to create the feeling that they're been living under the mountain for hundreds of years and that they are from a forgotten time.

I have about twenty books from Norway showing costumes, landscapes, houses, wood carvings and weavings. I have my memories of Norway too. Piece by piece I fit them into my story. You should try it! It's much easier creating a setting than figuring out a plot--at least for me. So I'd advise this, think of a simple plot - beginning, middle and end. Then, think of a place to set your story - it can even be on another planet! You can use books to get ideas about the place you imagine. Good luck with your research, good luck with your drawings!

Remember, some of you will be the future artists for us all to love and admire. And all of us love books, right?

Happy reading and Happy May.

Your friend,

Jan Brett