Happy May!
     And Happy Mother's day to all the Mommies out there!  In the town I grew up in, the tradition among the kids was to make a may basket.  You could decorate it with drawings, but most people used crepe paper.  There was a way to work the crepe paper into three dimensional patterns and the may baskets always looked very ornate.  They were filled with flowers and pretty leaves, never anything that cost money.  After working on one's may basket and getting it just right, you could put it on your best friend's doorstep, ring the bell, and run away. The idea was it would be a mystery who left the present.  I'd love to know if anyone still makes may baskets.  I do have one little friend Bethany who keeps up the tradition.
     When I think of Mother's Day coming up, I think of how my parents encouraged me and my two sisters to be creative.  We could only watch one TV show on Saturday, even though we wanted to watch more.   My favorite was about a horse, a very shiny black horse, who saved his master every week.  My Mom and Dad gave us a lot of art materials, crayons mostly and stacks of paper that was discarded from my Dad's business.  It came in light blue, light green, pink and yellow.  It was funny because after years of using this paper, it was a shock to get a big piece of white paper at school!  Luckily I had a best friend who loved to draw and make up stories.  Everything we did revolved around horses.  Her name was Marla and we even took riding lessons together.  Whenever I wanted something, just yearned for it, like a horse, I drew it in a picture.  It's odd that I still do this.  Maybe you could think about what you like to draw - do you have that connection too? 
     Ever since my first trip to Africa two years ago I've wanted to be back there.  Now when I'm working on my book about the Honeyguide bird I can relive it again.  I have about twenty books with photos and information about African people, animals and plants.  Actually, Africa is so vast, I narrowed it down to Botswana.  A place known for the beauty of its people and natural places.
     On my first trip, a lot of our attention was given to how to go about things - being safe, learning to spot animals and just getting a feel for the life on safari.  It's easy to be awestruck at seeing huge, roaring lions, giraffes and elephants everywhere and close up.  The beauty of our second trip was we were able to stop and learn the names of the trees and admire the smaller animals and birds.  I'm going to try and put in some of the unexpected wildlife we experienced on our second trip in my book, as well as lions, giraffes and elephants.   Look for a leopard turtle, Mongooses and Lark, who's call says, ?Where are you going?  Where are you going?
     My personal favorite in Africa is the Guinea fowl.  Its plumage is nothing short of spectacular, being black with thousands of round polka dots.  Not to mention a yellow helmet on its head and bright red and turquoise blue skin on its head and neck.  It's a very loud bird too, and I fit this aspect of the Guinea into my story!  As I admire the Guinea Fowls plumage so much I used it to decorate the borders.
     I've just finished the dummy or cartoon version of my new book and will be showing it to my editor Margaret and art director Cecilia next week.  An editor gives you a good overview of one's work.  It's great to have a pair of fresh eyes to notice things.  Sometimes, I'm not very practical and Cecilia, the art director, nicely reminds me when I need to leave more room for the words!  She does much more and together we try to make the book better.
     If you like to do creative projects, maybe you'll sympathize with me this month.  I've done lots of planning and I'm ready to go forward.  I just know there's just a bit more work to do first!  But it's hard to be patient!
     Good luck with your special project and I'm reminding me as well as telling you - be thoughtful and plan it out!
     Bye for now.  Happy writing and drawing.
                                  Your friend,

                                      Jan Brett


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