Happy May,

      I have been outside all morning tending my chickens in our beautiful spring weather, and thinking about my May hedge a gram. From time to time people will ask me how I get ideas for my books. My hedge a gram, which is a diary of sorts, tells about my interest in children's book making, and this month I thought I'd talk about getting ideas, especially since I am creating the dummy for my new book, THE SNOWY NAP.
     There are certain emotions or feeling that are in the category of  "I love this about the world".  That was what I was thinking as walked into the backyard to our compost heap. There are all these spring flowers that just bloom for a few weeks. It is as though they just suddenly appear in all their glory. First we had Bloodroot. It sounds scary, but it's a beautiful star shaped white flower. If you break a stem, though, the sap is bright red. Nearby are Dutchmen's Breeches, another wildflower. This one's stem looks like a laundry line of teeny little white pants. Because it's been a cool and wet spring there are violets everywhere. The color is so striking that there is even a crayon named after it. We have blue-purple ones and white with purple accents where the petals join so it makes a little face. There are many more that will last only a few weeks until next spring. I love these flowers so much I put them in my books that are set in New England, MOTHERS DAY MICE, by Eve Bunting (illustrated by me), THE EASTER EGG, and GOLDILOCKS. So if you ever have that feeling of excitement over the beauty or uniqueness of something, maybe you should put it in a story or painting.
     I am working on the dummy of THE SNOWY NAP. Knowing that this book was ahead of me last winter I took photographs, collected pictures and tried to fix in my memory some of the beautiful snowy scenes in our backyard. The setting for my story is Denmark, where I visited to get ideas for THE HAT in 1997. I still have all the photographs that I took at our Inn in Funen.  The inn is the color of whitewash made orange by dropping rusty nails in the paint. This was done in the olden days to give variations of color. The Inn also had a thatched roof   and "Pleached" trees lining the entrance.  Pleached trees are pruned in such a way that they look like spikey lollipops. I chose Denmark because Hedgehogs live there. At the time I wrote THE HAT we had our own hedgehog, Buffy. I have a lot of photos of her. The model for Lisa was my daughter, Lia. I used old photos of her. For this book I will use her daughter Torynn who looks like she did, although she also looks like her father. I am sending away for an old fashioned dress like the ones I saw in old photos in Denmark. In one of the museums we visited, there were displays of traditional clothing, and one item was a knitted nine- colored hat. After the book came out, a talented artisan knitted one just like the one in the book, and sent it to me as a present. Now all these years later, I can bring it with me to my granddaughter's house so I can photograph her, and see how it looks.
     I am a little stymied about the borders in my books. I want them to look like knitting. The northern isles such as Shetland, Scandinavian counties, and baltic countries all have beautiful intricate patterns in their knitted garments. Denmark, even though it is close by is known for striped patterns, or designs worked in texture. The purl and knit stitches create the pattern. I have to decide if I should be totally authentic, or add some of the gorgeous Baltic circle patterns. I still have a little research to do.
     Getting back to where ideas come from, I went back to childhood memories for the humorous twist at the end of my story. All through THE SNOWY NAP, various farm animals look through the windows of Lisa's house at Hedgie, a wild animal saved from being frozen by Lisa. When she puts the recovered Hedgie back in his borrow outside, she leaves the door ajar and the animals quickly move into the house. They have been watching Hedgie's luxurious time in Lisa's house and liked the idea for themselves. When I was little we had lots of animals and I have to admit a few did come in the house. Once my sister's pony "Stuart Little" came in the kitchen. And I think our donkey," Eeyore" did too, and Delly my Red hen made a few visits. We had a big sailboat that we slept on for two week trips. One of the trips coincided with our cat "Madame's" new litter of kittens. We secretly stashed "Madame" and her tiny babies in a duffle bag and she wasn't discovered by my parents until we had left our home port far behind. I can still hear my Dad, who was worried that animals were taking over our domiciles, blustering "animals do not belong in the house! Or boat"   When I wrote my story those memories popped up.
     Happy writing, drawing and creating,

             Your friend,   Jan Brett