November Hedge a gram
     This is my November hedge a gram, and I'd like to tell you what I've been doing.  The idea behind my hedge a grams is to describe the phase my current book is in so aspiring writers and illustrators will get a picture of my job.
     I've been all over the United States on a big blue bus signing books.  My husband Joe and I left October 1st and came back the 18th.  If you were one of the people that came to my book signings, thank you!  I learn so much from the book lovers who come to the signings and I'm very grateful when people give me feedback.  For example, I didn't realize how many teachers teach about the rain forest. When I got home I added more animals, leaves, and trees to my website's rain forest coloring pages.   I love to think of the rain forest murals that students make in their classrooms.  When I was little and read The Story of  Ping, I thought I would someday like to go to China.  This seemed impossible!  But now, I have gone to China and somehow it happened.  Perhaps some of the children who read The Umbrella will someday walk in the Monteverde Cloud forest.   On my booksigning tour, I talk for about 20 minutes about making my book.  I like children to understand how fulfilling a creative project can be.  When I draw the toucan from the book I know the children can do better ones than mine if they try.
     Now that I'm back, I took a trip to New York City to check the progress of Honey, Honey....Lion!  That's what I'm calling my new book.  While I was away, the art director, Cecilia and my editor Margaret laid out the pages of my book on a huge table.  Then they walked around and it and compared each page.  When I came for a visit we discussed our ideas and then I could take my book back home.  Sometimes and idea will hit us about how to make the book work better.  We decided a page showing badger, the main character stuffing himself with honey will help set up the premise, or the main idea of the book.  This is not my idea of a fun page to illustrate.  If I were a fine artist, I would not need to fill in the gaps in order to make a narrative.  On the other hand, maybe once I get into it, I'll be pleased with the art.  Some of the other changes I'll make are just little goofs up, like putting an important character too close to the fold in the page.  I should know better!  Each of my pages have a decorative element of beads, guinea hen feathers and African porcupine quills.  Cecilia and Margaret asked me to ramp up the color on this part of the book.  That's the kind of dialog we have.  The goal is to have the painting tell the story and attract the eye.
     I've been working on an idea for the jacket of my book too.  Gunta, the woman who designs the type will take my color sketch and interpret the letters I drew in for the title so I will know how much room to leave.  This time, everyone liked the first sketch for the jacket that I drew.  Sometimes I have to draw more than one, but not this time.  This is my favorite part of my bookmaking year.  I've done all the hard thinking and planning steps and now I can just paint.  I like getting carried away and letting the illustrations take over.  I feel in touch with a natural force from deep inside that I can't name when that happens.  When I ask kids to take some time to create a drawing I'm hoping that the same thing will happen to them.  
     Good luck with your drawing and writing this month.  Save some time to express yourself!   Happy Reading  - see you soon!
                                  Your friend,

                                      Jan Brett