October Hedge a Gram

Happy October,

This is my October Hedge a gram, the time I take to tell about my illustration work. Every year I write or retell a story and then illustrate it. In honesty, the pictures are the reason I write the story, because that's how I best express myself as an artist.

This October I have three books to occupy my thoughts. There's my new book which I'll sign on the book tour and tell people about, Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve? People are seeing it for the first time and I'll hear their reactions. Some responses surprise me, but most often it's a shared experience that readers point out. I am fascinated by what kids think, and I especially like it when kids notice something that is overlooked by everyone else. Children have the energy to absorb every detail!

The second book I'm thinking of is Noah's Ark, my book for the fall of 2003. I'm about two thirds of the way through. I'm feeling secure about the world I've created and that allows me to review all the artwork and make little changes. For example, at the beginning of the voyage, the hay for the animals would be the green of just cut hay, after times passes, it turns yellow. I was very happy to find a big picture book showing old barns. It sparked my imagination because the ark is like a floating barn. I'm starting to think about the jacket of my book - a very important image. It has to get attention so a person will want to read my book, then it has to reflect the inside. Because Noah's Ark is a very old and well known story, I have to decide how much to reassure the reader with the expected elements and how much to cause curiosity. Do I show my main character, Noah's granddaughter?

I know that in three months Noah's Ark will be all finished and I'll be starting a new book. I've decided that it will be a plot that parallels The Mitten but in a rain forest setting. I've arranged to travel to Costa Rica to see first hand the animals, birds, plants, and culture of that country. I also need to think hard of a turning point for the story - something surprising and inevitable at the same time. I want to travel to Costa Rica with a checklist of must-see images, so I can bring back the kind of unexpected details that make a book come alive.

When I describe all this planning, I am imagining and hoping that the person listening to me now will be inspired to work on their own stories. The world is just waiting for a new voice and unique artwork. I hope you will not only have fun with your planning, but will also experience that amazement when your work seems to create itself!

I hope to see you at one of my book store visits. I'm eager to meet future writers and illustrators and people who love books.

Bye for now,

Your friend,

Jan Brett