Happy October,

   Hi, this is Jan Brett, and this is my October hedge a gram. I like to tell about what I'm doing in my professional life as a writer and illustrator. It is not always what people expect.
I love to wake up in the morning and know that I will be spending my day working on a children's book. It's easy to get attached to the ideas and characters. My book project is in some ways predictable and in some ways not. When my husband and I were in Namibia, Africa we visited a World Heritage site, called Twyfelfontain where 4,000 year old African artwork can be seen carved in the rocks. The mountains are in a sparsely populated landscape that is unlike any other place I've seen. I didn't know that when I came home a new story would become evident. It took a while to percolate. Now that I'm over half way through my book, the story is unfolding like I had envisioned. Because of the way books are published though, I am skipping ahead and illustrating later sections of the book and illustrating the jacket. It's good to have an organized mind to do this, and that is a challenge for me. I would prefer to start on page 1 and go along page by page. One of the good things about working with a team at the publisher is that I have the input of talented and experienced people. For example, a book designer has many different type faces to choose from, including the display type which help form the character of the book, especially for the jacket. The jacket is often the reason that a person wants to look inside. It's good if it can capture your attention and then make you curious enough to read it. Good display type helps.
Sometimes the designer will make up their own type face, embellish an existing alphabet or hire a calligrapher to draft the letters. I have always loved illuminated manuscripts of old, where the calligrapher decorates a letter very specifically often using a special code. Sometimes flowers, insects or animals entwined around the letters have obvious or sometimes secret meanings. One of my favorite books as a child was THE ARABIAN NIGHTS. The title was rendered as if it was of beaten gold, and the capitals were set with luminous gemstones. It's useful to go to museums and study local crafts in order to come up with something eye catching and authentic. Juggling ideas about the display type, and how the printed word will fit into my art, is one of the things I like most about being a children's book illustrator. Often, if I draw a portrait or a landscape I feel like I should also add a little block of type.
I hope you will experiment with creating some different alphabets or the first letter of your first name. Often, one thing leads to another and you'll be surprised to find that you've begun to tell a story. It's like magic, and I think that is why so many stories start with a curious set of events, like Alice falling down a rabbit hole in ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
Good luck with your creative projects. Bye for now,

Your friend,
                                Jan Brett