Happy October!

  Fall is a time of the year to feel energized, perhaps from all those years of going back to school, combined with cooler days. It takes a little more effort in light of the devastating fires and political turmoil. I am one who takes solace in the creative process, and I am very grateful to have my book project to work on. There are lots of small challenges to be solved and so much admiration for Tchaikovsky?s Nutcracker Suite. There are many pieces of music that have been loved through the generations, and although I listen to lots of classical music, the Nutcracker is always delightful and fresh. My favorite pick me up is to look at the different ballet productions on the internet. Although I took a few years of ballet as a child this art form always astounds me in its beauty and uniqueness. The Nutcracker Suite that I'm illustrating is a shorter version of the music to the full ballet and I will miss some of that music. Sometimes I feel daunted by the sheer genius of the work, but then I am happy to think that reading my book may lead a young person to investigate the dance world and Tchaikovsky?s music. I have the score beside me at all time, and it amazes me that those written notes, played by talented musicians that have studied for years, can then be realized in ballet to become this wonderous art form. I have just read American Ballet Theater's principle dancer Misty Copeland's book, Life in Motion   about her falling in love with her art and discovering the talent within her. It mirrors the lives of many of the musicians I have grown to know in the Boston Symphony beside my husband, who is a Bass player. The child seems to just know that is the future for them, and they achieve their dream over any obstacle. So many musicians are born with this gift that just is there. I hope in our world dominated by electronics and materialism we have room to support the arts that are so humanizing.
  My progress on my illustrations for The Nutcracker Suite is agonizingly slow. I feel that the music and the story demand much detail. It's not enough to go back in time and visualize a long-ago Christmas party in Russia, but here is the enchanted world that Marie and The Nutcracker-now a real boy delight in I must illustrate.  My special happiness is imagining a dragon flying through the winter forest to the beginning notes of the bassoon during the DANCE CHINOISE (tea). It sounds just like I would imagine a dragon would sound, huffing and puffing good naturedly. My granddaughter and grandson both are fascinated by dragons and my mind is awhirl trying to decide the color combinations my dragon will take on. When listening to the Russian dance TREPAK I am stirred by the intricate and smashing folk dance performances we attended in St. Petersburg a few years ago. In my book the characters are bears that lend themselves to a wild athletic dance. St. Petersburg has a terrific museum of ethnology and within, hundreds of traditional clothes are restored and displayed.
  Growing up in the 50's in Hingham, Ma I was lucky enough, on very special occasions to visit a little toy shop in center Hingham, called Ms. Fanning?s. This toy shop was out of a story book, with high shelves with fancy dolls, way before Barbie, Steiff animals, beautiful Tonka trucks, trains and amusement of the kind kids especially love. My favorite of these lesser priced items was a real clam shell, sealed with a thin paper tie. When you dropped it in a glass of water, the paper would release, and a paper flower would rise up and transform. Now when I paint Dr. Drosselmeier shop of amazing toys I can tap into that experience with the eyes of a five-year-old in my memory.
     I am getting news about my book COZY, to be published in a few weeks, October 20th. Instead of going on a book tour, designated stores, that would traditionally be on the tour, will send me their books to be signed and personalized. Every year I go to a stamp company to have a special image made to put in each book, along with a poster and a bandana I designed. I have a collection of bandanas I have bought while traveling and I wear one almost every day. I have the usual paisley print in many colors, but I have an Edelweiss one from Switzerland, A beautiful Pendleton one modeled after the famous blanket and my favorites from Okinawa. Soon a musk ox will join my collection. I like to run, and my bandana always comes with me.
  I hope you can create some positive energy with a creative project. It is amazing how one thing leads to another and encompasses so many life experiences.
  Happy Reading! I am listening to WAR AND PEACE for the umpteenth time as I work, Tolstoy is pure genius, I am not the first to say, but I take inspiration for Marie in the Nutcracker from Natasha.

                    Happy Reading, Jan Brett