September 2001 Hedge a Gram

Hello, it's September and time for my September hedge a gram. I pause from my work to talk to you about my life as an illustrator...month by month. Many of you may be surprised at the different activities I do to insure that my books will be as good as I can make them, and that people will know about them.

For example, this fall in October and November, I'll spend time travelling to bookstores where I'll sign books and meet kids, parents, teachers and book lovers. Since we live in such a big country, I spend only a few hours at each store. I really enjoy meeting book lovers, and often a child will really surprise me when they come to see my years after their first visit. It's a good way for me to ask questions and answer them too. This year I'll ask kids what their favorite animal is because one of my future books is the story of Noah's ark. I don't want to miss any favorite animals. The book I'm working on now has only one live animal - a polar bear. he does not have a name in my book. He is called "the ice bear" I will put a hedgehog in the story, but it will have to be in the form of a painting or carving, because a hedgehog would not be found in the setting I've created, high above the Arctic circle in the mountains where only scrubby little trees grow. I have about one third left to go on the polar bear book. There is a little girl in the book who I loosely modeled after a second cousin of mine. The first time I met her was at a booksigning. She and her sisters noticed that I had named the hens in my "all about" letter to Hedgie's Surprise, Arline, Ruth, and Hermione. I name them after my grandmother and my two great aunts. It turned out the three girls were descended from one of the three sisters also, and that was how we were relatives. My cousin doesn't know the little girl in my new book is supposed to be her!

Right now, even though I am immersed in my polar bear book, I have to plan the research for Noah's Ark. My husband and I are going to Africa to look at the animals in February. Some of the time we will live in tents. I imagine many animals will be hunting at night, so I may use my eyes to record them as well as a camera. I have a vague idea that I'll arrange the animals in alphabetical order in the borders, but I'm having a bit of trouble trying to think of an animal who's name starts with the letter "X". If you know of one, I hope that you'll let me know. That will be a fun challenge. I also plan to put a lot of birds in the book, because birding is an interest of mine.

For all of you starting your school studies -- have a creative and productive year. No one every says, "I tried too hard!" so give it your all. I will try hard too and perhaps we both can achieve things that will surprise us! This summer I saw Col. Keith Hoskins of the Blue Angels Navy flight exhibition team fly in an air show. Seeing that kind of dedication makes me want to work extra hard in my field. September is a great time for a fresh, peppy start! Good luck!

By for now,

your friend,

Jan Brett