September Hedge a gram

Happy September!

       Every month I write about what's happening in my life as an author/illustrator in order to give some insight into my profession.  Many of you have written to me because you're interested in writing and illustrating.  I also hear from teachers and librarians who encourage reading and teach children to express themselves by writing stories.  They are the future!
     I'm well underway with my 2013 fall book CINDERS, a children's Cinderella story.  In the fall, my publisher is already beginning to present the fall 2013 books, first within the publishing house, and then to bookstores.  Since I am only about one half way through, I painted the first spread, and then skipped ahead a few pages to paint some of the climactic scenes, then I'll do the last page.  As my deadline gets closer, I will fill in with some of the pages that fall in between.  If my book was not a commercial venture with deadlines, I would do the artwork in sequential manner.  After I finish the page I'm working on, I will work on ideas for the book's jacket, the most challenging illustration in the book.  That is because it has to project the over all mood of the story, in this case a magical fairy tale.  I also want it to spell out Russia, the place where my book is set, so I'll want to show some architecture and traditional dress.  Most importantly, the jacket should entice the reader to open the book and read it.  Lastly the image should be dramatic enough to set it apart from the more descriptive images inside the book.  I think I could show the picked on raggedy Cinders already transformed into Cinderella because we all know the story.
     I spent weeks on my book dummy.  The dummy is a sketch version of my book, painted in a simple style about two thirds the size of the final book.  I will edit about one half the text as I move along creating the book.  Having the dummy allows me to skip ahead on the final paintings because I know what all the scenes are.  I like to think the dummy is flexible and that I can add pages or subtract them, zoom in or make a page more atmospheric.  It does have to be 32 pages in the end.
     I'm getting ready for the book tour from October 5 through October 23 on our decorated bus that we live on for three weeks as we go to bookstores across the country.  The fun part is meeting children and their parents, teachers and librarians who love books.  If you go on my book tour page on my website and see that I'm signing in a town near you, please come and bring a pad and pencil.  You can follow along with me as I do my demonstration, color your drawing when you get home and have wonderful artwork you did yourself.  If you have access to a color printer, you could take your drawing, print it, and give it as a present to someone who appreciates your art.  Or you can do as I do, and make cards, they make a great gift as well.  Blank cards that will go in your printer can be bought at an art supply stores like AC Moore, Michaels or Hobby Lobby.  I always love to see children's artwork, so don't be afraid to bring some of your art for me to admire.
     I will be bringing my "news notes", a letter to kids along with me on the bus, and giving one away to everyone when I meet them.  It tells about Mossy and box turtles.  I will give you an update on how our little painted turtle friend is doing.  She is a wild turtle, so she can come and go from our turtle pond as she likes.  We're hoping she'll winter over there.
     I have two books on the back burner to work on next year, the TURNIP, a folk story set in Russia and THE RUNAWAY  SLIPPERS, a Tiger story set in India.    I went to both those countries last year to get  ideas.  Then my husband who is a musician thought of a great musical gingerbread baby story with a fun plot twist.  I could show all the instruments of the orchestra in gingerbread!  What a fun thought!  Then out of the blue, late at night a story idea popped into my head.  I was tired and don't really like to write anyway, but it was as if someone was dictating it to me in my imagination.  I wrote it down and send it to my editor that night and she liked it.  On the book tour, I'll try to polish the gingerbread story and try to choose which book will come next.  My world is populated with dressed up chickens, gingerbread musicians, and turtles growing gardens on their backs - it makes for a very interesting life!
     Happy reading and drawing, your friend,

                               Jan Brett