April Hedge a gram

Happy April!

This is my April hedge a gram. Every month I take a breath to oversee what I'm doing artistically and write about it. In the past aspiring writers and illustrators, and especially children, have been curious about the steps it takes to create a book, and these Hedge a gram's give a little insight on how it's going.
This year, it's been a rocky start. One hot summer night last year for no reason, I got an idea about an animal's Santa. I love the traditions of Christmas because we use our imaginations and fancy. I've always been fascinated by snowy owls and the fact that they breed in the Arctic, and many fly south in winter, particularly to Boston's Logan airport which is about 20 miles from us. Every time we fly out of Boston, I'm glued to the window trying to pick up a teeny blob of white as we taxi. So far, I've never seen a snowy owl, but because of their beauty and singular faces they are photographed a lot, and I enjoy seeing the images. They have an otherworldly gaze as if from a faraway place, and their white color and black rimmed yellow eyes give them a look of sorcerers. When I wrote my first draft of THE ANIMAL'S SANTA, I had the snowy owl in mind as Santa. It is a creature of the far North that is beautiful and mysterious. It travels south every winter and its white face reminds me of a Santa, even appearing to have a smile in some photos.
The first draft didn't have enough substance, so I spent weeks trying to cobble together a storyline which could be receptive to my original idea of the mysterious visitation of the largest owl in North America from the Arctic.
I wasn't getting any traction writing my story, so I switched to telling the story in pictures. This is unorthodox for me, because so far all my books have begun as manuscripts. I used all my usual techniques to try to puzzle the story together. I've been thinking about it while running, thinking about it while listening to music, and asking myself questions before falling asleep, hoping my unconscious mind will help me out.
When I was a little girl at Wilder Memorial nursery school in Hingham, Massachusetts, where I grew up, we made native American headbands, and we were able to choose a feather to have stapled to it. I was thrilled with the prospect and was enamored of a book I had at home at the time which described different Native American tribes, their art work and clothing. My grandfather fueled the flames of my interest by taking us for walks in the woods where we tried to walk like Native Americans, making no sound that would scare the animals. Our nursery school teacher had two huge bags of white turkey feathers. One bag held white feathers that had been dyed black at the tip to look like eagle feathers. The other bag had feathers dyed rainbow colors, including unusual ones I recognized from my crayon box of 200, like chartreuse, magenta, and turquoise. I was overwhelmed with the choice. Do I choose the more authentic eagle feather, that would look like the headdress in my book, or do I choose one of the vibrant colors that please the eye? Years later, I'm still grappling with that dilemma. I'm writing a book about the animal's Santa. Does my cast were fascinating, elaborate clothes like out of the Hobbit? Or, do the animals wear just a nod to clothes, taken from Native American items I've seen in the Harvard Museum's collection. Idea number one would be colorful and charming, idea number two would be perhaps more true to the spirit of my story. I'm working on both ideas at once, and will go to New York this month to work with my editor, but I'm drifting toward the same decision I made 59 years ago at nursery school, when I chose the "eagle" feather.
Creating a children's book remains a mysterious process, and one that has highs and lows. The rewards are worth it, and never fail to amaze me.
Good luck with your creative projects, and don't give up on your idea!

Happy Creating, your friend,

Jan Brett