February Hedge a gram

Happy February!

     I'm greeting you this month with lots of positive thoughts. You may already know that every month I take a snapshot of my work in progress - a children's book, but also the many other activities that go along with it. I have just finished THE ANIMALíS SANTA and the original art will be on its way to the printer in China to be scanned and printed in a test run so it can be color corrected by the art director. I am always urged to be timely, so bound books will be ready for Book Expo where I'll be signing in May. The folded and gathered copies will also go out to the Penguin sales force to be shown to book buyers. We are also blocking in dates for next fall's book tour.
I have such mixed feelings about sending a book off. Number one thought is I've still got so much more to add and polish. I'm always reeling with the litany of fixes and corrections. And I have to listen to them all because sometimes they are right (this is my editor and art director) and sometimes they save me when I have lost my concentration and reversed the stripes on a character's sweater for example. Itís really unprofessional to have inconsistencies in the art, and language as well for that matter. Throughout the year that I'm working on the book I am constantly trying to get the images right, the best that they can be. But the danger is, that once I've experimented with let's say a costume change, I have to go back and change all the images of that character. This sounds logical, but I definitely have bursts of creative energy that I want to utilize, and doing the simple changes is time consuming, and I would rather use that feel good time to work on the more important aspects that key into the nature of the story. So the menial changes get put on the back burner.
     For the last three months I've been working more intensely on my book as the deadline got closer, and here's another dilemma. When it comes to time management, I just work on my book. My husband Joe is very supportive of this. But, if I work super intensely, the downside is I don't get to run when I can clear my head or put my mind in another place like at a Symphony concert to gain perspective.
     The other difficulty is criticism. If at the beginning of a project, there is too much criticism, I feel like my book is getting sullied, and I get mad. So its better if I have a longish period to work on my own until the story firms up. But then I have a momentum going and I find it unproductive to listen to the criticism then. If I wait to almost the end, then I may have to change other elements as well because Iíve gone in a direction that's not working, then the back sliding is discouraging. Because of technology, I can complete a page at midnight and send scans to my editor and the art directors for them to see first thing in the morning the next day. I am still working on this one. I need large tracts of time without negative input.
     Happily, the day I sent off the end papers, with mistakes corrected, I started writing my 2015 book THE TURNIP. Itís based on a Russian folktale that is sequential. People all try to pull a giant turnip out of the ground. In the original Russian the fun of the story is that the word for turnip in Russian rhymes with Grandfather, Grandmother, etc. so it makes it into a tongue twister. For years I've been trying to find an element that would replace the tongue twister fun with something just as appealing, preferably in the borders. I finally figured out what that something would be, when on one of my runs I imagined a bear entering her den for her winter deep sleep and finding the root of the turnip in her bedroom. She gives it the boot, and all the characters topside are amazed when it comes flying out of the ground.
Even though it sounds a little intellectual about the choice of this story, my main reasons for retelling it is that I can paint the turnip, with its purple/magenta top fading to cream, and then to a marigold yellow. And, ever since we visited the Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg, I have wanted to paint the everyday rural dress, including the woven birchbark shoes, tools and carved farm implements I saw there.
     When I was visiting our friends Gudrun and Elof in Sweden on the family farm I was fascinated by the badger dens. I never did get to see one, only one badgerís pelt. But the European Badger is a very unique looking animal, perfect for a children's book character, with a mask like our raccoon and a big black round nose. I can't wait to draw them all, and I am starting on thumb nails. Then I will revisit my first draft which has been given a thumbs up, then on the the dummy. I brought suitcases full of books back from Russia, and although I can't read most of them they have lots of pictures of exactly what I'm looking for to create my scenes. So I am in the blissful, excited part of my book process.
Good luck with all your creative endeavors,

your friend,

Jan Brett