Happy January!
     Happy New Year for the year 2007 to you!  This year I'll be finishing my book just as the calendar turns to 2007 and the past year looks like a giant mountain climb.  My hedge a grams are created to give aspiring illustrators a glimpse into what my job is like.  I hope some of you bring the world your version of a story and the practical day to day goings on will be curious and rewarding.
      This is how 2006 unfolded.  My editor and I liked the idea of a Goldilocks tale with polar bears as the bear characters.  I have always loved the idea of Goldilocks's curiosity leading her into a strange place with different rules, a little danger and a new experience.  I can remember feeling like that as a child, and I still like to feel like that as an adult.  Every year I try to do something I've never done before.  It's essential that I have a strong emotion about what I'm drawing.  I held off on getting started on my book because I knew first hand experience in the Arctic, Baffin Island specifically, and my introduction to the Inuit people would change the way I would develope the story in my mind.  We wanted to go to Iqaluit in February, but we were told that it was 70 degrees below zero, mostly dark and everyone was hunkered down.  My husband Joe and I waited until April when we visited for two weeks, with two savvy guides, Helga and Erik.  We bought all the warm clothes we'd need for the trip, and one experience after another propelled me into a life style I never new existed.  Iqaluit is mostly Inuit, and also the capital of the newly formed Canadian province of Nunavut.  The small town is set on Frobisher Bay, totally frozen in April, with mountains coming down to the sea.  From our B&B, run by Erik, we could see dog teams staked out on the bay and snow mobiles crossing the frozen sea and going through the town.  Really little kids were driving some of them only their snow mobiles were pint sized.   Many of them dragged a kamotiq, or big traditional sled.  Before we left, we would be spending a day out across the bay on one of those kamotiqs, being pulled by the wildest, merriest, most mischievous Greenland Inuit sled dogs I could have imagined.   Erik drove us around and found an igloo that had been built for the town's spring festival.  All the everyday houses were built on legs because the ground is permafrost and you can't dig down into it.  We took a plane to a very famous town, Pangnirtung, and on the way we flew over the floe edge, where the salt water ice meets open ocean.  That's where all the sea mammals live and Polar bears.  I remember seeing a deep turquoise green color under a fresh water iceberg that made me promise to myself to try to imitate it in my book.  In Pangnirtung, we saw stunning weaving, carvings and lithographs perpetuating the Inuit art style and life experience, especially traditional ways.
     Once back home, I went back and forth, back and forth, about how I would incorporate my feelings for the Inuit and the Arctic in my book and I made a lot of false starts.  I had to go back and change four spreads because I wasn't happy with them.  Not only that, but I don't like to plan my drawings too much because it prevents the book from taking off by itself.  This my sound strange, but I know many of you have experienced when an idea leads you, not the other way around.  It's exhilarating when it happens, but it's a delicate balance.  For a long time I was stymied by the idea of the traditional chairs that Goldilocks sits in.  There aren't any chairs in Inuit houses.  We knew because we had a warm, sort of pressured, but fascinating afternoon visit to one.  When I thought of the girl trying on boots instead of sitting on chairs, that problem was finally solved.
     The most unexpected thing I could tell you is how sad it is to say goodbye to my book when it's finished.  It's like having your best friend move away.  I'll be happy again when I start a new story, but I'll still feel an allegiance to the little Inuit girl. Aloo-ki, that I made up, but seems so real to me, and all the times I romped in my memory thought the snow in Pangnirtung.  I especially wonder how the school children I met in Iqaluit are, if Erik is in his beautiful house perched on Frobisher Bay, and how Josavee, our guide is, and if our sled dogs went to the North Pole as scheduled, especially Amundson the lead dog.
     Create a wonder in 2007.

                          Your friend,

                               Jan Brett