Happy January,

        This is a milestone year and we have a full moon too. It's also immediately after an important birthday for me, and my thoughts are turning toward all the things I'm thankful for, and all the things I aspire to.
        I like to make New Year's resolutions and this year I would like to pledge to myself that I'll try harder to make my new book HOME FOR CHRISTMAS the best one ever. Not only do I need to be mentally agile and motivated but I need to put the hours into it. The pages that I am most proud of are when my sense of "me working on a page" disappears and like Alice going down the rabbit hole, a world appears on paper as I add one bit, another bit, revamp a character or explore with some new design or texture.
         If you like to create like I do, you may find that for some unexplained reason, some landscapes, colors or animals make all your senses alert and interested. It's kind of a phenomenon that doing art explores. I've always loved the intrigue of prehistory, of the possibility of humanlike creatures or perhaps cultures that will never be known because they've been lost in time. Trolls seem to be linked to some of the traditional knowledge, told orally from back in the olden days. My new book tells about a troll boy. When one is little, it's easy to make silly mistakes because you don't know what's expected. It's part of childhood that I remember well. Having a troll character run away from home reminds me of when I had similar notions when I was little and it makes a story that brings time back to me. I've traveled to Norway three times, to Baffin island and to Iceland. All three places are in the far north and I'm very drawn to the stunted birch forests, rich with lichen, mosses and boulders shaped by the elements. Even the northern animals are intriguing - the polar bear, arctic fox, ptarmigan, a kind of feather footed grouse like bird, snowy and gray owl and of course caribou or reindeer.
    The compiling of ideas for new book is an exciting time. And although I'm not a great organizer, I like to plan the different elements I'll need to see in real life so they'll make my book authentic. On our trip to Iceland in the December we traveled by super-jeep which is an SUV on giant wheels.  We went through glacial rivers, to a white craggy landscape called Thor's forest. It was on Thursday too! The trees were  birch twisted by the deep snows, and moss and lichen covered the ground.  We saw ptarmigan in their winter plumage, which are snow white, and a crafty bird-host appeared, a raven who keeps an eye out for camp fires, because when there is a campfire there is food! Our raven got some nice salmon tidbits. When I come across this kind of northern habitat I just want to walk forever. I'm looking forward to returning to Iceland to run the Laugevegur, a long-distance race over spectacular but difficult terrain. I have to gear up for it, So I can't go this July, but I have my sights set on 2011. Luckily I live just south of Boston, which has a wonderful long-distance road race, and in the summer I'm a stone's throw from the Appalachian trail which also would be a good training ground. I get a lot of good ideas when I'm running. My daughter jokingly says that running juggles all one's ideas around like dice and you can always come up with creative solutions to life's problems during a good run. I have to say that I've gotten a lot of good book ideas that way.
        On the subject of new prospects for the 2000 teens I would also like to keep some Onagadori chickens. The breed in the US is called the Phoenix. The tails are extraordinarily long. I'll keep them alongside but not with my Polish crested chickens.
        I don't know if a children's book will evolve from my new interests but I know that trolls are very abundant in Icelandic folklore, although they are not the cute fuzzy kind. I would someday like to illustrate the Firebird, a folk tale set to music by the great composer Stravinsky. I've seen a ballot of it in London and was transfixed. An Onagadori fowl may have stirred the imagination of the tellers of the original tale many centuries ago. The Onagadori fowl was created in feudal Japan.
        I hope the beauty of our world enchants you to create and re-create wonderful stories and art, and that link that makes us so human, creativity will be a big part of your life in 2010!


                Jan Brett