This is my July Hedge a gram. I'm working away on a new book, but like
every month, I'm going to take an evening off to tell you what I'm doing in my
role as an author and illustrator.
Before I do, I'd like to salute all the men and women in our armed forces.
Every morning I raise our flags and think about how grateful I am to be living
in a free country. This month we celebrate the Fourth of July, and in the midst
of all the celebration, I will be thinking of our marines, soldiers, sailors and
airmen overseas, as well as their families who miss them.
Being an author and illustrator, my schedule is on a yearly cycle, as long
as I can come up with a worthy book idea. My editor ultimately decides if
Penguin Putnam my publisher, will publish my book. I usually have three of four
ideas on the back burner in case some unforeseen event happens, or if a story
doesn't get off the ground. Once I was planning on illustrating PETER AND THE
WOLF, but after investigating the copyright, found it was not in public domain.
If an author is living, or has been dead less than a certain amount of years,
you cannot use a story or illustrate it without permission. One poem I
illustrated that is in public domain is THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. The book
I'm working on now is a story I wrote myself, which I'm calling THE EASTER EGG.
Since my book is peopled by rabbits. I've been trying to learn about as
many different breeds of domesticated rabbits as I can. I've met some very
characterful ones. There is a beautiful black rex rabbit named Tiki who lives
at the feed store near my house. She's very famous, because she was stolen and
after a newspaper article was written about the theft, she was found. Rex
rabbits have very short, velvety coats, and when they are patted it feels like
the softest velvet. Tiki lets the customers at the feed store pat her. She's a
very friendly rabbit and will sit up to say hello.
I was invited to a rabbitry near my house in the Berkshires to see ten
rabbits that are kept for their fiber. Like sheep, they grow long luxurious fur
that is combed away and spun into yarn which is prized for its silky warmth and
beautiful colors. The type of rabbit used for its fiber is called an Angora.
The ten rabbits were colored grey, white, and fawn, with variations too
beautiful and nuanced to describe. Some of the rabbits had tassels on their
ears made of long tufts of fur.
Another attractive rabbit is the lop, which carries its ears in graceful
downward curves. Many of the lops I've seen have lion-like heads. Overall, a
rabbit is not an easy animal to draw. Luckily through the rabbits I've seen are
very friendly and individualistic. Which makes them easy to turn into
Because my book is set at Easter time, I have put lots of wild flowers in
it as well as two of my favorite trees, the birch, and the pussy willow. Our
family had a pussy willow tree in our back yard when I was growing up and when
the catkins plumped up into soft grey balls, we knew spring had sprung. I'm
starting a collection of pussy willows near the wetlands in our yard. So far I
have a black one. Next, I'm going to get a traditional one and a pink one.
Its a lot of work to dig the hole and prepare the soil in rocky New England. My
rule is I have to plant my new purchase before getting another. If I decide to
plant something and my chickens are loose, they always come to investigate,
especially Rambling Rose, my very old mottled java hen, and Cagney, a blue white
crested polish. Blue is really gray, but it is a bluish gray. Not only are the
chickens looking for unearthed bugs, but their curiosity is satisfied.
I will have a colorful wagon that the Easter bunny uses to deliver the
Easter eggs in my book. Who other than a regal hen would be right for the job?
I've decided to use the very majestic Cochin chicken breed to pull the wagon.
They have feather covered legs and feet, so the wagon can wind its way over hill
and dale delivering eggs without anyone knowing. I'm still trying to decide if
the Cochin hens should be buff which is pumpkin colored, or white.
You can see I'm having a great time constructing my rabbit universe. I
think that's why no matter how many books I've written, each one seems, more
compelling and absorbing that the last. Now that school is out, why not create
a world of your making on paper. You won't be sorry. There's something about
creating a story that is exhilarating.
Until next month, happy reading and happy creating! Bye for now.