This is the time I stop every month to write some tidbits about my life as
a children?s author and illustrator. If you know of me at all, you know that the
illustration part of the process is the creative engine for my books. I am an
avid reader, and I marvel at the level of nuance and creation of other worlds
that authors can create. It never ceases to be a miracle that someone else's
mind can be seen via their books. And all the time, we readers are receiving
those words and believing them or not believing them. It is so deeply satisfying
when a writer?s words ring true and allow you to see a part of humanity, or part
of the animal kingdom that has never seen the light of day in one's own mind. I
am reading the autobiography of Oliver Sacks, an author who's work I deeply
appreciate. The first book I read was THE MAN WHO MISTOKE HIS WIFE FOR A HAT.
Sacks was a neurologist who described in an eloquent and loving way some of the
bizarre mental conditions he has seen in his practice. One of my favorite books
he has written though, is OAXACA JOURNAL, a book about a trip he took with the
Fern Society. Anyone who goes to Mexico with the Fern Society to see ferns is
walking an unusual path. I love ferns, but have never gotten further then buying
a few books about them, planting a lot of varieties, and putting them in every
book I can!
But Oliver Sacks always thinks in great depths about a subject. This last
book though is rather shocking as I had him pictured as a curious, sedentary,
friendly uncle type. He has a quote at the beginning of his book that was
written by one of his teachers when he was of a young age. "Oliver will go far,
but I hope he doesn't go too far." It reminded me of a similar remark a teacher
made about a relative, "All geniuses are odd, but all odds are not geniuses".
Human being have such a large capacity to explore a subject, and let it become
their whole world. I've known a few geniuses in my life and it is really
interesting how they manage to come up for air when engrossed in their field of
I am just finishing the first spread for THE MERMAID AND THE THREE OCTOPUS.
We moved up to our summer camp (cottage) and I got to look through all the coral
shards and shells I collected in Okinawa, Japan over the last 20 years. My
daughter and her husband who are Marines were stationed there three times.
Little did I know way back then how much my heart would be captured by that
place and that in the future I would set a book there. A year ago I was
snorkeling at one of the incredible dive sites where I saw a baby Octopus. By
now it is probably huge, or been eaten by another sea creature. I love to sit at
my work table and recreate my memories of the ocean there. I was astounded that
so many people video tape their spear diving excursions. It?s as if you are
swimming through the coral reefs as you watch YouTube. Of course I have to close
my eyes when they spear the fish! I am in absolute heaven working on this book.
The experience is going to get even more emotional when next month I will visit
the New England Aquarium and visit their Giant Pacific Octopus. If you are
curious about the natural world I would suggest THE SOUL OF THE OCTOPUS by Sy
Montgomery. She has also written a children's non fiction book, a companion to
it called THE OCTOPUS SCIENTISTS.
Joe and I just drove from Massachusetts to Lucasville Ohio to a Poultry
Show (not a fair) and for some reason an idea popped into my head about a house
hedgehog. A friend, who I gave a chicken to, made the chicken into a "house
chicken". It watches TV with them and is a pet. I got thinking about how
Hedgehogs hibernate and never are able to see the depths of winter. I love
winter and all its beauty, so I?d like to write about a Hedgehog that gets taken
in for the winter by a little girl and gets to see the loveliness of snow
through the window. Obviously fiction but a great way to to paint winter scenes
and especially a Hedgehog!
I hope the changing of the seasons is invigorating for you, and ideas pop
like popcorn for new creative projects.
Your friend, Jan Brett