This is Jan Brett, and this is my August hedge a gram. When its the last day of the month, I drop everything to give you a run down on what is happening in my life as an illustrator-author.
I'm about a third of the way through the finish pictures for my Easter egg book. I really liked seeing different pet bunnies and listening to their owners talking about the personalities of their pets. If I didn't have so many chickens, I would like to have a rabbit. From what I've seen, rabbits respond greatly to handling and affection from their owners.
I spend many hours working on my double spread paintings. First the page must be measured exactly, and space left between the art and where the paper will be cut from the page. This is hard because I tend to fill in any white space left! I also have to be sure no important characters or images are in the middle of the page where the books is sewn together. I generally start with a pencil sketch for the main body of the spread, then afterwards I add the two side panels - in the shape of eggs, that form the border. Then, I paint it in. There is a border above everything, but I haven't worked on it yet. The hard part is choosing which breed and color bunny to be each character. There are so many unique and attractive rabbits. The lop has giant flopsy ears, the rex has a soft velvet coat, the angora has long luxurious fur and sometimes tassels on its ears. How do you ever choose?
As I'm painting I am starting to think about next year's book. I have three book ideas to chose from. One is a Christmas story about a mischievous runaway troll in Scandinavia. The story is one I made up, which came to me out of nowhere while I just started on the Easter Egg book. I wrote it down quickly before it started to fade. Another book idea is a retelling of the folktale THE TURNIP. If I retold and illustrated it, I would travel to Russia since that is where the story is most lovingly told. If I were to write THE TURNIP I would have to think up an idea to make it mine, and I haven't gotten an idea yet. The third story is a version of THE THREE LITTLE PIGS, set in Namibia, Africa. If you are curious about wolves in Africa, I will just say I would substitute another animal for the wolf.
One of the ways I work on creative twists and turns for a book is to first read the story through enough times that I know it very well, and then just before going to sleep I say to myself, "Hey, come up with an idea that will make this story really take off!" Then in the morning I have a new idea that will recharge the story.
A nice breakfast involving blueberry pancakes with maple syrup after a good night's rest has also worked in the past. I love to run, and long runs are also a good time to work on ideas. This month I will go to about eight concerts of the Boston Symphony where my husband plays the double bass. That is another good time to let my thoughts drift into unexpected places, led by the music.
Perhaps, you are thinking how easy it sounds to write a story. Well, the hardest part is just doing it! Maybe August is the month that your story idea will evolve and become real on paper. Not all stories follow rules, but one thing creative works have in common, is that the author or illustrator has to devote a good hunk of time for it to happen!
Good luck with your creative work, be it a new idea, a reworking, or the finishing touches. Until next month, happy reading and happy creating! Bye for now.