June Hedge a gram
This is my June Hedge a gram, the time I take every month to talk about what is
going on in my life as an author - illustrator of children's books.
We have just been to NYC to Book Expo, the largest book convention in the US. My
publisher Penguin/Random House has a large booth, and I was able to see my new
book, THE TURNIP which will be out next fall. It was the first time I've seen it
as a bound book which is always a mixture of elation, gratitude and a twinge of
worry. After the intensity of finally wrapping it up under pressure, I worry
that I will have missed something. That being said, if my deadline were to be
extended I would probably perfect and change things to the detriment of the
book! I have seen the printed pages, but it looks and feels differently when it
is a bound book with end papers.
In NYC I had a meeting with my editor, Margaret. We looked over the first two
pages and it went well. Because I have done two Gingerbread stories previously,
the characters will remain somewhat the same and the setting will still be
Switzerland. I haven't started to make Gingerbread as yet, but I'm looking
forward to creating some of the characters. The borders will be in the shape of
musical instruments with a double bass shape, the largest of the stringed
instruments in a symphony orchestra. I also have added a slurry of musical notes
and luckily I asked my husband, a professional musician with the Boston Symphony
Orchestra if I had painted them correctly. The answer was "no", so I corrected
them. I used to play the clarinet in school and I was surprised at myself for
not knowing which way the staff on a note goes. In the third floor of our house
I have a big airy room with a balcony for a library. It's stuffed with books,
especially big, heavy art books. All the novels and non-picture books are in
other bookshelves downstairs. Occasionally I feel a little guilty about 45 years
of books collected, but this week I have had nothing but happy thoughts!
I have made numerous trips to Europe, following my husband and the Boston
Symphony and doing research. I never return without books from museums, outdoor
museums and tourist spots, filling at least one suitcase. I rediscovered one
book with Alpine interiors and lots of furniture and people in traditional
clothes. Even though I have the Internet at my fingertips, I feel like worlds
open up when I open my books, even if they are in a language I don't speak. It
is one of the ways I can create an atmosphere in my books. This summer, I'll
travel again to Europe and hope to discover more of the little details that give
authenticity to my frame of reference.
When I was a child, we had family friends, Jean and Bob Hoss who had antique
German glass ornaments for their Christmas tree, hundreds of them. Around the
base was a white sparkley cloth with a village and figures. The best part was
that there were small candles in antique holders, weighted by lead stabilizers.
After eggnog and delicious cookies made by Mrs. Hoss, several of the parents
stood by around the room with fire extinguishers. The house was a wooden New
England Cape filled with antiques and much was flammable.
When the clock chimed, the tree was lit. It was a beautiful and unique sight,
glowing in the darkened room. We sang “O Tannenbaum“ (Oh Christmas Tree) and
many other carols until we ended with “Silent Night”. In some years snow fell
outside the windows, but I will never forget family and friend's faces lit by
the flickering candle light, the scent of evergreens and wax and the feeling of
gratitude for this sweet poignant gathering. In my book, I will be able to
recreate a beautiful Christmas tree. It's something I've done before, but it
still fills me with admiration. I admire the idea that we would take a tree, so
beautiful but not exalted and make it a focal point. It's a lovely custom that
never fails to set the season apart.
I hope you will take an idea and add your research and memories and create a
painting or story. It's a way to keep the past alive and to anticipate the