This is Jan Brett. I'd like to tell you about my creative life in hopes that you will be inspired to write and illustrate stories of your own.
My books correspond to the calendar year, although I am always puzzling together future book ideas, and in the fall, my publisher sends me on a book tour. My husband and I travel across the country on a huge bus, the largest that is allowed on US highways -- why so big? We bring Hedgie along with us, our rather large hedgehog character. He helps me welcome kids and their parents and teachers to my book signings. The bus also has room for my 2011 collectible buttons picturing Rollo troll and his moose friend. I give them out to everyone who comes to my signings, I also give away posters and my news notes -- full-color letters I write to children about my latest book, HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. I also bring aboard my easel, paper and markers so I can give a drawing lesson before my signing. It is open to everyone, and it's not just for young artists, but young writers too. I like to explain to children how I got the idea for my book and all the fascinating places I went to in order to make the setting of my book authentic. In this case the country I went to was Sweden. Not only did I visit a place where Norse legends feature trolls, but where moose, reindeer, bear, otter, and lynx abound. Especially moose, who feature in my book, along with Rollo the troll. There is even room for a giant antler my friend Elof found in Kiruna, Sweden near the Arctic Circle. Our bus will travel to 25 towns and cities, and I'm looking forward to speaking to all the children and their parents, teachers, and librarians who will be at my signings. I'm also looking forward to having lunch with the Lunch on the Bus contest winner and her three friends.
While I'm on the book trail, I will miss my chickens and ducks back home. I am hard at work on my book about a turtle who grows a garden on her back, but I'm also gathering photographs of chicken breeds to give me ideas for my chicken Cinderella book. We have a trip scheduled to St. Petersburg Russia where I am planning to set my book, although I'll be plumbing my imagination for the right "half for real" and "half for fantasy" world I want to create my poultry fairy tale.
MOSSY still has a lot of pages in it to complete, but I'm starting to feel like she is a real character. When I look in the water of our turtle pond I used for the book's setting, I really appreciate the intricacies of the changing flora and fauna around our pond as the seasons change. Mossy is an Eastern box turtle, a terrestrial species that occasionally takes a swim in the pond. I've seen bullfrogs and green frogs in the pond and lots of tadpoles. There have been lots of dragonflies and butterflies too. A friend of mine released a spotted turtle in the pond but I haven't seen it. It was crossing a street and he helped it into the woods away from traffic. Turtles are dwindling in Southeastern Massachusetts where I live and some species are endangered or threatened. Unless a turtle is going to be run over, it's best to leave it alone because their travels take them from one habitat to another, and we humans shouldn't disrupt their travels. I'm concentrating on making a good environment for turtles, and I hope they will visit my pond. Our pond is pretty deep, it extends below the frost line, has built-in caves and basking rocks. Last spring we added a large area of loose, loamy sand that we hope is good for nesting, and my friend Scott planted wild strawberries all around. We have miles of perfect turtle habitat behind our house, unfortunately it's also the home of the deer tick that carries Lyme disease a pest that is very active during early spring when it is interesting to look for wildlife in the vernal ponds.
Illustrating children's books is always an adventure that leads you into unexplored paths. I hope you will give it a try, you may not be exploring turtle ponds or poultry yards but you probably will be exploring something equally fascinating. Good luck with your creative project!