This is Jan Brett talking to you about my job as an
author-illustrator of children's books. Every month, I stop everything to gather
my thoughts about my profession, so all of you who aspire to be children's book
creators, will have a window on one person's experience.
October is my mother's birthday month. She has passed away, but her generous and wise presence will never leave me. She taught three-year-olds and was fascinated by childhood development. When I was growing up with two younger sisters, she encouraged us to be creative by limiting television and asking us to play outside. We had lots of animals and spent hours making up games with neighborhood friends. We spent hours coloring and making up stories to go with our pictures, always with crayons from the big crayon drawer under the counter. I loved the colors on the Crayola crayon box; chartreuse, magenta, turquoise, and scarlet. I told everyone I was going to be a children's book illustrator, but my mother held off getting us lessons, thinking it was more expressive to develop our own style. She felt expressing yourself with art was an intrinsic pastime for humans from the beginning of time. Now, when I go to book signings I give a drawing lesson, but I encourage children to use my lesson as a jumping off point. Usually the children's drawings have more energy and originality than mine!
I'm getting ready to leave on my book tour, October 8 until October 18, and I'll have a chance to draw for children at bookstores and museums and zoos all across the country. I'll even be having book signings at the Wegman's grocery stores. If I'm appearing near your town please come, and bring a paper, pencil with an eraser and something hard to write on. You can find all of my tour stops in the Tour section of my Home Page. I'd love to see you. If you bring a finished drawing I will admire it!
I'm three quarters of the way through the finishes of HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, my 2011 fall Christmas book about a runaway troll. It is set in Arctic Sweden, and when I look at the finished work on my wall, I feel transported to that beautiful mountainous place near Kiruna, Sweden above the Arctic circle. This week, I'll go to New York City to meet with Margaret, my editor and Cecilia, the art director at Penguin to look at the artwork I've done so far. I'll be very nervous about the meeting. There is always a lot of constructive criticism. If they want to change something, I have to be ready to agree and think of something better, or have a good reason for keeping it the way I've done it originally. I always feel a little vulnerable at this time, but what helps me get through it is thinking about having the best possible book. It's a good time for me to think about the book jacket. Seeing the eight semi-habituated Moose in Sweden has left me with a wonderful impression of these wild characterful animals. I can just picture Rollo the troll perched on the Moose's antlers high above the snow drifts on the jacket of my book. Moose are fun to draw with their unique noses and thick, warm layered fur coats.
I'd like to once again invite you to my book signings. I don't have any children living at home and it's a great happiness to see lots of children that love books.
Happy drawing and creating, your friend,