October Hedge a gram
Every month I gather my thoughts and try to describe my activities as an author illustrator. When I was a youngster, I knew I wanted to illustrate children's books, but other than a notion that I would be coloring all day long, I didn't know what else was involved. Now that writing and illustrating picture books is my profession, I find that there are many ways to be creative and support my books,
Next week a big bus will pull up outside our house, covered with artwork from my new book, MOSSY. Our publisher, Penguin Books, arranges for the bus to take us on a three week bus tour. It's indicative of the age we live in, that we can be rolling down the road, focused on the next signing, when we will receive an email from someone driving by who has seen the web address displayed on the bus. It is especially rewarding when the child of the passerby tells his parents that I'm the author he knows about from school.
You can see all the towns we'll be stopping at all cross the country on my website. The bus travels long distances at night when we are sleeping in the back. We can watch a sunset in the desert in Arizona, and wake up the next morning in a fog bank next to the Pacific Ocean. One thing is consistent, which is that many parents who have a child that either loves art or writing will visit the signing to encourage their child to create their own work. It is fascinating to see the artwork that kids bring to the signings. It is original as only children’s artwork can be, and it reflects a personal style that is fresh and authentic. I have high hopes that the child will keep on with their habit of creating works of art, precursors of future art projects that may shape our world. I am also in awe of the teachers that come with arm loads of books from their personal libraries. I sign one book for everybody, but I have bookplates for any extra books. If time allows I can sign every last book! It's also exciting personally to meet teaching students.They will have so much impact on our country's future. My sister Sophie is a teacher and she specializes in speech pathology, after teaching 6th grade for many years. I can always count on her to think up new ways to use my books with her students. For example, I write a newsnotes letter for children about each book that is published. For Mossy, I painted a box turtle, then all kinds of vegetation so a child can cut out the moss and flowers and create their own garden on Mossy's back. In case you haven't read my new book, Mossy the turtle grows a garden on her back. Sophie took my idea a step further. She cut out the pieces, laminated them, and then put a velcro dot on the back of each of the flowers so her students could craft their own gardens for Mossy. Now she's going to add to the fun and find all kinds of objects Mossy can carry on her back, from toys to food. Then she can work on categorizing skills with the kids.
Since my husband and I travel on the bus, rather than fly around our country to booksignings, we can set up my signings in a unique way. We are able to bring our own sound system, and a backdrop in case someone wants to take a photo. We bring a huge amount of posters, which we give to the first 100 people at each signing. Since there are 25 destinations, that adds up to a lot of posters! We give buttons to everyone in line, and we also give out the All About letter I just mentioned. As everyone enters the bookstore, Hedgie the Hedgehog will be there to greet the children. He loves having his picture taken. I will be bringing my art materials so I can give the children a drawing lesson on how to draw a turtle. It will be like the video you can see from the the QR reader on the back flap of Mossy. If you like, bring a pad of paper and pencil for your child, I'd love to have children draw along with me.
In the past, I've left my artwork at home while I'm on my book tour, but this year I'll be bringing artwork for the book I'm currently working on, CINDERS, a chicken Cinderella. I have a few mornings off, so I will work on the paintings. The book is set in olden days Russia, and I am intrigued by the gorgeous ball gowns and fancy uniforms that I will dress the chickens in. I'm at the stage in the book when I've got over 1/2 done, and my Russian chicken coop, that I am painting feels like a real world to me. Usually, I'm able to visit my chicken characters, because I have lots of real chickens at home, and I'll miss them on the bus tour. They are getting quite agreeable about posing for me!
I hope I'll meet lots of book lovers on the tour. I hope to see you there.
Your friend, Jan Brett