Every month I stop work in order to write an update on the children's book I am working on. This year, the title of my book is THE SNOWY NAP. My book is set in Denmark, and is about two characters I wrote about before, 20 years ago, in a book I wrote entitled THE HAT. THE HAT is an original story, rather than a retelling, and I was happy to revisit my characters, the little girl Lisa, and Hedgie the Hedgehog. Because Hedgie is pictured in snow in THE HAT, and in this new story, part of the premise is that Hedgie wants to experience snow, my new story will be a prequel. In the first book my daughter was the model for Lisa and in this new book, her daughter, Torynn is the model. They looked very much alike at age seven, and it is a fun challenge for me to try to do portraits of my granddaughter.
I just visited the DC area to visit my daughter and her family, and took the opportunity to read the dummy to Toryn and her brother Brian, and have my granddaughter act out the part of Lisa. It is very difficult for children to look natural before the camera, and I don't have the gift to make it happen. My granddaughter has grown by leaps and bounds as well, so my challenge will not only to send my character back in time, but also make her a bit younger. When my daughter was little I couldn't wait for each year to add to her abilities and accomplishments so we could enjoy sports together and travel, now with my granddaughter, I feel a little emotional that she is growing out of those childhood years so quickly, and I would rather time would stand still.
Last week the book designer and my editor sent me the book dummy with all the art I have already done in place, and the mostly final text also in place. I am so motivated and invigorated by this step, since many questions and challenges were solved by those last decisions. I love working on the final art, and sometimes it takes a few tries to get where I want to go, but somehow having the text completed is a most positive step.
This month will be the time I will really buckle down on my work, because I will be going to Japan with my husband who is in the Boston Symphony. The conductor Andris Nelsons will take the BSO on a ten day tour of Japan. We will be home a few weeks and then travelling again on the national booktour after Thanksgiving.
Our first stop on the Japanese tour will be Kyoto, where we will do a little sightseeing. My younger sister Jeannie will be traveling with us and I will be fascinated by her reaction to the Japanese aesthetic, particularly because she is an artist. My other younger sister Sophie has already traveled to Japan as a Rhodes Scholar, so now we will all have experienced a taste of this fascinating culture. Jeannie has a Maine Coon Cat that is quite magnificent and we are hoping to visit a tea house we have heard about where various breeds of cats are displayed in all their glory. Apparently guests can pet them, but not pick them up. Most of our tourist activities will be more traditional, and of course there is the delicious food. On my book tours, I usually dress with a nod to the setting of the current book, and since this year's book, THE MERMAID, is set in Japan I may find some items to work into my book signing outfit. I already have a beautiful antique "happi" coat, dyed with indigo. These hip length lightweight jackets are traditionally worn at festivals and display the family crest on the back. In modern times an organization or trade may be identified there. We will be staying at a traditional Inn in Kyoto and having a many course, elegant, kaiseki meal there. Most Japanese food is a wonderful, mind blowing adventure for Westerners. The flavors are delicate and exquisitely served. That said, there is probably something for everyone, even those who like spice and bold! We have been to Japan many times, and a few times I have hit the food barrier, so I know just how Kiniro my mermaid character feels when she moves on from father octopus' "too crunchy" breakfast, and mother octopus' "too slippery" breakfast! Now that I think of it, texture is a big part of Japanese food's uniqueness.
My sisters both have a talent for making beautiful gardens, and I am looking forward to seeing three of Kyoto's famous ones. One is known for its moss carpet, which I try to perpetuate at our camp in the Berkshires, where the rainfall encourages beautiful moss of many kinds. In THE MERMAID I created a sand and coral-stone undersea garden around the octopuses house. It even has a underwater stone lantern that I statically placed a Lantern fish in, where there would normally be a light. It is the kind of visual joke an illustrator can make even though very few people will figure it out.
Two of the things I am most looking forward to are listening to the BSO concerts in Suntory Hall in Tokyo and running around the Imperial Palace on the jog trail next to the moat. Listening to music and running are two times I get burst of book ideas. I'm hoping I will fly home with my creativity shaken up and a new book idea or color combination or art technique ready to be acted on. Lastly, there is a chance the BSO's conductor of 30 years, Seiji Ozawa, who lives in Tokyo and is one of Japan's greatest artists, will greet us and we can give him our best wishes. He has a grandson who I would like to give a book to.
My next hedge a gram will be sent from Japan, but in the meantime I will be happily at work on THE SNOWY NAP.
Happy Creating, Jan Brett