It's a rainy day in the Berkshires, and it's very cozy in our log house overlooking Goose Pond. We spend three months a year here because my husband Joe is a Bass player in the Boston Symphony. I have a duplicate art studio here, and transport all my chickens, ducks (and there are many!) and Little Snow our Rabbit. The chickens seem to like it here, and they don't know it but it is very cool by our lake and shady. They also have a fenced yard where they can hunt for bugs and green things, but I have to be there to watch them because of predators. Little Snow had a big surprise, or rather we did. He has an open corral under a window with a tower that he can look out from. One night Joe spotted an owl right outside the window looking at him. It was a beautiful Barred Owl with huge dark eyes, very close. We have heard the distinctive calls all summer. It sounds like "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all." the call ends with a purring note. I always love to hear it.
I'm well on the way to making my new book, COZY a reality. There is a point after the research, the dummy and the first pages where I'm just going on instinct that the book will work. Then, miraculously the characters become real in my mind. Artists throughout time have been fascinated with states of reality, and it is worth pondering. There is a certain way of reaching a story by letting one's mind drift and be carried away by the act of painting itself. I concentrate on the craft and on the good days my subconscious guides my thoughts. That's why I love to say the story "unfolds". It is really rather mysterious. I love to talk to children on my book tours and describe this wonderful process as best I can. I know many people bring their children that like to write or draw. This year my book tour will be in the same time slot, the day after Thanksgiving until mid-December. We will be driven across the country on our decorated bus, thanks to Penguin Random House, my publisher. I always make sure I have 30 minutes to talk about how I created my book and encourage the children to be creative before the signing. Now that I've turned this corner with COZY, I can't wait to sit down at my art desk. When I'm designing or working on faces I listen to classical music, Shubert is a current favorite, but Bach and Mozart create a good mental atmosphere too. When I am rendering, filling in the border for example, I can listen to an audio book. I have been listening to many books about Alaska where COZY is set. My favorites are COMING INTO THE COUNTRY by John McPhee and ALASKA by James Michener. The Audio books are especially helpful because of the pronunciation of traditional names. My favorite book for reading in book form is Barry Lopez' ARCTIC DREAMS which I have on my night table. When he describes Musk Ox I can tell he is as fascinated by their uniqueness as I am. His writing brings the natural world into sharp focus, probably why this book won the National Book Award.
Later this month, I will visit Palmer, Alaska again to spend an afternoon at The Musk Ox Farm. I hope to see "Teal" the Musk Ox yearling we adopted as part of a support program for the farm. There is a little musk Ox museum on the farm, and there is a taxidermized Musk Ox. My plan is to wiggle under it so I can see what the top of the legs looks like. It would not be possible to do this with a live Musk Ox! I have had experience being among the herd in the past. They have evolved to stand down predators, particularly wolves. One does not want to crouch down or wear a hat that could mimic ears near Musk Ox! I have a picture in my book that shows all the arctic animals that shelter under Cozy's long, silky coat. The lower part of the Musk Ox legs is a cream color, but their bodies are brown. I will be on a mission to find out where the change occurs.
September is always a time of new beginnings, the school year starts and in our lives the Symphony season begins. It feels exciting to be part of a new book being realized. It never gets old.
Happy Reading, and especially happy creating on your special project.
Your friend, Jan Brett