I am starting in on a new picture book. It's always an exciting time; blank canvas and all that. When it's a book you've written yourself, the pictures form simultaneously with the words as one entwined, inseparable idea. At least for me. But when the manuscript comes from another writer, the process is different. I've often thought an illustrator is also part architect, costume designer, landscape gardener; we design the houses of our characters, and choose their clothes and plant their gardens. At times we are given license to decide if they are humans or animals or, you know, unicorns. All these decisions can be paralyzing. (A whip-cracking editor can be useful here.) When a story is one of historical fiction however, there is research to be done. Research, which has its own drawbacks and rewards. Spending a day hunting down a single image can lead you down rabbit holes you never imagined (Oh! Rabbit holey internet!), and at the end of the day you may be no closer to finding your image. You may, on the other hand, know all sorts of things you never knew about the secret uses of an 18th century ice house, the mating habits of pink fairy armadillos and the French postman who spent 33 years building an extraordinary grotto out of pebbles he carried in his pockets.
In any case, I am starting in on a new picture book for Schwartz and Wade. It is written by Emily Jenkins (Toys Go Out, Lemonade in Winter, Love You When You Whine!!!) and it's called A Fine Dessert and it's wonderful. In Emily's words, "it is about the universality of the pleasure in cooking and eating dessert -- how it goes through time and across cultures." The dessert in question is blackberry fool, made with berries, cream and sugar, combined and chilled. The book follows four families making and sharing this dessert, over four centuries, in four different places.
I often do school visits and talk to teachers and librarians after a book is finished, but I have never shared the process – the decision-making, the research, the false leads, the mistakes, the happy accidents, even the paralysis – as it's being made. For better or worse, I have decided to drag you along with me. Feel free to crack the whip, share your own tales from the rabbit hole, send me images of whisks through the ages...
More soon!




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Published on October 03, 2013 11:22 • 57 views

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