I spent yesterday morning at Barnes & Noble in West Dundee, talking to second-graders from Perry Elementary school. Perry has a lot of students from low-income families, so the store and school collaborate every year to raise money so the students can afford to buy a book. We had a lot of fun reading books, inventing pirates and talking about sharks and trains. Thanks to Suzanne Lattanzio at B&N for making it happen.
A few days after a school appearance, my mailbox is often jammed with a big envelope of drawing and notes from kids at the school I visited. This is one of the many gems I received this week from the kids at Stone Academy. Of course, it’s funny, but – in a perfect world – it’s entirely logical. I try to infuse my writing with this kind of kid-logic.
I did this on my first trip to London. It began as soon as I exited the cab at my hotel, when the cabbie warned “Mind the bollard!”
Readers often ask how a book begins. So here’s an an example of a book idea that came to me over the weekend.
It started on a bike ride, when I noticed that the moon was high in the sky at 7 am. Not unusual, but the sun was shining and the sky was clear blue, so the moon looked out of place and the image stuck in my head. Then, while working on an illustration that has a moonlit night sky, I wrote this on a post-it note: “The moon can’t sleep.” That evening, we went to an outdoor concert of Japanese music, which began with a song about the sun and the moon. The muse was obviously hammering down the door, so, after walking back to the car to retrieve a pencil, I doodled this on the back of the music program.
The core of the idea is that the moon doesn’t want to go to bed when it’s supposed to. It wants to stay up “late,” which, in this case, would be staying up all day. This twist is what appeals to me, together with the magical quality of the moon. So I did a color sketch, to see if the story has visual potential.
Even though it’s not a complete story, the premise feels worth pursuing, so I’ll put it on my wall of rough ideas and stare at it for awhile. Some morning when I feel particularly inspired, I’ll write the rest of the story. Maybe it will turn into something, maybe not.
This is pretty typical of how a book begins for me. It starts out as a single doodle that captures the essence of a story, then I have to work on the story to see if it goes anywhere. I usually write a few different versions and I know pretty quickly if one of them works. I give this one a 50/50 chance. Stay tuned.
Illustrator-of-Substance Stacy Curtis came to my book-signing at Anderson’s Bookshop last night, where one of the highlights was seeing an original, mint-condition, mini-Cooper in front of the store as we departed.
Independent bookstores dig Shark vs. Train, they put it on their Indie Next list for summer reading.
The very first signed copy of “Bridget’s Beret” was for Kylie, at the St. Charles Literature Festival, on April 24th. Look at that grin! (hers, not mine.) There are moments that make all the effort worthwhile – this was one of them. Thanks, Kylie!