This is my June Hedge a gram, the time I take every month to talk about what is going on in my life as an author – illustrator of children’s books.
We have just been to NYC to Book Expo, the largest book convention in the US. My publisher Penguin/Random House has a large booth, and I was able to see my new book, THE TURNIP which will be out next fall. It was the first time I’ve seen it as a bound book which is always a mixture of elation, gratitude and a twinge of worry. After the intensity of finally wrapping it up under pressure, I worry that I will have missed something. That being said, if my deadline were to be extended I would probably perfect and change things to the detriment of the book! I have seen the printed pages, but it looks and feels differently when it is a bound book with end papers.
In NYC I had a meeting with my editor, Margaret. We looked over the first two pages and it went well. Because I have done two Gingerbread stories previously, the characters will remain somewhat the same and the setting will still be Switzerland. I haven’t started to make Gingerbread as yet, but I’m looking forward to creating some of the characters. The borders will be in the shape of musical instruments with a double bass shape, the largest of the stringed instruments in a symphony orchestra. I also have added a slurry of musical notes and luckily I asked my husband, a professional musician with the Boston Symphony Orchestra if I had painted them correctly. The answer was “no”, so I corrected them. I used to play the clarinet in school and I was surprised at myself for not knowing which way the staff on a note goes. In the third floor of our house I have a big airy room with a balcony for a library. It’s stuffed with books, especially big, heavy art books. All the novels and non-picture books are in other bookshelves downstairs. Occasionally I feel a little guilty about 45 years of books collected, but this week I have had nothing but happy thoughts!
I have made numerous trips to Europe, following my husband and the Boston Symphony and doing research. I never return without books from museums, outdoor museums and tourist spots, filling at least one suitcase. I rediscovered one book with Alpine interiors and lots of furniture and people in traditional clothes. Even though I have the Internet at my fingertips, I feel like worlds open up when I open my books, even if they are in a language I don’t speak. It is one of the ways I can create an atmosphere in my books. This summer, I’ll travel again to Europe and hope to discover more of the little details that give authenticity to my frame of reference.
When I was a child, we had family friends, Jean and Bob Hoss who had antique German glass ornaments for their Christmas tree, hundreds of them. Around the base was a white sparkley cloth with a village and figures. The best part was that there were small candles in antique holders, weighted by lead stabilizers. After eggnog and delicious cookies made by Mrs. Hoss, several of the parents stood by around the room with fire extinguishers. The house was a wooden New England Cape filled with antiques and much was flammable.
When the clock chimed, the tree was lit. It was a beautiful and unique sight, glowing in the darkened room. We sang O Tannenbaum (Oh Christmas Tree) and many other carols until we ended with Silent Night. In some years snow fell outside the windows, but I will never forget family and friend’s faces lit by the flickering candle light, the scent of evergreens and wax and the feeling of gratitude for this sweet poignant gathering. In my book, I will be able to recreate a beautiful Christmas tree. It’s something I’ve done before, but it still fills me with admiration. I admire the idea that we would take a tree, so beautiful but not exalted and make it a focal point. It’s a lovely custom that never fails to set the season apart.
I hope you will take an idea and add your research and memories and create a painting or story. It’s a way to keep the past alive and to anticipate the future!