This feels like a holiday. Last night, I finished packaging the dummy for a picture book a fellow writer and I worked on. This morning, it's in the mail, headed for an editor in the publishing hub of America . . . New York, NY. For two months, that art consumed my time and energy. E-mails piled up. Most flat surfaces in my house disappeared under layers of sketches, manuscripts and reference material. My husband, the dogs, the house slipped into a foggy background. This past week, I worked evenings and weekend, determined to push this project to completion.
Yesterday, I finished the paintings for the color sample pages. Then technology stepped in. I ran to the store for ink cartridges and good copy paper. After a quick dinner, I began scanning the pages. The black and white images printed, no problem. The color images presented major frustration. How is the red in my painting perceived as green by the scanner? Several hours later, I was satisfied with one image. I gave up on the other and printed the best my limited techological skills could offer.
Through all this, my husband jumped in to help where he could, loading ink cartridges, researching computer glitches and listening to my wailing over endless stumbles. Last night, at ten, he dashed to Walgreens for a folder to bind the art. It isn't easy living with a writer/artist caught up in creative frenzy. I try to remember that when I'm annoyed at housewifery.
The fog is now clearing. I'm tackling emails with apologies to all. (It isn't easy being a writer/artist's friend either). My novel is screaming, "Neglect!" And I have a new list of needed skills, including learning to calibrate the color on my monitor and scanner. But before I move on, I'll try to honor the work created. We so often charge from one project to another, never stopping to celebrate our accomplishments. It devalues our work. I watch friends squirm when someone compliments their achievements and I know I do the same. So today, I'll say to myself, "Good job."
This is a micro post week. I'm chin deep in dummy book art for a collaborative picture book that hopes to travel to an editor's desk by May 1st. The images are seared into my eyeballs and they chase me to bed. They feel raw, rough, like a scruffy street orphan. I'm a fine artist with no digital skills so everything's freehand. I have no subjects to model for the dummy and I'm not used to pulling figures from my imagination, much less scenes. My art always relied on concrete references, photos or real life.
There's no turning back now. I made a committment and I'm pouring myself into this project. It's consumed most of my creative energy for the last few weeks. My other stories lay neglected. The dust in my house grows daily. And the condition is likely to worsen. This weekend I'm participating in a day long workshop with author Joyce Sweeney. I'm very excited to learn from her. I'm also hoping to attend SCBWI's summer conference, God willing. That requires other stories be sharpened and another dummy book drawn. Aiyiiii . . . no time, gotta run!
The last few weeks I've been working on art for picture book dummies and some of that art is already discarded after feedback from peers altered the story. You'd think I'd learn. The image at left is from a dummy book I presented at my first PB meeting last April. The story was miles from being picture book material.
Since then, I've learned gobs about the genre and I hope my writing is approaching the mark. But hard as I try, I can't control the urge to create the other half of the equation, to SEE the story. I start with thumbnail sketches in pencil. Then a pen slips into my hands and I ink the lines. Next thing I know, I'm enlarging those images and refining.
The trouble is, I'm not sure of my stories. I take them to critiques, happy with their potential. I come home, knowing they aren't there yet. Tonight, I'm submitting a story for a second review. I've revised it multiple times and scribbled piles of sketches. I hope, oh I hope, it receives the kind of support that screams: It's Ready. Go For It! I've gathered research material for subject matter and I envision the drawings. My fingers are eager to begin.
April's walking journal is a bit early but I couldn't wait to share these images. We're nearing the five-year mark of cohabiting with peacocks in semi-rural Florida and Sunday for the first time, we were camera ready when we happened upon a peacock practicing his courtship dance. Even better . . . it's my favorite male, with the pumpkin-colored underfeathers. He deserves a princely name, don't you think? Suggestions anyone? Look at the courtyard he chose for his performance, as if he knew those arches mimic his tailspread.
Here's a short video of the peacock waltz my husband shot on our still camera. It doesn't do the moment justice. At one point the sun shot through the feathers, tinting the quills copper. Took my breath away.
Farther along, we spotted these peahens emerging from the woods. Last year we saw some white speckled hens but we've never seen this almost entirely white one. The hen with her has the gold underside of my favorite male. I wonder if they're siblings. The smaller black and white bird is a curious duck.
Last week, we heard a thump on the door and opened it to see this turtle. I think he was knocking to ask permission to pass through. He isn't the first to end up on our doorstep so I suspect this is an ancient turtle path to the creek or a pond. My husband thinks they just get sidetracked but I like my story better.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. And creatures, always creatures. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
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Kate DiCamillo on Writing