Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Horror or a bad April fools joke

Halloween Horror or a bad April fools joke.  I’m not sure which.

I logged on to Amazon.  I’ve been waiting for my book to be posted for sale on Amazon – it is my hope that someone I don’t know might eventually purchase this book through this site.  For local folks and people I know I am more than willing to sell one of the many copies I’ve got on order.  For those who follow my blog – they can  buy it through the paypal buy it button I’ve got posted, but for those people just browsing the internet – I hope to one day hear that some random Amazon Shopper has decided to give my book a loving home.

So I’ve been creeping Amazon – and I found it! It’s up. Complete with an image of the cover, and above that a little blue and orange invitation to “Look Inside.”  I clicked on it.   Can you imagine my HORROR when I saw the Giselle Potter’s Edition of the book pop up.



Wynken Blynken and Nod - Giselle Potter Edition.


My indrawn breath was audible.   Amazon recognizes the various versions of Wynken, Blynken and Nod as different editions of the same book.  So does not see why a book produced for it’s artwork would need a different preview than any other edition with the same text.   It’s a computer thing.

I’m working to try to fix this – but of course Amazon can market it’s books anyway it wants to.  But of course I’m still mildly horrified.

Happy Halloween – my book is in disguise!  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What does it mean to be an Artist?

I’ve been thinking a lot about art lately.  I’ve  taken on the monumental task of organizing our local craft fair.  The catch is that there are a lot of “new” rules this year and with change comes resistance.   Some of the resistance is just that the tables are more expensive this year than last, others are upset that they must now follow the Guidelines laid out by the Health Authority for safe preparation and sale of foods.  The things that catches me is the concept of “handmade”  this is a craft fair and the criteria state that items have to be crafted in some significant way.  Nothing with the stamp “made in china”. While sometimes this is easy – those cute little hand blown glass beads are definitely hand crafted, and somebody spent a lot of time crocheting little hats for babies. Whereas those Pashmina imports from India were screened out as not locally handcrafted.   But the line gets blurry  - does gluing a little metal hello kitty charms onto hair clips count as a craft?  or cutting elastic bands in short lengths and tying a knot in the end?  How about machine embroidery – where you buy a program for a Snoopy image and then let the machine do its thing on hand towels?  Are my little packages of seasoning blends hand crafted? 

Which takes me into a whole other realm – the business of art. Or craft.  I spoke to a woman who makes her living on her art once – she talked about her paintings, her prints, he workshops, and then the rise in cute little crafty things on webpages such as and maybe it was better to be selling cute little crafts rather than trying to break into the realms of art collectors and galleries.  She thought my spice packets were brilliant in their own way.  Maybe I need to spend some time and put something up on Etsy.

I have another artistic friend who is a photographer – who used to spend hours and hours in her dark room but can no longer find the chemicals for her work as film is slowly becoming obsolete.   She now makes more money making handmade soap than the delicate art of the dark room.  She suggested I watch a documentary called “Exit through the Giftshop”.  
Artist stands with his paintings 'The Queen' (R) and 'Kate Moss' at the Opera Gallery on October 3, 2011 in London, England. (I doubt he had permission to use their images - given that he's already lost a court case to RUN DMC for the use of their image)

I did.  As a straight documentary, this film is a snoozefest, an artist's love note to himself written in spray paint on a public wall.  But on another level it blew my mind.   It is about a French immigrant who started filming graffiti artists, and eventually met some very famous ones, who encouraged him to try making art.  So he did…. But not in the fashion that I would consider art – is it handmade – certainly… but not by our Parisian filmmaker.  The fellow instead jumps in with two feet, hires out of work artist and graphic designers – having them do the actual creating of his ideas on an enormous scale.   The not so brilliant ideas he pawns off on these designers are largely imitations of other renowned graffiti  artists, crossed with the use of famous artistic and historic images, many of which are copyrighted, altering them in slight ways.  The documentary then follows him as he holds an “art show” in an abandoned CBS builidng.   Marketing his self-financed debut  with mixture of an overheated and hyped street art market and his misuse of endorsements from a few legendary graffiti artists.  Then comes the part that kills me -  this fellow who didn’t actually do any of the creation of the installations himself, who didn’t seem to have one original idea in his head sells this so called artwork made largely of copyrighted material for  five-figure sums.  

Art collectors and people with lots and lots of money gobble up this “art” so his debut art show is a soldout affair that brings in sums I’ve never even dreamed of.  Over a million dollars in a matter of weeks….

So is this guy brilliant, or just lucky?  Does promotion of Art give it value?  How do you value art?  What really is handcrafted? and what does this say about my own art?  How do I price my art?  And what does it mean to be an artist?  

But if you want some famous art- you too can own a pair of spray painted, Nike sneakers for $1000 (  

or you can get some not so famous art in the form  of my labour of love – Wynken, Blynken and Nod -  $15.99 which should be up on the Friesen’s Press bookstore website within the week.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pricing and a Book Critic.

The book – the book … the BOOK>  Wynken, Blynken and Nod.  I signed off on the final proof and will be able to order copies for distribution within the month.  It will be available on the publisher’s website as well as shortly after that.  If you want a copy – let me know. My final step in all of this is a MSRP.  The price. 


Pricing is hard for me. In order to price your art realistically, you must understand and respect how the art business works and how people shop and buy. You must step back and objectively evaluate the significance and quality of your art in relation to all other art. You must also objectively assess your art world accomplishments and determine how they position you in relation to all other artists.  The more aware you are of the big picture, of what other artists are creating, how it's being priced and marketed, and who's buying what for how much and why, the better prepared you are to price your art sensibly. 

 So with all that in mind…. How the heck do we decide what to charge? Pricing just feels like a big, black void, and one with a lot of pressure: charge too much, and they’ll run away; charge too little, and you’re shooting yourself in the foot – undervaluing your work – and some folks might not buy it because you’ve now convinced them via the price tag that it’s not worth much.   Gah!

 But a book should be easy – never mind that it took me almost three years to paint the collection of illustrations, or that I’ll likely need to sell over 400 copies just to break even on the editing/printing design work.   There are lots of books out there – a quick look at amazon should put me in the ball park – even if I can’t compete with publishers such as “scholastic”.  


I started looking at some of my favourite children’s books…..

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Jerry Pinkney

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt,

The Pirate Cruncher by Jonny Duddle,

Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett,


And then I looked at Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin  which describes how  Farmer Brown's cows have gotten a hold of a typewriter, and now equipped with the means with which they can express themselves, the cows demand electric blankets forthwith. Farmer Brown demurs (by throwing a small fit) so the cows join up with the chickens in demanding blankets for the chickens as well.  They do this by leaving a note on the barn door “no milk, no eggs.” Farmer Brown is so tired of not having any eggs or milk because of the animals being on strike, he decides to give in to their requests, only to have the ducks demand a diving board for the pond.  

We love this story – my kids love the repetitiveness of the words “Click clack – MOO.  Click Clack –MOO.”  And I chuckle every time I read “Duck was a neutral party so de delivered the ultimatum.”
So as I’m looking at prices – I got distracted by the comments readers leave about the books they read.   Turns out not everyone finds this book as charming as we do.  One reviewer (Jory Hansen) rants about how the author takes “her readers for fools” objecting to talking/typing cows,  and goes on to say that in purchasing this book “you've got to be downright stupid, and even that's a stretch. I would most definitely not recommend this book to any parent, unless for some reason you want your children to grow up believing in talking cows and cow strikes that result in milk shortages and whatnot. “  Clearly this reviewer has never heard of the term FICTION.  I hesitate to think what he/she would think of shoes sailing through the night sky and fishing for stars under the benevolent gaze of the laughing/singing moon.

 Another reviewer felt the book was unacceptable union propaganda, and suggested that Farmer Brown  should have turned the ungrateful, inefficient and pampered cows into hamburger and drumsticks and replaced them with more appreciative, hardworking, and efficient cows and chickens.
At this point I gave up on humanity in general and figured people would either purchase my book or they won’t and  quit worrying about it.

Let me know if you want me to pre-order you a copy.

Many people, other than the authors, contribute to the making of a book, from the first person who had the bright idea of alphabetic writing through the inventor of movable type to the lumberjacks who felled the trees that were pulped for its printing. It is not customary to acknowledge the trees themselves, though their commitment is total. ~Forsyth and Rada, Machine Learning

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Back in the Cube Farm

The Seasons have turned once again.  A year has passed since I left work to look after my second little peanut.   It’s been a year filled with joys and family.  But now after a summer of warmth and chaos the rains are returning and I’ve dropped my kids off into the care of another so that I can return to the cubicle where I earn the money to pay the daycare I wouldn’t need if I were not working. It’s a vicious cycle. 

The leaves are turning; the moisture is creeping further out of the hollows where it retreats in the summer.  My DH has moved to our new home, and I am left to mop up until I can join him. 

 I hit the ground running each morning, in a frantic flight to make sure the kids are clean enough that no one will start asking questions and dressed sufficiently for the weather, to pack lunches and stuff breakfast into distracted eaters.   I grab a stack of clean diapers, throw them in the day pack along with some spare clothes and hope that daycare is forgiving if I’ve forgotten something.   I drive across town and drop them off before planting myself in a small beige square where I spend the best of the waking hours. 

I take a big breath when I go and pick up the kids as the scramble begins again with food prep, and clean up, baths and bedtime routines.  I let escape a silent prayer each night that THIS will be the night they sleep through the night (it hasn’t happened yet)…. And I hope they fall asleep soon enough to give me a few moments silence in which to collect my own thoughts – but they rarely do.

I was optimistic when we moved during the summer months.  I kept with me my paints, and paper, fabric and sewing machine.  But so far I’ve not managed to do much in the way of art or craft.   I have however committed myself to the annual craft fair.  The goal is to have copies of my book available for any and all who wish a copy.  This along with my spice packets, calendars filled with my art and the usual art cards and prints.  I hope it will go well.   But in thinking about this fair I’ve decided I want to get back in to seed packets.  I’ve been inspired by photos of vintage seeds …  I think I’ll stick with the easy to grow – sunflowers, poppies, sweet peas and nasturtiums, Hyacinth Bean, Gourds, Pumpkins, radishes, and zinnias…. Compared with perennials, trees, evergreens and the rest, seeds are a real bargain. For less than the price of one potted perennial, you have potentially hundreds of plants rattling around in a packet.  Besides I’m really excited about painting vegetables these days.  Expanding beyond the blue tones I’ve been working with for the past two years of illustrating Wynken, Blynken and Nod. 

But if you are a fan of the Blue – I’m taking pre-orders for the book!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

velco, goldfish, and a proof!

The days fly by and time passes in the blink of an eye.  I try to remind myself to make the most of each day as it happens but they seem to woosh by in such a hurry.  I am in no hurry.  The excitement of each day is here and now and I feel as if I am in the thick of it.  I have moved out of my home, my possessions are in a container parked somewhere, my new home will be mine at the end of the week.  In the mean time, I’ve been camping,  I wrote a final exam for an electrocardiography course I was taking, I’ve taken my little Peanut to Children’s Hospital for some rather severe allergies to milk and eggs (he now has an epi-pen for those just in case times), and now I’m living in a hotel – it’s a temporary arrangement.  The whole thing is a bit surreal…..

I drove with my two small children for miles and miles and miles and miles on my own.  We stopped a lot.    In no particular order  - here are a few things I’ve learned about travelling alone with very young children. 
   *  Before setting out on a long car trip with children, many parents pack freshly cut carrots and celery. These would come in handy if a hungry deer wanders up to your car at a stop sign - carseats are places where goldfish crackers go to die  -  when driving long distances nutrition goes out the window – if gold fish crackers keep them happy – provide endless supplies of goldfish crackers .. Lollies that take time to chew and have the ability to fuse the jaw together are also particularly useful.
*      public toilets are scary places – and for toddlers they are positively terrifying.
*     be thankful for Velcro  - As well as saving valuable time, now I can hear the sound of my son taking off his shoes which gives me three extra seconds to activate the safety locks on the back seat windows right before he hurls them out of the car and onto the freeway.
*      every community has a playground…. I am slowly getting intimately acquainted with ALL of them.
*      a personal listening device with a set of ear buds or headphones so your child can keep his music to himself can easily save you a fortune in therapy later.
*      if the baby falls asleep, inevitably the toddler wakes him up with an enthusiastic rendition of “Dingle Dingle Wittow Star” which he can’t be reprimanded for because he’s cute and he didn’t mean to wake his brother. Just breathe.
*      take breaks where there is a toilet but away from any venue that has too many desirable items available to purchase. Like alcohol.
*      estimate the travel time, then double it.
*     it all ends with the game “everyone look out the window and be quiet” while Mum tries to remain calm and delete swear words from her internal dialogue.

But we’ve made it so far, and there are really only 2 or 3 more days to driving to go.  Then I can look forward to a year of single parenting, a small one bedroom apartment, and the printing of my book!!! Oh yeah!

I got the first proof (digital copy only) back from the designer that is putting the text into the artwork.  This is really so exciting.  I’m requesting a few edits, but I’m pretty happy with it.  Extremely excited to be at this stage in the process!!!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Going to Print!

I spoke once, back in 2012 [here] about books, and how I always had this thought that one day I would like to illustrate a children’s book.   I quoted Toni Morrison who said “If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”.  I admitted my limitations and confessed the importance of establishing goals so long as you don't let them deprive you of interesting detours.  By the fall I’d done a few paintings.  A year later I was still working on it.  I’d stalled out for a while, and had another baby.  I think my art improved.  I’d discarded a number of attempts.  I’d even painted on the back of some of the ones I didn’t like (watercolour is expensive – upwards of $15 for a single sheet of paper).

I’m now two years from beginning my journey and I’ve just sent off my artwork to a company that will help me get through the self-publishing process.  In other words  I’ve decided to publish this work independent of a publishing house.  In the past, self-published authors had to spend considerable amounts of money preparing a book for publication, and to purchase bulk copies of their title and find a place to store them. Print-On-Demand  technology means that I, via numerous, accessible global distribution channels like, Barnes & Noble, Chapters, etc., can have a book printed– virtually world-wide – only when an order has been placed.  Voila!  Putting your book for sale on Amazon feels like dropping a single grain into a bag of rice.  So while this book will likely never make enough money to even cover the costs of getting the paintings digitized, let alone set up fees etc.  the point is I’m taking my own advice.... you know those things you've always wanted to do..... you should do them...  here I am...

I’ve received some praise.. I wonder how much is lip service and how much is real.  The best was from the folks I’ve hired to help me get my paintings into digital format suitable for printing....

© RiverWalker Arts
“I received your illustrations this morning! They are absolutely gorgeous.  I can't even tell you the response I have received.  Every single person who has laid eyes on them has had wonderful things to say.  Multiple times I have had people ask what professional illustrator sent them in.  Just gorgeous.” ~ H.S.

Wynken, Blynken and Nod is about a Journey.  The Poem written by Eugene Field and published in 1889 is about three little fishermen who sail off in a wooden shoe to fish among the stars in the night sky.  It is a dream, it is a lullaby, it is a gentle pull into the mysteries of bedtime stories.   The Journey for me is the series I am painting.  I’m doing it for myself, I’m doing it for the children in my life, I’m doing it because I can....  and all things going as planned there will be a book... a real tangible vanity published book to read, to sell, to admire and market – in time for Christmas craft fair season.  (I only ever do one craft fair a year.... but still it’s how I put myself out there in my community).

You’ll be able to order one too, I’ll sign it if you want.  It will be for sale on Amazon... so I’m told. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


So this is the deal.   My I have a dirty little secret.  A time waster.  Which is awful because I REALLY don’t have time to just sit and let time disappear in a flash.    I have kids to pay attention to, I have school work to get done, a book to publish... oh and did I mention I just sold my house and bought a new one so I’ve got moving to do too.  And in case you didn’t know.. Kids take up a LOT of time.   Anyway.. my time waster – my dirty little defragment the brain activity  -  PINTEREST.   (I know..... Please don’t judge me).  

 “What’s for Dinner?” by Sandra K White
I often seek inspirational art on Pinterest, (along with toddler activities, toddler crafts, quilting techniques and crockpot recipes.)  One day I came across Sandra K White’s “What’s for Dinner?”  watercolour.  (   It  spoke to me.  It sang to me.  I NEEDED to paint BEETS!  (I’m not even sure her painting has beets, they might be turnips, or giant radishes.... all I saw was beets) .

I became somewhat obsessed.  I’ve been painting variations of Wynken, Blynken and Nod for two years and little else.  I’ve gone through enough Winsor Blue to last a lifetime, specifically : Artists' Water Colour: Winsor Blue (Green Shade) .  So the thought of lusciously vibrant oranges and rich deep reds had me positively humming with anticipation.  I really needed to wipe all that blue off the palette. 

Finally. With a little cooperation from some sleeping children I managed to squeeze in enough time for this:
dug up from the garden ..... Basic research has shown beets may protect against liver disease, lower blood pressure and have an effect on mechanisms of cardiovascular disease.

11x 15 inch Watercolour on 140lbs cold press cotton rag paper
© RiverWalker Arts

Thank you Sandra for the inspiration....

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

a for sale sign and a lack of good books.

There is a forsale sign on my lawn,  and I scramble daily to keep up with the cleanliness required to “stage” a house.  Turns out that not many people like to see my dirty dishes on the counters, or toothpaste on the mirrors.... it’s apparently not good for allowing people to visualize the home as their own.   I try not to do anything like fry bacon on days when people are coming to look... a house that smells like bacon grease is apparently as bad as one that smells of microwaved popcorn or boiled cabbage.  

My two year old is a one man wrecking crew who charges through the house on his little feet, legs pumping as fast as they can go terrorizing the dog, and dragging behind a tape measure.   My little 7 month old peanut, is learning about food, and seem to be able to spread the stuff in a 3 foot radius of himself while simultaneously sucking on it, and spitting it out.   Every time someone comes to look at the place I’m terrified they will get a wiff of wet dog or dirty diaper and it will turn them off because they will think it’s permeated the house, and not just that I haven’t done diaper laundry in a few days.

Before I had kids I used to work full time, go out for dinner occasionally,  exercise religiously, paint, read novels, and try intricate recipes in the kitchen.  I haven’t been out for dinner with my husband for 3 years,  my exercise consists of chasing after Chicken Little and carrying kids around on my hips, my kitchen time is down to whatever I can throw in the crockpot in the least amount of time and this year I’ve read exactly one book that wasn’t found in the baby section.  

I started keeping track of the books I read years and years ago, I’m such a nerd I even have  spreadsheet.  I averages 14-18 novels a year.  Some were inane drivel designed for quick consumption and mindless entertainment, others more profound.  When I was off work with my first baby, I doubled my reading, as I rocked in the rocking chair, chicken little snoring on my chest.   Now I read three or four children’s books at bedtime, and in the morning.  Often repeating the same one over and over.... the one book I’ve just finished reading cover to cover, geared for the adult audience - Medical Terminology Systems by
Barbara A. Gylys.  Which is essentially 700 pages of lists upon lists of words, suffixes, prefixes, describing, body parts, tests and diseases.   It is the first course on my journey to re-educate myself for employability in a new town.  One far away from the Ocean where the 6 years of schooling I already have applies.

I have however tried to keep with Painting, it’s the most therapeutic of all my pastimes, and so here I present to you – a bit of seasonal solitude....

© RiverWalker Arts

There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you.... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savour belonging to yourself.  
~Ruth Stout

Thursday, March 6, 2014

drowning in alphabet soup

I have little boys.  Not girls – and I don’t know what they are like. But I can tell you boys play hard and they play dirty and they like trucks.  When presented with a room filled with dolls and kitchen sets, and books and ponies and Barbies and all manner of really great  gender neutral toys,  Chicken Little who is 2 will gravitate to the trucks, the trains and the airplanes.  He likes to drive his trucks on his hands and knees in the dirt.  The mud.  The snow.  Just keeping up with laundry is a challenge – especially when you also have to make sure you run a load of diapers ever other day for the Peanut.  

Between keeping up with a two year old, keeping the dog hair to a dull roar,  and making sure everyone is fed, and clothed, and generally clean enough to keep social services from the door it’s a full time job.  That free time I have between 2 and 6 in the morning is often taken up with nursing the baby, taking the two year old pee, and trying to catch a few moments of shut eye.   

Art is sanity for me. Creativity.  There are simply not enough hours in a day to do it.  I have so many projects I want to pursue.  Quilting and quiet books, maybe by the time I am a grandmother I will have made a quiet book.  But right now I’m lucky if I can squeeze in a spare moment to doodle in my sketch book.   I said I was going to “art journal”  and it hasn't really happened. But I did stop being afraid to sketch in my sketch book – to leave half finished ideas, to scratch out words and images in a haphazard scrawl.  

So as if I were not busy enough with life I decided to take up a correspondence course.  No – not art related .  Human Anatomy and Physiology – a medical terminology sort of affair.   – mostly because I’m crazy  .  I can think of no good other reason for it.

Now.... I've got in excess of 300 flash cards and I feel like I’m drowning in alphabet soup. I've got hundreds of abbreviations for words there aren't enough tiles in a scrabble game to spell,  my kids can’t understand a word I say ....

and really.. who calls it a sphygmometer anyway???

So when I bogged myself down last night and all I could see was letters swirling on the page. I got out the paint and thought I’d see if I could tap into some other part of my brain.  Maybe it would refresh the soul?
Here is an evening’s play.  Done with a sleeping babe in my lap, and a dog shedding at my feet, amid a sea of medical terminology flash cards....

Northern Lights over Lucy.  
Original Watercolour
 ©RiverWalker Arts 

Friday, February 14, 2014

A rumor without a leg to stand on will get around some other way.

I live in a small town, on a dark wet and cold little island.  In this isolated little place where people don’t seem to be able to get outside and do enough physical activity in the sun, people turn to rumours.  Sure maybe it happens in other towns too, but here it seems to be particularly virulent.  The rumours here are not only prolific but they seem to metastasize on their own and sneak into every corner of the community.  

The grains of truth are small –  and somehow people I don’t even know are coming up to me in the grocery store and telling me that I’ll like working for Michelle at the hospital....  (apparently  I applied for a job there - (I didn’t by the way)).   Others are asking me what we are asking for our house.... (um – it’s not for sale – but I suppose for the right price almost anything material is for sale – would you like to make me an offer I can’t refuse?). 

The whole process has given me some interesting insights into just how fast, how far and how wide rumours travel.   Maybe it’s just I don’t get out much anymore to squash the rumours?  What can I say my days are pretty full.  But I did manage to get out last night... a fun little jaunt.

The North Coast Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society is hosting a series of free workshops to celebrate diversity in our community – I decided to partake... we were supposed to focus on what brought us here, or our journey to this place... this little island in the mist. 

My evening in a white room, with overhead florescent lights, bare walls and a concrete floor  amounted to this- a desperate reach for colour!

Why an Octopus?? Well it was really a long journey... but I think at the end of the day it was fish... and more specifically invertebrates – crabs, octopi, shrimp, clams and the things that crawl in the sea, not the ones that swim - that brought me here.  I came for 4 months, and stayed for 9 years – where the future will take me has yet to be determined.  What will take me there, is also a mystery.  and the rumours it will create remain to be gossiped about....
When you are in trouble, people who call to sympathize are really looking for the particulars.  ~Edgar Watson Howe.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Title Page

January isn’t the most depressing month, but this year it is in the running.  The weather station on the top of city hall tells me that we’ve already had 200mm of rain this month and today is one of those days where the darkness presses close, the thick grey clouds hang low and everything oozes with moisture and wetness.  There is a damp smell that seems to smother everything, the smell of rot and earth.  The moss is saturated and the sucking mud below seems to be swallowing up the town.  A film of dark green algae stains what isn’t covered in spongy moss, my house, my car, my windows....

Art projects tend to languish in this kind of depressing weather, and yet folks seem to be getting anxious to see when my book will finally hit print.  It’s a funny thing – maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned it so soon – it’s been a long time in the making.  I’ve really enjoyed it.  But with 16 spreads, title page, cover etc – it’s a big project.  That being said – I’m getting there.  I think I’m down to the last painting or so.  The most recent being the title page –

Title Page
Original Watercolour
 ©RiverWalker Arts 

Now the big question will be how to publish this thing.  It’s not like you can just knock on a publishers door and say – hey I’ve got this thing finished – wanna publish it for me?

 Apparently the children's book market is extremely competitive, and profit margins tend to be small even for successful books.   Further-  many publishing houses won't look twice at your book without the solicitation of a literary agent- and there are plenty of bad agents and scammers in the game.  Then the other bit of news I received is that publishers don’t like finished artworks – but rather I’m told a package sent to a publisher should include a covering letter the text and a copy of the storyboard of rough drawings, in colour or black and white, and copies of one or two pieces (maximum) of finished artwork for the book... If you send them something too finished, it’s then more difficult for them to intervene editorially, so they might be inclined to reject the submission out of hand rather than look any further at it.


So where does this leave me??  Well. Possibly self publishing on

Saturday, January 4, 2014

and all the sweet serenity of books

Children will test you, challenge you, bring you to tears, crack you up, and make you forget what you urgently had to do. They'll shatter the life you knew into a million pieces. Then they'll put it back together, like a stained-glass window, into something infinitely more complicated and beautiful.

Looking after a two year old, and an infant is pretty much a full time affair. I don’t get much time to sit here and type, or to paint beautiful pictures or even pretty horrible ones.  My dog gets walked much less and when I look outside through my front window it is through a film of dog slobber, toddler drool and wee sticky fingerprints.  Everything is slightly tacky with the curiosity of being two, and smells a bit like the sweet-sour milky vomit of an infant.

Having children does however give one an excuse to buy hundreds of lovely books, to listen joyfully to the crack of paper when you first open the pages, and to forever-after try patiently to teach your children to be gentle as the books slowly become worn, dog-eared and loved from repeated storytelling and readings. Sometimes the words are poetic and stay with you and other times you have memorized the entire story and it runs around in your head when you are not sleeping at night and you wonder when it will finally be replaced by a new favourite so you can stop reading it over and over and over and over and over again.   But for me the marvel has been a new appreciation for the glorious illustrators and the images they create. 

Illustration by Don Wood
A standard children’s book at 32 pages long is a whole collection of works of art, and I can tell you from the depths of my book shelves (oh yes I just bought another one to house all those books!)  that some of those illustrations represent the most marvellously wonderful and breathtaking works of art ever created.  This might be lost on my 3 month old Peanut, but as I read “The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear” for the bagillionth time I started to really LOOK at the illustrations, the details, the brushstrokes, the pencil lines the art of it all. (This is a book that one should always have on hand just in case there is a storytime emergency and one needs to read aloud).
Illustration by Don Wood

With my own project slowly slumping along in the background with another year passing me by I have come to regard these illustrators as something like heroes of the art world.  May I recommend some for your viewing pleasure?

The Quiltmaker's Journey by Jeff Brumbeau and illustrated by Gail de Marcken
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Tell Me a Dragon written and illustrated by Jackie Morris
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers and illustrated Marla Frazee
The Wild Swans  written by Hans Christian Andersen, adapted by Naomi Lewis and illustrated by Yvonne Gilbert 
Saint George and the Dragon  by Margaret Hodges and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman 
Sleeping Beauty  illustrated by K. Y. Craft
Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time written and illustrated by James Gurney
We're Riding on a Caravan by Laurie Krebs and illustrated by Helen Cann 
Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions by Margaret Musgrove and illustrated by Diane Dillon 
Home for Christmas written and illustrated by Jan Brett 
Flotsam written and illustrated by David Wiesner

The Wild Swans by Anne Yvonne Gilbert
These are not just children’s stories they are collections of art – worthy of the libraries of all people young and old.  Since I can only draw from my own personal knowledge and tastes, and I know there are scores upon scores of gorgeous children’s books out there (thank goodness), be sure to add any other favorites of yours to my list in the comments!

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.  ~Anna Quindlen