Detail from Ferris Wheel, art by Yayo (Diego Herraro)
Question: So how do you pick the art /artist for your picture books?
I dream. Listen. Write and write and write. Rewrite. Talk out every syllable. Then: images. A swirlwhirl slide by, a fly by, a rock-a-bye wild night ride.
Not pictures exactly, spuh-lashes of colour.
Paintdrops like Raindrops.
Mind gallops along in dollops of orange inside the roil and roll of syllables willing to be seen not just heard.
I write, excited. Finish.
I might or might not have the text accepted. I might or might not get to pick/approve the artist. I might get to see sketches along the way. Or not. The artist may or may not want to know what's in my head. (WHAT? Inside Sheree's brain. Scaree Shereeee!)
A picture book is never "my" book. Editor is there. Invisible dancer. Unsung Artist, the Editor. Then there is illustrator/artist. Magician. Spinner of gold from bales of hay. Wizard to my whiz of words.
I am indebted to every artist who has ever taken my words and breathed image, texture and soul into them. Cuz, yes, I do think books have soul.
O--- and Designers. Mid-wives of highest order.
When the picture book arrives, it's never the book "I" envisioned. Have I loved all of them? No. Do I respect all of the artists? Yes. I've learned that even with books where I wasn't so keen on the ART in the beginning, it's usually okay. Like a bad hair cut, that book will inevitably grow on me. ( Yes. There have been a few exceptions where I still go ergh ahhk no not ever gonna be a good hair day when I pick up that book.)
But that still does not much matter. After all there is the listener, the reader, the viewer. All co-creators.
Readers tell me when they do or do not like the art. To my face. I guess they think as I am not the artist, I do not care. I care. I know how hard the artist worked.
I take deep breaths.
Right now, there's a lot of fretting about "The Fate of Books." This as artist Sydney Smith is hard at work on new edition of There Were Monkeys in my Kitchen, a book that went out of print when Doubleday Canada stopped doing picture books and focused on young adult. Nimbus rescued many of my titles from the Dead Book Graveyard and this is the second book they are introducing to a whole new generation of readers as a Fitch N' Smith collaboration. I am grateful. Was it hard at first to let go of the books as-they-were and remain open to their reincarnation? Yes. Then I saw Sydney's Mabel.
Last week I got to peek in at his vision of the primates for the zany if not insane narrative I penned so long ago. Smith's monkeys are smokin'.
There's no need to compare -- the art is new and fresh and Sydney's. Also check out his work on The Dread Crew by scribe poet storyteller artist Kate Inglis.
Different musicians have put different melodies to the same lyrics I've written. Novels and books are adapted for stage. I hope essence is there, the spirit of piece preserved and the original is enhanced: I no longer look for just "MY" vision and voice.
Writing is a way to order the world, control my spinning universe and then yes, ultimately---doesn't it always become the art of letting go? Surrendering. In so many ways. To so many mysteries. Over and over and over again.
When my picture book shelf life looked "over" I was already starting to write novels.These days, I'm pulled back to the slowness and unfolding cadences in adult short stories and poetry. A new character is jumping up and down demanding a book.
THE FATE OF THE BOOK. THE FAITH in THE BOOK. If not THE BOOK: Imagination. Creative Energy.
There are creative cycles. Recycles, too.
So maybe back to reinventing THE WHEEL? Spirogyro spiralling wheels in imaginative space.
The art detail at the beginning of this post is from Ferris Wheel, out this fall by Tradewind. Yayo (Diego Herraro) has illustrated my words before. He seems to intuit the layers.
Ferris Wheel is free (wheeling) verse inspired by a dream. I travelled back into days of childhood and rode a Ferris wheel, the one brought in every summer to the Herring Choker Picnic on the south shore of Nova Scotia. I woke up and remembered an old ferris wheel poem. I re-looked. I rewrote. Re-invented.
The text is simple: brother and sister riding the ferris wheel at night at the edge of the sea. I received the Ferris Wheel image from Yayo same day my brother received a diagnosis of throat cancer. Prognosis is hopeful! Still.
Through the weeks ahead: let it be a Medicine Wheel. Prayer Wheel. Round and Round.
JOY flies. Words matter. Love, too. Earth rotates in space. We all hang on.
Every now and then, here, now, I'll offer my spin on things.