Friday I finished assembling my Don Freeman grant submission. I made my own envelope to fall within size requirements and in it I put my 32 page picture book dummy, double-spaced manuscript, two finished illustrations from the picture book with one converted to black and white, and four copies of the grant application with career background and publishing bibliography. I took it to the post office with huge relief and the clerk asked me if my package contained any hazardous material. I laughed at the thought, but I've worked hard to take the hazardous element out of my work.
By hazardous I'm not talking about the postal definition, but the feeling of being chancy, risky, unsure. It is my job to present my work in a certain and reliable way, while at the same time highlighting the magic and value to the children's publishing industry. It is through repeatedly jumping through the hoops of submitting my work that my footing has become less hazardous.
It used to be that I struggled with even the most rudimentary parts of sending my work to publishers. Now I understand why. I hadn't solidified my own ideas about my strengths as a children's illustrator. There is a great deal of clarification I have had to go through with myself in order to present well and be understood in this arena, but it's getting easier and better every time.
Even now, as I prepare the same picture book for a critique from an art director, I am making improvements on the angle from which I present it. Am I looking back and wishing I could re-do my grant application? I could, but I would be wasting valuable time. It is better to move forward and know that I will always do my best, learn from the experience, and make a less hazardous presentation next time.
As I sit here writing this post, I'm watching large down feather-like snowflakes fall from the sky. Just a few minutes ago the snowflakes were small and ordinary, but something changed and in an instant a totally different type of snowflake was created. I wish I could change as quickly and effortlessly. It has been overwhelming at times to be a forty-something illustrator with a graphic design background starting over in the children's genre.
To aid in my transition, I have been preparing to apply for the Don Freeman Grant through the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). The grant is geared toward picture book illustrators in an effort to further their understanding, training, and work in the picture book genre. If I get the grant, I will be able to seek more workshops and promotional opportunities. If I don't get it, at least I went through a very productive process to apply. Like any other grant, there are specific requirements to meet. I will be submitting 8 months of work - my picture book manuscript along with my 32 page mock up of the book, two finished picture book illustrations, and four copies of the application.
While assembling my finished work over the last week, I realized I knew nothing more about Don Freeman than the fact that he was a children's book illustrator who is no longer living. So, I did some research and found hope. It turns out he was a graphic designer and illustrator before he started illustrating children's books in his forties - just like me. Another example that change is possible at any time.
I'm almost done with my application now and all my experiences from the past year are finally coming together in my mind. I guess I've changed because this new genre no longer feels overwhelming. It feels like my new home.
2009 was the most challenging year of my life. I think that was true for many many people. I really didn't expect to feel the way I did at the end of it. I thought I would be celebrating my accomplishments and the fact that I got through every single bizarre event right up until the very end. Instead, I felt exhausted, sad, and a little angry. At first, I assumed it was because everything that happened finally caught up with me, but then I decided that the New Year's Eve Grinch in me was surfacing because I somehow felt cheated in having to start over with a new year. I was really good at 2009 by the end of it. In fact, I was a master of absurdity. I had triumphed over everything that was thrown my direction with the best attitude I had, all the while keeping my goals on track. What do you mean I have to start a new year?
I'm not going to re-cap 2009. You wouldn't believe it anyway. The Grinch was gone this morning and it's time to get on with 2010. Because of the outcome of 2009, I know that if I keep my focus on what's important to me - I can handle anything that comes my way in 2010. So can you...