Saturday, July 17, 2010

6000 PICTURE BOOKS LATER...


"Magic Carpet" - one of my latest portfolio pieces

The other day I was wondering how many picture books I've read since my daughter was born. I started taking her to the library faithfully every Tuesday when she was just a couple months old. She rode at my side in a sling as I searched through the kids books, checking out 10 plus books per week to read to her. I figure we averaged 50 a month - sometimes more, sometimes less. That's about 6000 picture books over the last 10 years - give or take a few hundred.

My daughter abandoned picture books right around age 5 when she discovered all the Star Wars chapter books that were out there. That's when she took off reading with a voracious appetite and left me and my picture book habit in the dust. The librarians have long since figured out that my daughter isn't the one reading all the books I check out every week. They all know she is the one reading the big thick books and I'm the one reading the skinny ones with all the pictures.

There are so many incredible children's books out there. It is sometimes difficult to remember which authors and illustrators go with which books. I have a much easier time connecting the creators with their books after meeting them and last week I had the pleasure to meet some very talented authors and illustrators at a Bay Area Bookies gathering. (If you're new to the word "Bookie" being used in this way, it's kind of like a Foodie...only with books. And no - they're not eating the books!) Anyway, this exceptional group of people didn't know me from Adam, Sue, or Larry when I arrived, but they welcomed me and let me in on their session of project sharing. Everyone had something to share and suggestions of all types were eagerly offered whenever needed.



Then it was my turn. I was honored to be invited to participate and not at all sure what would happen. I figured, regardless of the outcome, it is good practice to present current projects to a group. So, I stood up and talked about my background in botanical illustration, my interest in the cultural uses of medicinal plants and then showed the picture book I've been working on over the past year. They very enthusiastically encouraged me to send it out to publishers.

This picture book project of mine was originally only intended to get my feet wet in the process of illustrating a picture book, but I have now had extensive critiques by my SCBWI mentor - Yuyi Morales, art directors, editors, Mira Reisberg and my peers in her workshop, and 16 additional professional authors and illustrators. None of these people are in the practice of saying things "to be nice". Okay. I get it. I keep saying I'm not a children's book writer...I'm an illustrator, but I'm willing to give it a shot. I've listened to every criticism and it's time to make some last revisions before sending this picture book I wrote to publishers for consideration...

...but before I do that, I couldn't resist...

Even though it wasn't Tuesday, I went to the library yesterday. I came home with about 20 books, all by some of the different authors and illustrators I met last week. Some of them I had checked out before, some of them I hadn't, but having met the people who created them, all the books somehow seemed more alive as I edged closer and closer to 7000 picture books.

I wonder how many picture books I will have read by the time my own picture book is published?

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If you're interested in seeing some of the amazing books created by the authors and illustrators pictured above, you can click on their names or search for more information:
Katherine Tillotson, Marissa Moss, Elissa Guest, Sarah Klise, Jane Wattenberg, Susan Meyers, Elisa Kleven, Mira Reisberg (who is also my children's illustration instructor extraordinaire), Wendy Lichtman, Julie Downing, Lissa Rovetch, Beverly Gherman, Jim Averbeck, Maria Van Lieshout, Ashley Wolff, and Bob Barner.


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