First light, chopping logs for the fire, thinking about the days to come. Years ago when I began to work in children’s books I didn’t think I would be doing this. Life was more peaceful then. People didn’t have computers at home, well, not many people. No facebook, no blog.
My second book, the first that I did with Frances Lincoln, The Snow Whale written by Caroline Pitcher, came out quietly like softly fallen snow and was shortlisted for The Federation of Children’s Book Awards. It was reviewed well in newspapers and I even went to a book festival where I met proper authors and illustrators like Philip Ardagh and Vivian French. I thought this was how it was. The book was reprinted within months of publication, did get a US edition with The Sierra Club, but never did great in the USA. Meanwhile I had had another child, or maybe Hannah was a baby when I was working on the book. Yes. I seem to remember playing in the snow with her.
Many picture books went by in the years since then. The children who once had The Snow Whale read to them for a bed time story now have children of their own, well, some of them do. They are grown up. The Snow Whale is dedicated to Hannah Lily Sunshine. East of the Sun and West of the Moon is dedicated to Hannah and Erin. I saw Erin the day she came home from hospital and now she is in her final year of her illustration degree in Winchester and is beautiful and wonderful and all grown up. And Hannah is in Kingston doing a Foundation Year and seems sometimes a long way away.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon is about many things. It is about growing up, leaving home, finding love, traveling. It is about courage and leaving home. And it is for all of the children who have grown up with my books and for the ones who haven’t found them yet.
And now I have to go out into the world which is a noisy place and try and make it visible so that people find and buy it.
So, I am flying to Seattle on Thursday, weather permitting. I have a list of things to do today and have done many things that are on the list and some things that are not. And I have a list of what to take with me and it reminds me of a list I once saw in the Dylan Thomas Centre, of things he was taking to New York. On it was ‘wellington boots’. I wonder if he took them?
So, I have my list of things to do above, with subsections, and my list of things to take below.
No 1 was done with laughter in the local bank. No 2 was wonderful and was the first crossed off. While I was there I used my van as an office and wrote a piece about painting for Books for Keeps. She makes a lovely office and it is lovely to be away from the computer to write. Must do more.
Back home Genji decided that he was really a cuddly cat and so he helped me type and edit and send. Cuddles involved claws, which was interesting, but the more time I spend with the cats the more I like them.
And now, I have to go back to my lists, cross things off and start to pack. I want to make the most of this short trip away, but fear flying and am an impatient and inexperienced traveler, so I am hoping to stay calm. Over the next few days I have cars and planes and maybe snow to deal with, school children and book stores and reps in the USA, librarians ( I am going for the American Library Association Winter Conference in Seattle). Hopefully there will be snow leopards. And I will see Hannah.
I have decided that I must take my sketchbook, just incase the plane should crash.
And when I get back I will have to start making a list for Bishops Stortford. Now, let me see.
2. Cushions for tiger.
3. Nepalese Healing Bowl.
What is wonderful for me is that Frances Lincoln still have The Snow Whale in print after all these years, a thing that is almost unheard of in publishing these days. Only in paperback, but still there, to be discovered by a new generation of young children. Still selling, slowly.
My work has changed a bit in almost 20 years.