Sunday, April 17, 2011

What do these books have in common?

This will be the first of a series of posts on a particular topic. I'm going to show you some images, book covers, illustrations - a variety of artistic styles used for books published here. All of these books are delightful, meaning that word exactly. The illustrations bring delight to the eye and the heart and the mind.

Illustration by Hope Wheeler for text, Careful, Carefree by Kellie Magnus

Illustration by Wayne Powell for text, I Can, We Can, by Claudette Carter

Illustration by Rachel Wade for story, Another Family by Tania Case
What do they all have in common? They are all done by Jamaican artists. They have all the qualities that illustrations for children should have which I wrote about in a previous blog. They are us! They are our lives. They were all produced by the Ministry of Education in Jamaica.

Illustration by Marlo Scott for Can You See Them? Text by Suzanne Francis Brown

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reading page proofs: an author's feelings in the publshing process

Usually reading page proofs is one of the things you would rather not do in publishing, however it's an essential task. Reading page proofs of your own stories (author has to read as well as editor) is still tedious, if not downright frightening. Beset by things you want to change, but you're not sure about, or can't change because... because the editor may be right after all. Facts you checked thoroughly in the research phase now jump off the page asking if they're really correct after all.

So I set out to to read the page proofs of my next children's novel, slated to come out later this year, with, not quite mixed feelings, but rather ... hidden feelings, hidden from myself. However, I must tell you that I have a first class editor. Even when I realised that something had been cut, (usually an occasion for much distress on the part of the author) I was okay with it. I think that was because I was reading it like 'a story', rather than 'my story'. Consequently, I liked the heroine for herself, rather than for being my creation. Interesting!

So when I was finished, I asked myself how did I feel, - resigned? overwhelmed? unsure? frightened? All feelings I've felt before. I took me some time to get the answer. Suddenly it popped into my head. And it was 'I felt like a cat stretching in the sun'. I can't tell you what that means. I'm not a cat person, although I can and do like them. But I prefer dogs. Everybody knows dogs are the most loving animals and don't put on airs. So maybe I'm entering a phase where I'm going to filter all feelings through members of the animal kingdom? I don't know about that. I did feel a sense of accomplishment by us all, publisher, editor and author - getting to this point in the process. A cat stretching in the sun? Hmmm.

In the spirit of sharing writers' feelings I'll let you know when the artwork is done, usually another watershed moment. What animal will I be then, I wonder? (Wondering about the book covers? These are the only animal pictures I could find just now.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

An artist and writers, together in spirit

Last Saturday, as part of the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) celebrations, we writers met an overseas artist, and writers read from their works. This young American artist Aaron Boyd, was located by Scholastic and brought to Jamaica courtesy of Book Merchant, one of our leading book distributors. He came to run a hands-on workshop with local artists . We writers enjoyed meeting him and sharing his delightful work, from the whimsical to the charming to the realistic. I was particularly fascinated by the fact that he, from time to time, inserts into his illustrations, objects that have meaning for him, like the number of a street address. This happens in my writing (and clearly all creative writing has symbolism, overt or not so overt). But I liked the concept of having something of your own in the work, besides the art itself. So for me this was one of those meetings where there is an insight into another person's way of thinking or working. These insights are always precious. (Illustration by Aaron Boyd is from The Low-Down, Bad-Day Blues, by Derrick D. Barnes, Scholastic) Here are the Readers: These books, all very different, share the spirit of overcoming. And isn't that part of the grand design - overcoming so that others can know it can be done? Besides a good story, isn't that one of the things we bring to books? Hazel Campbell reading from Bernie and The Captains’ Ghost. Children have a holiday and solve a mystery in spite of being physically challenged. Kellie Magnus reading from Little Lion Goes for Gold. Little Lion overcomes yet again and shows us that we can succeed if we try hard enough. Colleen Smith-Dennis reading from Inner City Girl . Our heroine, in spite of an unbelievably challenging life (not uncommon to children in our inner city), succeeds, because that's what she sets out to do. Jana Bent:Shaggy Parrot and the Reggae Band. A multi-media production about saving the environment. It was a delightfully interactive presentation which had the children singing and drumming and dancing in their seats. Yes, I was there. Here I am outside talking to George Davis of Book Merchant, a friend in the book industry. We have quite a wonderful ‘family’ in the local book industry. You'll probably see pictures of Sharon Neita, the other partner from Book Merchant on Facebook (BIAJ) and the BIAJ website.