Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Picture Book Tag: The Next Big Thing!

My brilliant picture book friend, Carolyn Fisher, tagged me for "The Next Big Thing Blog Tour", so I will answer some questions below about my next BIG THING, then pass on the Q & A to some more brilliant authors!

1. What is your next Big Thing?

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky, 
Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Nine years ago I was sitting at Symphony Hall, waiting for the Minnesota Orchestra to begin. Leafing through the program I was struck by a photo of the composer, Igor Stravinsky standing next to the sad painted face of dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky as Petrushka. The photo was taken in 1911. I showed it to my composer husband, Matthew Smith, and said: “I wonder what it was like when Stravinsky met Nijinsky?” then I smiled and said: “Hey, wouldn’t that be a great title for a picture book?  When I got home that night I cut out the photo from the program, pasted it in a notebook, wrote down the title and began to write a lot of stuff that is no longer a part of the story at all. But it got me started! 

Stravinsky and Nijinsky, 1911

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Non-fiction picture book, though I wrote it to be read as a raucous and fun read-aloud for the very young up to the very old. 

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Adrien Brody would be the perfect young Stravinsky and Channing Tatum, who is an actor-dancer might be a good Nijinsky?

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When composer, Igor Stravinsky met dancer-choreographer, Vaslav Nijinsky, their collaboration on the the ballet, "The Rite of Spring" was so different and so new that it caused a riot to break out in the theatre during its premiere in Paris on May 29th, 1913 and revolutionized music and dance in the 20th century.

6. Who is publishing your book?

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Approximately 6 years.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

~ Ballet for Martha, Making Appalachian Spring, written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2010)

~ Jazz Age Josephine, Jonah Winter, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, (Simon & Schuster, 2012)

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

From the first I LOVED the rhyming and rhythm of “Stravinsky” and “Nijinsky”. Their names seemed to dance and make music on the page even before the story began. I also loved their faces and wanted to paint them. And the more research I did the more I wanted to make the story work for a young audience and the more I wanted to paint every scene. And finally, as an art history major and as someone who made a living in NYC for many years working in museums, my favorite period of painting is the turn of the twentieth century when cubism, fauvism, expressionism, futurism all exploded our notion of how the world should be seen. Stravinsky and Nijinsky changed our notion of what music and dance should sound and look like. What a powerful and rich time for the arts. When I began the illustrations, it became clear that I would pay homage to many of my favorite paintings from that explosive time in the arts. 

10. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
This year, 2013, marks the centennial since the premiere performance of The Rite of Spring on May 29, 1913. I think there will be endless opportunities to listen to the music on classical radio as spring arrives in the next several months, the perfect soundtrack to go with the book!

Now it's time to play tag! Stephanie Bodeen, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Wendy Orr, Anne Ylvisaker... You're it!

The Raft  
After a plane crash over the remote Northwest Hawaiian islands, fifteen-year-old Robie finds herself in a life raft, struggling to survive. 
August 2012, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan  

photo of "Growing Power"

Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table
Jacqueline Briggs Martin
When Will Allen was a boy he hated farm work and wanted a "white shirt" job. When he grew up, he dreamed of city farms that would grow good food for city neighbors in cities around the world. How did Will Allen make this dream happen?
Fall 2013, Readers to Eaters

The Nim Stories
Two books in one: Nim's Island and Nim at Sea, the stories of a girl who lives on an island in the middle of the wide blue sea, with her father, Jack, a marine iguana called Fred, a sea lion called Selkie, a turtle called Chica and a satellite dish for her email.
April 2013, Allen & Unwin

Button Down
Ned, of the comically unlucky Button family, hasn't caught a thing in his life until he faces bully Burton Ward in a challenge to catch their town hero's football.
Fall 2012, Candlewick Press

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Painting Green in Winter

I welcome winter when it comes. I think I must have bear blood in me, because I like to hibernate in my studio when the flurries fly and the temperatures drop below 0. The sun pours in on sunny days, but mostly it is cloudy gray in Minnesota, which does not beckon me outside my studio-cave until the first signs of spring. I stay inside and paint.

Winter sun
And right now I am painting green. Not just ordinary green. The green that goes with a story by the author Mary Lyn Ray. Her stories are often quiet and soft- evoking a magic found when one communes intimately with the wonders of nature. It took me awhile to find just the right quiet and soft green for this story. At first it was too loud. Colors make sound and it is important to find the right sound for each story. Last winter when I painted When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky I deliberately chose bold bright colors that became louder and louder as the book progressed to the final chords of The Rite of Spring-- a very loud piece of music!

Bright green/loud green

But this winter, painting Deer Dancer, I have to be careful with my greens. They are earthy and subdued. More like the green of avocados than limes. Which is louder, avocados or limes?

Soft green/quiet green
Winter can be a very quiet time of year, so although it is gray and white outside, I am tuning into the hushed greens of another season and the silence of winter is helping me along the way.

Friday, January 11, 2013

When Mem Fox Came to Minneapolis

Though it feels like a year must have already passed, it was just two months ago that the wonderful author, Mem Fox came for a visit to Minneapolis. We had never met before this visit and yet we had just published a picture book together: Tell Me About Your Day Todayso there were lots of reasons to celebrate!

 Telling the story of illustrating Tell Me About Your Day Today
Our first meeting was at Wild Rumpus Book Store. It quickly filled with lovers of children's books and we took the stage. First I told the story of how I painted the pictures, then Mem read the story two times through. The second time the audience joined in for "The who, the what, the why, and the way..."

Mem Fox reading Tell Me About Your Day Today. 
Author and Illustrator together at last!
The second day of Mem's visit was a huge welcome party given by the rich and creative children's literature community of Minnesota gathered together by friend and author, Debra Frasier. Authors, illustrators, book sellers, librarians, teachers, and professors of children's literature brought food and stories to share. Mem made so many new friends. At the end of the party she said she could not wait to come back!

The party was ready and waiting for the guests to arrive.

Everyone brought delicious food to share.
The wondrous Debra Frasier welcoming everyone!
Books and flowers decorated the party.

Mem Fox and Susan Richardson, wondrous school librarian!
Mem Fox and Marion Dane Bauer,  wondrous author!
Mem Fox with a new fan!
The last day of Mem Fox's visit to Minneapolis she spoke at the University of Minnesota for Book Week 2012. Everyone who listened to her read her books aloud was transported to a world of magic where stuffed animals talk, pirates cry, and Koala mamas love their babies.  I could listen to Mem Fox read picture books for hours and hours. She truly knows how to bring words alive.

Mem Fox and our editor, Allyn Johnston
When Mem Fox came to Minneapolis I made a new friend. I hope she comes back next year!