For those of you who are not familiar with me, My name's Penny Reeve.
I've been writing children's books since the year 2000 when I decided it was time to give it a go. Like most writers I've had my journey of writerly ups and downs with moments crouched on the floor in absolute devastation due to another (yes another!) rejection for one of my stories. But I've also had good news (though it must be said good writerly news for me has never come by way of the postman even though I am a self confessed postie stalker!) With more than 11 books in print I've walked the path from idea conception to final product more than a few times. But over the course of the last year I've had the enormous privilege of working on a project that has felt totally different to any of my other ones and may have just snapped me up into being a lost cause.
My picture book story, Wonderfully Madison was first drafted while my family lived and worked in Nepal (If you've read Naomi Reed's No Ordinary View you might spot my husband being chased by a swarm of bees on the Everest Base camp trek.). With two young children of my own I loved the idea of a grumpy pre-schooler not being overly excited about the arrival of her new sibling and the mandatory gift giving that would involve. But it wasn't until multiple drafts and even more years had passed that the manuscript finally found a 'home' at the GrowingFaith imprint of Christian Education Publications (CEP). And that was where the real fun began!
Up to my recent contact with CEP most of my publishing communications had been by email. This was an obvious practicality, my main publisher was in Scotland! But the editor at GrowingFaith in Sydney expected me to attend meetings. So I bundled my kids off to school and Grandma's place and hopped in the train. To sit in the same room with an editor and discuss a project was a novel (excuse the writerly pun) experience to me. But when the illustrator arrived... a real flesh and blood, enthusiastic illustrator with a sketch book under her arm and creative confidence oozing - that's when I began to fall in love. No - not with Jemima! - with the collaborative process of picture book creation.
It was amazing to toss around ideas, to watch Jemima display her various imaginings of my, up till now, purely imagined character of Madison. And then, over a series of meetings and email check ups, the other characters emerged and Jemima drew their personalities and moods and interactions as if she had read my mind. There was a point where I had to hand the work over and the artist took over and breathed life into my words. Then there was the interaction with the design team and the constant competent and confident care taken by my editor Julie. This book has felt, more than any other so far, like a team effort. I feel like one in a small crowd who are now offering Madison to the world. And I like it.
So yes, I'm hooked. Frightened, too, because there are more stories to write and it feels like the bar is continually being raised. But I think that's a good thing. In fact, it might just be perfect.
Picture book perfect!
Penny Reeve is a children's author currently living in western Sydney. Her newest picture book Wonderfully Madison, was illustrated by Jemima Trappel and has been published by GrowingFaith, CEP. It is available from all great Christian bookstores.