Friday, June 7, 2013

Picture (book) Perfect!

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. 

16 comments:

  1. Hi Penny,
    That sounds like such a fun meeting. I can see why you enjoyed yourself. I know what you mean about the postie, too. These days, snail mail rarely brings anything good but just costs us money (because we know they bring mostly bills etc).
    BTW, I also loved the Tania Abbey illustrations.
    Great books and hope all goes well with Wonderfully Madison.

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    1. Thanks Paula. The Tania Abbey illustrations for the most recent book were done by Claudia Gadotti. Fred Apps did the artwork on the first two books.

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  2. Nice to meet another postie junkie. Hope all goes well with the picture book, Penny.

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    1. Thanks Dale.
      I find ordering the occasional item on-line helps keep the postal junkie fix happy. Although buying online can also be way too easy and therefore expensive!

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  3. Sounds like a great experience Penny - and how wonderful for an illustrator to interpret your characters just how you'd like them. All the best with it. :)

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  4. Thanks for sharing something of your writing journey, Penny. It is always encouraging to hear another's story.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed reading it, Susan. I like reading other people's stories too.
      I find each book for me is a little different with different emotions and joys/trials.

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  5. How exciting Penny! I can just imagine the thrill of working with an imaginative illustrator. I hope this book just walks off the shelves.

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    1. That would be lovely, wouldn't it!
      But we are also planning an official book launch for July so that will be fun also.

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  6. How interesting. It must be a thrill to see your characters being drawn. It occurs to me that you have something in common with TV/Film writers, who create a character and then hand them over to an actor to finish the creation.

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    1. Yes - I think you're probably right, Adam. It can be really scary - but in my case I've found the illustrators working on my books to grasp the idea I've had in mind.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. Thanks for sharing your interesting journey Penny. I love drawing, my audience are the children I teach Scripture to and they always tell me I am a good drawer.....which I love!(usually 9 year olds)

    I am also a little worried about when I get to heaven, maybe the blind guy from chapter 9 of John won't think how I imagined him to look, complete with sunglasses, did him justice! Oh well no pain in heaven, so I guess I don't really have to worry!

    A special moment for you to find illustrators see your characters how you see them, good story telling for sure!

    Looking forward to hearing more of your journey...
    Di

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    1. Hi Di, how brilliant to be able to use your drawing with immediate results at Scripture! And you made me laugh about the sunnies on the bloke from the gospel of John!

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  8. Hi Penny,

    Thanks for sharing your journey. It is always great to see others succeed. I would consider you a natural; good with kids; great with presentations (very animated) and a great writer. I am sure God would be very pleased with his girl. Well done and congratulations on your next book. I am sure we will see many from Penny Reeve. My kids loved theirs.

    Blessings,
    Kayleen

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    1. Aw - thanks Kayleen!
      Glad to hear your kids have enjoyed some of my books. All the best with your writing/illustrating journey too.

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