Artwork and expectations
I still don't have my copy of my new picture book, Oliver's Must-Do List but I do have color art and layout for my spring book, Robert Smalls Sails to Freedom. My editor emailed it to me today. I had seen sketches before (and gone over them in picky picky detail) but this was the first time to see them in color and in book format. The illustrator has done a lovely job with it, capturing the longing for freedom that drove Smalls to steal a Confederate ship and hand it over to the Union Army. I'm pleased with it and hope (since it is a true history story) that the teachers and librarians will like it too. It's set to come out for Black History Month in 2006.
Being a writer and not an artist, it's tough to let go of my ideas of what I think should be in a picture for one of my books and let the illustrator do what they do best. For my first picture book, Can I Pray With My Eyes Open? I wrote about an incident in my own childhood and I pictured myself as the main character. I never saw any sketches for that book along the way, I only saw the art when I received my very first copy of the book. I was surprised when the character looked nothing like the blond-haired blue-eyed girl in my mind but was, instead, an adorable dark curly-haired girl in a multi-cultural family. For Oliver's Must-Do List I had no expectations of the character but I can say that I never thought of Oliver as the wonderfully comical rhino that he is. Now I can't imagine him any other way.
We each bring to our stories an essence of ourselves - we can't help it - but each reader, and illustrator, will perceive that essence through a vision of their own.
Write on, right now.