I had a mountain of paperwork waiting for me at home, so when I got the text last night that a mountain of sand at the top of our driveway was blocking the last 900 feet of my trip home, I groaned. All I wanted to do was to get my work done and go to bed, but suddenly there was time to kill. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it soon turned out to be just what I needed.
I drove around for a little while and finally pulled into the parking lot at the Wayside Country Store 5 minutes from the house. It was well past sundown and the light from the store cast a warm glow on the slushy snow. As I pushed the door open, the smell of roasting chicken blasted my senses, followed immediately by the aroma of baking scones and cookies.
Normally I go to the drinks aisle or the kitchen supplies to grab what I need and go. Tonight, however, I headed toward the deli where the gingham oil cloth-covered roundtable serves as a meeting place for farmers and contractors on their way to work in the mornings and knitters and time-killers like myself in the evenings and on the weekends.
The guy who normally plows our driveway was sitting there, recounting the tale of how the sand came rest at the top of our driveway, and I sat down, suddenly feeling an unexplainable smile emerge. Another friend was sitting at the table listening, and we talked about goings on around town. Talk turned to the quality of heat from the various woodstoves that were waiting for us at home. The sound of food being made in the deli was our background music, and I thought of how rare simple, comfy moments like this are – especially on a work night when the world outside our doors is at odds with itself. And, as suddenly as my schedule had changed, so did my mood as I realized I was glad to have been waylaid at the Wayside.
Illustrating a blog for the better part of six years helps you accumulate a surprisingly sizable pile of sketches and paintings, even if you’ve been selling them here and there. I’m not the brightest bulb in the box, so took a few times rearranging my tiny studio before that I have an Etsy store where some of those find new homes and even new lives on mugs, today iPhone cases.
I designed these from a series of botanical themed watercolors that started as the foundation of a spring themed watercolor exhibit a few years ago and have continued a little bit each summer since.
One of the fun things about self publishing a children’s book is that in addition to the many hats you get to wear (I love hats) as writer, illustrator, layout girl, and official chocolate tester, you learn a lot about the rules that govern the creation of many books your own kids read.
Did you know, for example, the standard length for children’s books is 32 pages? The standard was established by Beatrix Potter and her publisher Frederick Warne as way to get the most pages out of a single sheet of paper. It was an economic decision that stood the test of time.
As a writer, illustrator, naturalist, and well-known rule-breaker, Beatrix Potter has been an idol of mine for some time, and as I’ve been laying out the Truth about Trolls, I had to decide whether or not to follow Beatrix’s guidelines, or make my own rules for the modern world. Remembering that my own kids never argued about a story lasting longer, I ended up deciding it was better to stretch the text over a few extra pages and pictures.
I’ve read many books to my kids over the years, never thought to check the word count. The modern word count is about 250 to 1000 words depending on the age of the kid. Many of the classics such as The Giving Tree or Sylvester and the Magic Pebble are much longer, settling on a word count was a tough decision. In the end, I trimmed it down to as close to 1000 words as possible, and, as the illustrations take shape and help tell the story, the word count continues to shrink.
Ultimately, walking the line has been less about following or breaking rules and more about listening to the story. Hopefully it’s what, in 2017, Beatrix would do.
i’d like to tell you I have a veggie garden because I’m really into organic everything, but the truth is there’s nothing quite as satisfying as watching my kids fight over fresh greens. In my defense, I have stopped telling them the peas were candy.
You can buy prints and cards of this painting here
I know the Big Guy is not the only married man who becomes paralyzed with terror anytime he hears his wife utter the words, “I have an idea.” To be fair, usually the ideas involve holes in the ceilings and wall-sized holes in the walls (for the wall-sized window of course).
The only time my home improvement ideas don’t trigger stroke symptoms is in the dead of winter when my scrappy hardcover book of graph paper is my first sounding board.
There’s no logical reason for it, but sometime around the end of January, visions of backhoes and rototillers dance in my head as I fill page after page with new layouts for my veggie garden. In the end, only the colors change places, but the doodling has become a satisfying substitute for the words, ‘I have a dozen ideas’. At least where the garden is concerned.
You can find prints and cards of this painting here.