Once upon a Peanut & Moe...

I like a catchy jingle. I like to either make them up or co-opt them from pop-culture and make them my own. I guess you could say it's my 'thing', though not many people know this about me.

Many years ago I took a depressing indie tune with the lyrics 'too much, not too much' and turned it into the more upbeat and amusing, 'Too much mayo, not enough mayo'. (I will gladly sing it for you if you see me in real life and ask nicely)  Naturally, I sang it to make turkey sandwiches.

On a quiet drive home from an illustrator meeting, I somehow realized 'too much! not enough!" was a fantastic refrain for a picture book. This may have been my first original idea for a book of my own. And if it wasn't, it was certainly the first one that seemed good enough to remember.

It seems like a bit of a miracle, but this little note from nine years ago fits the book coming out in August. Originally I named the monsters Little & Big. Names would go through major revisions, but the characters never wavered.

I struck gold (sort of!) with premise #2. The first part is essentially what happens, and they do get to camp under the stars but you have to wait until book #2 comes out next year.

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So, you might be thinking, "What the heck took nine years if you figured all this out from the start?". I'm showing you snippets from a notebook that I started on August 20th, 2009. My son was 8 months old and I was on the verge of a breakdown because I just needed time to myself to make art. That Sunday morning I left with a mission, putting my husband on baby duty, while I grabbed a new notebook and headed for the nearest coffee shop. I got there and it wasn't open yet. Wasn't going to be open anytime soon, in fact. I may have cried. But then I got to work. I sat in my car and wrote page after page. I doodled ideas for what these monster friends looked like. I thought of all the ways they could irritate each other, and how the little guy would make things better. And then I went home. Back to my overwhelmed new stay-at-home-mom life. But the glimmer of this book was a life line. 

I worked on this story all those years. Bird by bird, as Anne Lamott would say. I made art. I made dummies. I shared them with critique partners and started from scratch again. I got an agent and we submitted my dummy. It made it to sales and acquisitions and to revision with two lovely publishers at the same time. And because publishing is often perplexing and unpredictable, it ended up back on my desk again. There was a small army of wonderful friends who listened when I grouched about how long it was all taking. I got busy with other projects and sold my first book, SMALL. Around the same time, I illustrated a book with a fantastic editor at Tundra books. When it was time to think about my monsters again, my agent and I wondered. Perhaps Samantha Swenson would be a good match? The first news was good! But then time went by (again, publishing) and I worried. But the real news was spectacular. Not only did Tundra want to publish TOO MUCH, they offered me a two book deal. And as fate would have it, that second book is another Peanut & Moe story. I had known these characters for so long, that they almost wrote their own second story. Oh, pish. I wrote it. With the wonderful and smart guidance of my editor, Sam. And this one didn't take nine years from start to finish. It took under a year.

I will share a lot about Peanut & Moe in the weeks leading up to their book debut, but I wanted to start here. Whether you are a reader, a teacher, or a pre-published author, I hope you walk away learning a bit about what inspires me as a writer (jingles!) and what helped me publish this book (tenacity! passion! good friends! never quitting! a great agent, editor, and publisher!)

Resolution Revolution

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In thinking of New Year's resolutions this year, the above idea came to mind. I call it "Resolution Revolution".

In years past I've been thoughtful, reflective, and goal oriented in considering my approach for the upcoming year.

This year, I'm just driving my wheels over all that and cruising forward. Goal-less. Aimless. Except perhaps, to have fun. To do what makes me happy.

Why the revolution? Here's the really short version. I'm due this May with my 2nd child. I'm over the moon to give Miles a little sister, but there have been some surprises and twists and it's taken me months to make sense of it. The week I found out I was expecting I was offered my first trade picture book job. Two weeks later, I turned the job down.

If I were a different artist, person, or mother I could have made it work. But I'm just me. And me couldn't find a way to make it work. Should I be thrilled that I was at least offered the job? Of course. But I've been mired in a creative depression, mixed with morning sickness, and scrambled together with a feeling of 'Now what?'.

After months of not sketching, not blogging, and just not caring, I finally got the urge to do something. I blogged on PBJ's about G. Brian Karas' book 'Clever Jack Takes the Cake' last week so I decided to use a similar technique (pencil and gouache on ribbed paper) to get my hand on a brush and finish something. Here's a detail:

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I'm not sure what's next. But I thought it was about time I shared. And painted. Phew.