I can say with certainty the best part of having a publishing background is meeting the people who read my books and like my art. I will confess, my most favorite part is connecting with young audiences. Young and old, there's an energy exchange when humans meet. Connecting with children provides an extra jolt of juice. My inner child feels nourished. I can tap into their potent spontaneous wonder, the imaginative magic vital to creating for very young audiences.
Back in the day when I landed my first picture book job, I had no idea about the wide orbits where my ideas would ripple out and spread. I thought publishing a picture book was a freelance art gig. I started freelancing as a professional artist in my early 20's. Each new assignment began and ended. After a job was over I protected my copyrights, kept and archived the original art and put it into a drawer for further use or for patron collections. However, publishing trade picture books meant I could meet my book reading and art loving audience. That opportunity turned on the lights.
Connection with young readers feels like a perfect match because it provides a balancing factor in my life. First, as a child-free adult with a child-like imagination, I can be as silly or corny as I want, or surreal and poetic. It's all good. Second, I work alone for hours and sometimes for days on end. It's an energy boost to be in learning environments, whether connecting person-to-person or screen-to-screen.
My self confidence grew from the children due to their unconditional open heartedness. Now, presenting to adults is a piece of cake. Whether I'm in a roomful of adults or children my formula is the same: acknowledge the child spirit which is never extinguished by chronological age. I can only hope that by connecting with artists and learning about a creative process gives students a boost of confidence to express themselves in positive ways.
Sometimes there's an afterglow; connections continue when the initial encounters end. Parents I've met at events become Facebook friends. We begin to dialogue. We share our lives, careers, photos, and art. I've had the privilege to watch their children grow up and become readers themselves, even when they blossom out of my own book's age range. Certain parents are bloggers who pass my books forward so teachers and students can understand them in a richer way.
The connections continue with fan mail of sincerely sweet letters and art created by elementary students guided by their teachers. I've saved their packets of love received in my snail mail and we've dialogued with cyber Q&A.
For me, the best part of being an artist who has created picture books are babies constantly being born. Each new child is a chance for a book to become embraced with fresh eyes, no matter the book's publishing date or whether children connect with me in person or not.
In a world that gets dark, I believe the arts are sparks of light which shine a path to one's inner life, thoughts, feelings, and the quiet mystery of the human journey. Early childhood is a time of innocence and play, the purest freedom we'll ever experience, a state where judgments and separations are non-existent. As an artist I hope the arts will remain valued, and the connections I've made with children through the arts will empower them for a lifetime.