Wednesday, April 16, 2008

conversations with Barbara McClintock

Last night, Elaine and I went to the Foundation for Children's Book talk with Barbara Mcclintock. These foundation events are great fun, the more I go to them the more I enjoy myself. And I am a big fan of Barbara McClintock's work as well so, of course, that was a large part of the enjoyment factor. She is just like her books-- lovely, elegant, tall...okay, her books are not tall but they are lovely and elegant:


And this is just a snippet of her lustrous body of work. Her work is also very shiny because of all the awards she has won: four New York Times Best Books, two Time Magazine Best Books, six NY Public Library 100 Recommended Books, two Parents Choice, an ALA Notable Book, a NEBA and probably many more stickers and trophies that are too redundant to mention.

The conversation was extremely interesting. I loved hearing about her process,her path, the ideas behind her work. In fact, talking about Adele and Simon set in Paris gave me a squirt of water for a set-in-China book idea that has been blossoming in my head...so these events are good for personal work as well!

However, my favorite anecdote from the conversation was how Barbara learned how to be a children's book illustrator. Nineteen years old and in North Dakota, she called Maurice Sendak on the phone(!) for advice. Which he gave her(!). This brought her to NYC, where she called up publishers from the yellow pages and met with them (!). Then, after having her book dummy rejected sixteen times(!), it was accepted. And it received a NY Times Best Book Award(!). All I can say is...wow.

I think times have changed(or at least Maurice has, from what I've heard!). Ironically, the only thing that is timeless from her story is that almost every publisher she met with told her that children's books was a nearly impossible field and it was extremely hard and competitive. Hmm, I guess things really haven't changed that much. I'm realizing more and more, going into this industry is truly an act of faith.


But I am glad that I have found fellow believers.

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