Done, Done, On to the Next One

30 Jun

Today marks a milestone. I completed the final illustration for my children’s picture book. As I glued the last piece in place, sitting back to examine my work, I experienced a quiet glow of satisfaction. No fanfare blew, no confetti fell from the ceiling (although the floor around me was, as usual, already covered with tiny scraps of paper), and so far I have yet to receive any unsolicited calls from publishers desperate to make me a superstar. Still, it feels good just to be done with the thing. I began working on this book a full eight years ago, and it’s been a labor of love (as all art worth making must be).

The story, a simple fable about anthropomorphized talking tools, is a personal one to me, born out of a period of frustration and longing and loneliness, written with a deep sense of having been made for a purpose and a hope in things yet unseen. I’ve always been of the opinion that a story’s genre and style should, as well as possible, match the author’s message. Sometimes children’s stories say best what’s to be said.

Shortly after writing its initial draft and sketching the characters, I became interested in collage art—using scraps of old magazines to create new images. Upon encouragement from friends and family, I used this method to create the illustrations, poster-sized to maintain the level of detail I wanted each picture to have.

Looking back, I wish I’d kept a tally of how many magazines I’ve destroyed to make these illustrations, as well as how many glue sticks I’ve gone through. My estimate is that I’ve harvested colors from easily thousands of magazines, and worn at least a few hundred glue sticks down to the plastics. A conservative guess is that about 600 hours went into the collages (15 in total at about 40 hours apiece). This time was spread over nearly a decade; while my picture book waited in the background, I put out two books for adults and spent three years in grad school (during which I barely touched any other projects).

“So what are you going to do now that you’re finished?” my wife asked. I almost laughed. “You forget you’re married to the man with 1000 hobbies,” I told her. Art and writing are, for me, like the hydra: cut off one head and two more grow to take its place.

First things first: the actual story text some serious overhaul. Needless to say, I’ve grown a lot as a writer in the past ten years, and I think that some trimming and sanding and polishing are in order before this thing is ready for prime time.

I also need to learn all I can about children’s publishing. All my previous experience is in writing for adults—sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Picture books are a whole different animal.

And, of course, there’s my other writing to attend to—more short fiction, and the ever-looming “second novel.” In the immortal words of Semisonic, “Every new beginning starts with some other beginning’s end.”

Who knows? Given the speed this project has moved at thus far, maybe I’ll be able to get this thing published and into a form people can actually read within another ten years.


Posted by on June 30, 2017 in Blog


2 Responses to Done, Done, On to the Next One

  1. MPbusyB

    January 11, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    Hey Josh! Can I relate to this post. I have stories swimming around my mind that wait patiently for times that are few and far between to be transfered onto paper (or rather Word docx). So I wonder, did you ever feel funny when you told people you were working on a children’s story about talking tools? When I tell people (who ask me what keeps me busy when I go out of town) that I write, and they ask me what I write, I can’t help my face from making a silly smirk as I try to explain that I write short stories about allegorical, mythical little people (Brownies). Honestly, I don’t think very many people are interested to know about them, so I keep my replies brief and nebulous. No one ever pursues, heh heh. I certainly hope to see your project in print soon; I’ve always loved your art, and I’m interested to read your message in it. AND I would like to follow your journey of publishing in this genre. Take care. Love to Rachel. ~Melisa Brown

    • Josh

      August 5, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      Hi Mrs. Brown! Sorry for such an overdue response. I haven’t really updated this site since January.

      To answer your question, I always feel a little funny when telling others about the stuff I write (outside a blurb every now and then or when I talk to people at sci-fi conventions), because I don’t often tend to think others would be particularly interested. This goes as much for my adult stuff as it does for my children’s stuff. There’s always the fear that others will think I’m weird, or pretentious, or just wasting my time. If friends want to read my stories, I’m happy, but I’m also totally cool with them not reading my stuff. I don’t expect others to be as into it as I am. Even Tolkien (at the beginning of the Silmarillion) seems to have dealt with this sort of self-doubt (which may just be healthy self-awareness), warning his friends and readers that he’s about to geek out hard over the history of Middle Earth and recognizing that it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. There’s a time and a place to shout your stories from the rooftops, to self-promote and toot your own horn, but I don’t think most social interactions are those times.


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