BLACKBERRY BANQUET: The Birth of a Cover

I was tickled purple when Donna German (at Sylvan Dell) sent me Lisa Downey’s rough illustration of the cover for Blackberry Banquet (see more of Lisa’s work here).

Here I go, like a new mom showing off her baby, but really…isn’t it adorable? I’m so pleased with the design and can envision the colors popping out and grabbing the attention of children. I can’t wait to see the finished piece!

I have a profound respect for picture book illustrators—they really are the ones who I put on a pedestal, in this business. Why? Because unlike fine artists (not to knock fine artists—I like Van Gogh just as much as the next girl), they have to bring the illustrations to life in order to create an entire story. They breathe life into the text. They don’t just paint a child or an animal; they show the movement, actions, and emotions of the characters. And they do it for thirty-two pages! Simply amazing, in my opinion.

Many people don’t realize that writers don’t get to choose their illustrators. Editors and/or art directors make that decision (good thing too—they know far more illustrators and have a tremendous understanding of what makes a good picture book). But this is a hard concept for some writers to get used to—letting go and trusting someone else to take “your baby” (especially if it’s your firstborn). Trusting that your editor will find an illustrator who will connect with your words, while also putting their own spin on them. Someone who will create pictures that will intertwine with your words to create a beautiful dance on the page. This is whom we want our editors to choose. And they do. But first, we must trust.

One of the things I’ve feared was seeing the artwork for one of my books for the first time, and not liking it. Well, it hasn’t happened yet. And every time I have to let go of one of my stories, I just tell myself, “Trust your editor. She will choose wisely.” It’s my mantra.

After all, she wants to create a beautiful book that will beg children to read it. And to keep it real, yes, sell books. Many, many books (it is a business, after all). And a book with the perfect balance of words and art will touch more children and sell many more copies than one that doesn’t. So, when the time comes to “let go,” take a deep breath and remind yourself, “Trust your editor. Trust your illustrator.”

One thought on “BLACKBERRY BANQUET: The Birth of a Cover

  1. It’s just lovely, Terry. I’m so excited to see this book come out. I don’t think I can wait until August ’08! Rebecca L-G


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