On the PBJ sidebar, we like to highlight a book each month. We don't receive any money from our link to Amazon, it's just there for convenience in case it appeals to you too.
The book I chose this month is "Sweet Dreams Lullaby", by author/illustrator Betsy Snyder. Isn't it gorgeous?
This peaceful and imaginative picture book invites a bunny—tucked snugly in bed—to dream of comforting scenes from nature’s bedtime. Each spread reveals a delightful dreamscape for children to imagine as they drift off to the lulling rhyming text.
A little of both. From the very beginning, I had some images I knew I wanted to incorporate. But I also played a lot with words that had a soft, sleepy feel (like "water lily beds" and "eggs wrapped in a nest") and then worked images around those words. When developing a concept, I move back and forth between words and images until the balance of the words and visuals work well together.
Can you share the process of how "Sweet Dreams Lullaby" evolved? For example, did the finished product stay true to your original vision or did it change?
"Sweet Dreams Lullaby" changed a lot from the initial concept to the finished book. It was originally picked up as a novelty board book idea, but when it was time to start the project, Random House decided they wanted a picture book instead (which I was thrilled about!). At that point, I only had a few spreads written with a couple of thumbnails sketches as a general idea of direction. I explored a lot of different writing directions and shared ideas with my editor until we settled on an approach that felt right for a picture book format. The project didn't end up at all where it started, but I'm really happy with the finished book. I try to not be TOO attached to any one idea or image, and to know when to let it go if it's not working. I think if you give an idea room to breathe and grow, it blooms into something you couldn't have imagined in the beginning, something better. This is the first picture book that I've written and developed from start to finish, so I am thankful I was able to work with such a supportive team at Random House that gave me the time and encouragement to help this book evolve into what it was meant to be.
Who/what has inspired your style?
My style is inspired by a lot of different people and things. First and foremost, I'd have to say that kids influence my art and writing the most—after all, they are the audience my books are meant for! Kids have such a fresh, unfiltered way of looking at the world that I love and try to capture.
I also gain inspiration from my own childhood memories, traveling, and art from other times and cultures (like Japanese wood block prints). Being part of a creative community of other artists and writers also feeds my inspiration. Family, friends, mentors, other artists, and my previous experience as designer/illustrator at American Greetings have all made an impression on me and have helped me discover and develop the artist inside myself. Some well-known authors and illustrators that I admire are Leo Lionni, Eric Carle, Richard Scarry, Shel Silverstein, Beatrix Potter, Robert McCloskey, Ezra Jack Keats, Maurice Sendak, Lois Ehlert, Charlie Harper, Marc Boutavant, Lauren Child, and soooooooo many more!
Describe a day in the life of Betsy.
My husband is a graphic designer who is also self-employed, so we share a studio space a few short blocks from our house. We usually head to "the office" together, where I start my day sipping homemade chai and looking at some kind of inspiration to get me going (blogs, websites, books, etc.). I always keep an idea sketchbook close by so I can quickly jot down any random bits that pop into my head and save them for later. I try to get the e-mails and "business stuff" out of the way early so I can focus on my illustration and writing projects the rest of the day. Sometimes there will be a phone chat with my agent, or maybe a client, to discuss a project. When I'm really busy with projects or I have a big deadline coming up, I do work long hours. But I try to make as much time as I can for fun, too. When I am able to sneak away, I like to hike the local parks, travel anywhere, have backyard bonfires, bake yummy treats, and spend time with family and friends.
For budding author/illustrators, what advice would you give?
There are so many different paths, so I would say that everyone needs to find their own way. I think it's essential to surround yourself with people that recognize your talent, support your goals and help you grow. It's also so important to seek out and even create opportunities that will help you develop your skills as an author or illustrator.
For anyone interested specifically in children's book publishing, I would highly recommend joining SCBWI and getting involved on a local level: http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/Top-10-FAQs
This is another great resource for children's publishing info: http://www.amazon.com/2010-Childrens-Writers-Illustrators-Market/dp/1582975876/ref=dp_ob_title_bk
What can we look forward to seeing from you next?
Right now I am working on a new picture with Random House, which is scheduled to come out Fall 2011. I also have a few books that I illustrated for Blue Apple Books—look for "Lily's Potty" and "Pete's Potty" coming out in May 2010. I am also usually working on a few smaller projects here and there, like greeting cards and stickers, for various clients including Peaceable Kingdom Press, Papyrus, and American Greetings.