On the afternoon of March 20th I was sitting in traffic happily planning my packing strategy for the beach vacation we were leaving for the next day. Out of the blue, I got the urge to check my email. I hardly ever check email behind the wheel but this time I did. As I scrolled through the list of senders one name stood out. I looked at it and thought, "mmm how do I know that name?" Then I read the first line of the email: "Dear Ms. Uhles, I am the senior designer for Sleeping Bear Press and we have a manuscript we think your work would be perfect for…."
My ears started ringing. Everything else faded to stillness except for the phone in my hand. Traffic started to inch forward. I clicked on the email. Somehow I managed not to drive into a guardrail as I skimmed the message.
There it was, my first offer to illustrate a trade picture book.
Behind that moment lies a patchwork of years of learning and hours of work, all of it held together by one tiny thread of faith that eventually my art, my vision, my characters, my imagination would be seen as trade quality. For this post I considered writing more about starting over and over again after rejections to numerous to count*. But that gets pretty maudlin. Let's just say for the record it's been a long and winding road as I wrote here, here and especially here.
Instead let's talk about the fun stuff!
The name of the book is The Little Kid's Table, by Mary Ann McCabe Reihle. In this wacky rhyming story when the family gathers for a big celebratory meal, those sitting at the kid's table may not eat a lot of broccoli casserole but they do have the best ideas about what to do with spoons and a Labradoodle. As is usual with trade publishing I'm working with the editors and art directors and will have little contact with the author.
Why am I excited about trade when I've already illustrated books for educational and religious publishers? Well for starters I didn't dream about doing art for those books when I was kid. I dreamed about making books like the ones in my mom's library. And this time its my vision that gets to bring the story to life, not a preordained set of curriculum. Plus I get almost a whole year to work on it! I get to make up what I think the characters should look like! I get to put into practice all the stuff I've learned about about story-telling over 32 pages. I'll introduce the characters little by little on the blog as they are approved. For now I'll leave you with a photo of something that makes me very happy. Yes that IS my name in purple ink:
*ps. also for the record, I did keep that maudlin blog about the years of rejection. I hope this book will be the beginning of many trade books to come and I never, ever, want to take it for granted. If someday off in the future I'm whining about some tiny problem related to, oh say, my 10th trade book I plan to keep that blog around for some long term perspective. No matter what problems may arise, I'm very very very lucky to make my living this way.