Sunday, February 28, 2010

Where Do Ideas Come From?

JANICE:  Ideas come from everywhere - from research, newspapers, history, ruins of ancient civilizations, family stories, our experiences, travel, even from music. Our love of music by Antonio Vivaldi led us to research his life and write and illustrate I, Vivaldi. He was a priest who taught violin to girls at an orphanage called the Pietà in Venice. He also composed music for them to play and conducted their orchestra which became known all over Europe.

Those orphan girls who developed into fine musicians fascinated me. I began to wonder what it was like to live in the Pietà and be Vivaldi's student. So I wrote Anna Maria's Gift to find out. Anna Maria is a young girl who is sent to the Pietà after her father's death. All she has left of him is the violin he made for her, but it carries his soul within. When she plays her violin, she hears his voice. That idea came from researching the great violin maker, Antonio Stradivari, who liked to keep each violin in his bedroom for a month before varnishing it. He believed his soul entered the violin while he slept. And he should know!

From idea, to writing and rewriting, to editing, to published book can take a long time, even years. But at last Anna Maria's Gift  will be available on April 27, 2010. Please look for it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

BIG THRILL: Our First Foreign Edition

JANICE:  Today a box arrived from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers with three copies of the new Korean edition of I, Vivaldi. I think Antonio would be as thrilled as we are. Thanks to the Korean publisher, Tomato House. Your edition is beautiful. May people in your country love Vivaldi and his music as much as we do. Now for the rest of the world!

TOM:  What a thrill to see my paintings embellished with Korean calligraphy.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Outside the Book

JANICE:  There are times when an author needs to get outside the book and into a school with her readers. What better place than Bradfield Elementary in Highland Park ISD? And what better grade than fourth? The amazing team of teachers used A Paradise Called Texas and the sequels, Willow Creek Home and Spirit of Iron in depth. In fact the children know my books better than I remember!

Fourth graders in Texas (and perhaps elsewhere) study techniques of writing. When I visit a classroom I am amazed at what they are learning and think I should go back to fourth grade. At Bradfield one assignment was to write a letter as if you were the main character, Mina, who immigrates to Texas in 1845. She is writing to her grandfather back in Germany. Here is what Jillian wrote in part, and I quote with her permission:
"Dear Opa,
Our new life in Texas is good, but some sad things occured. We have a wonderful log house and a beautiful garden. Also we made peace with the Indians and go to a nice school under some fine trees. Papa married a kind woman named Lisette because Mama died from a sickness called pneumonia. She said that she wanted to fly up to heaven with the seagulls, and I guess that her wish came true.
Jillian's letter made a lump in my throat just like when I wrote about Mama's dying. That scene is a favorite with readers. Why? Because it makes them feel an intense emotion. Isn't that one reason we read?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I, Papa Haydn: Picture Book in Progress

TOM:  This dummy drawing is for I, Papa Haydn, the book we are working on now. It shows young Joseph Haydn in Master Reuter's carriage as they arrive at St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. Here Joseph will join the boys' choir.  I drew the scene from an old etching and my photos and sketches made during our visit to Vienna. Those little marks in the sky show where the text will go. The drawing will evolve into a full color illustration.

Our decision to write about the composer Franz Joseph Haydn came from reading that young Joseph sang in the choir for Antonio Vivaldi's funeral Mass. Since we had recently published I, Vivaldi, this connection between the two composers seemed magical. In fact, while researching Haydn we stayed in a small hotel in Vienna that happened to be across the street from the building where Vivaldi spent the last year of his life. We felt destined to write this book!