I am writing this post as a published author! Ok, fine, I wrote and illustrated a story and had a single copy printed as a gift, but I maintain that it counts.
Back in August, a month before my niece was born, I thought of a dumb rhyme and it stuck in my head. Easy Peasy and Hullabaloo went to the beach for an hour or two. See? Dumb. It was during my vacation when I also made this instead of writing my novel, so apparently it was a time full of nonsense creativity (though let’s be honest, that’s the best kind).
Then I went back to work and real life and not having blender drinks every day, and fall disappeared. The election made it impossible to write anything that felt important enough to address current events, or escapist enough to withdraw from them. And then I was just really full from Thanksgiving dinner and couldn’t move off the couch, let alone lift a pen.
At that point I realized that Christmas was careening toward us, my adorable niece was now out in the world, and I still hadn’t made her that picture book as I had planned back in August. Nothing motivates like an imminent deadline.
The words emerged relatively easily. I struggled with a few lines here and there, but for the most part the rhyming story about two friends, the laid-back Easy Peasy and the hyperactive Hullabaloo, practically wrote itself. It is far from perfect, but it wasn’t something I Hemingwayed over, agonizing in the middle of the night at a typewriter in the light of a single desk lamp, while pulling out my hair and guzzling bourbon from the bottle.
Then I had to illustrate.
Guys, newsflash: I am no Sandra Boynton. In high school we were required to cover our textbooks, so I’m an experienced doodler. I took a drawing class in college after I topped out my English credits and I learned some basics, like how to shade a drawing of an apple in direct light using charcoals, and how you shouldn’t touch your face while you’re working in charcoals. But I can’t come anywhere close to calling myself an artist. After trying desperately to think of a way out (a friend with drawing skills who would do it quickly for free, a local artist who might like the experience and would do it quickly for free, a collection of sundry clip art from the Internet for free), I accepted my fate and started doodling on my tablet with the Paper app and my pointer finger. Easy Peasy became a sunny circle and Hullabaloo a vermilion scribble, two rudimentary shapes I thought I could probably passably replicate in different scenes.
I drew everything in pieces – the characters, the backgrounds, and the other items from the scenes like pails, seagulls, and beach chairs. (Have you ever tried to draw a chair in different perspectives? Time to look for that bourbon.) I saved everything as images and then I laid them out together page by page in Microsoft Publisher, because, again, I am not fancy or experienced and I do not have Photoshop. Finally I printed at Shutterfly because I’m such a frequent customer that I should probably buy stock.
My niece, via her much more dexterous parents, opened the book on Sunday by the Christmas tree, and she seemed impressed. Granted, she just figured out how to hold her head up and her favorite pastime is blowing spit bubbles, but I think somewhere in there she was like “wow, this is a cool and meaningful handmade gift that I will treasure forever.”
Which really makes all those bourbon hangovers worthwhile.