Now through November, Blogging for a Cure 2007 will feature over 70 bloggers who will be highlighting many of the beautiful snowflakes created by children’s book illustrators as part of Robert’s Snow: for Cancer's Cure. Visit the handful of artists featured each day, and get to know each one of them up close and personal. Bid on your own original art snowflake while helping to fight cancer.
Today I have the privilege of featuring author and illustrator and snowflake creator Jennifer Thermes. Jennifer writes books about life in the colonial time period. Her stories are inspired by events that happened in her 280-year-old family home. The old farmhouse was once owned by poet and editor Louis Untermeyer. She is convinced "his spirit still infuses the place with a love of stories and ideas." Be sure to check out her website. Like her books, it's chock-full fine detail and historical information.
Interview with Jennifer Thermes
How did you become involved in Robert’s Snow and what was your inspiration for your snowflake, The First Snow?
I had heard about Robert’s Snow in previous years, and when the call for interested artists came out, I sent in my name. So many people’s lives have been touched by cancer, and I thought it was a very worthy cause.
As for the inspiration for my snowflake, I still get excited with the first snow of the season, and I’m sure that children in colonial times did, too!
Who had the most influence on your work?
Many people– my first art teacher, my writing group, something I’ve read, other artists’ work. It’s always changing. I try to stay inspired by new things. I have always liked that saying about “thinking like a beginner,” in order to keep learning and growing.
What is your all-time favorite picture book?
Another tough question, because my favorites change all the time! (I will say, my favorite Dr. Seuss story is “What Was I Scared Of?” There’s something about that “pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them” that gets me every time!) But seriously, I love the work of Peter Sís, David Small, Garth Williams, Barbara McClintock, among so many others.
For “Sam Bennett’s New Shoes” what was the time line between when you first found the boot and shoe hidden within in the framework of your 1720's farmhouse house, and when the book actually became published?
I knew right away there was a story in the boot and the shoe, but it was about three years before I put pen to paper. Between putting the story and the pictures together took about a year, and then another year before a publisher picked up the idea. Then, of course, another two years working with the editor, doing the final artwork, and completing the whole production process. It’s probably not a good idea to think too hard about the time it takes to make a book!
Do you have the original boot and shoe on display in your home?
Yes, they make a great conversation starter.
Tell us what it’s like working from your office in a home with such a colorful history!
I probably have the same distractions as anybody who works from home, though with a lot more dust! I think the thing an old house really teaches you is that life isn’t perfect, but it can still work just fine, and even be wonderful. In an old house things break, paint peels, floors creak and nothing is level- but there is a certain charm that is hard to reproduce. Also, I find it oddly comforting to think about all of life’s ups and downs the different people who lived here must have experienced.
Working as an author/illustrator, for you, which comes first, the pictures or the words?
It depends on the project. Sometimes an idea will come to me visually, and sometimes a line of text will come whole, seemingly out of nowhere. I’m convinced it’s a gift from the subconscious when that happens! More likely is that I’ll work on the words first– struggling through a first draft and trying to figure out what the story is about, and then shifting back and forth between the words and pictures to meld it all together. I think with each new project I crawl before I walk, and walk before I run. Once I get into the “groove” of an idea it seems to flow quickly.
Tell us a little bit about your illustrative process.
I do a lot of scribbly-sketches before a picture’s composition takes hold, and then refine the drawing from there. It’s helpful to keep a thumbnail layout of a book project in front of me as I work so that I can keep in mind how the pictures and story will flow from page to page. Once I start the finished art I have to remind myself to take frequent breaks– otherwise I get too nit-picky with the color and, actually, everything! I’m never completely satisfied with the finish, but I suspect many artists would say the same about their work.
Your stories are such a part of the life you have lived, or inspired by the lives of those who lived before you, what do you have planned next?
Right now I have several stories out for consideration, one is a picture-book biography and all with historical themes. Since my “day job” is creating illustrated maps, I’ve been working on an idea that incorporates them into a story. It’s still in the early stages.
What were you thinking with that 1980's hairstyle? Just kidding! (All you curious readers can see what I’m talking about on Jennifer’s website bio.)
Oh, come on, I was SO COOL!! (But really quite shy, believe it or not!)
Thank you Jennifer for letting us get to know more about you! And a special thank you for donating a signed book to be given away to one lucky reader of this blog. That's right! Just post a reply on this blog telling me if Jennifer is in auction 1, 2, or 3, and your name will go into a drawing. The winner will be selected on the first day of her auction. (You can find the auction details here.)
Be sure to check out the other snowflakes being featured today:
Brooke Dyer at Bookshelves of Doom
D.B. Johnson at Lessons from the Tortoise
Erin Eitter Kono at Sam Riddleburger
Sherry Rogers at A Life in Books