Today, on this what felt like 100-degree day, the wife and kid and I attended a book signing for Greg Leitich Smith, author of Tofu and T. rex (Little Brown, 2005). I can remember the day my wife and I chatted over lunch with Greg and Cyn at the swankily Austin Bitter End restaurant. Cynthia is always chuck-full of trade news and usually leaves a brotha feeling reinvigorated about the direction of his career in this children's book field. That day, they surprised us with the news that Greg had received a two-book contract with Little Brown. Seeing the final fruits of his labor come to fruition today is pretty darn exciting. Makes me realize that my dreams of having my words published someday are really attainable, although, however, Greg is a highly educated patent attorney in real life. But that's no excuse for me to belittle myself and my abilities. I guess. I think. We'll see.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Varian Johnson, author of Red Polka Dot in a World Full of Plaid (Genesis Press/Black Coral, 2005). I met Varion through the blogosphere, so it's always cool to finally meet someone in the person. Look for an interview of this talented author here on Rants and Raves in the next couple weeks. Also present at the signing — at least while I was there — was children's author/illustrator Frances Hill, her husband YA author Brian Yansky, and a few other's whom I was much too shy to introduce myself to. I don't do to well with these mix and mingle type of things. In fact most of the time, I made myself comfortable far away from the crowd, hanging out in the children's picture book section with K. The wife and I can't visit a Barnes and Noble without breaking our budgets. And, once again we did.
Before this afternoon's book signing, I spent the morning working on the children's book biography I've been busy writing. Yes, that is a total of five manuscripts I have in various stages of progress, but I want to enter Lee & Lows 2005 New Voices contest, and the deadline is October 31. I sat my other manuscripts aside to focus on writing this, and possibly two stories. Author Dianna Hutts Aston provided me with the subject to write about, and although I'm not completely confident in my writing, yet, I'm getting there.
I want to be careful not to reveal my subject. Not a big deal, but I don't want to jinx myself either. Not much is known about the life of the person I'm writing about. I've found a couple of books about this person's work, and I've found several internet biographies, but so far, not much. Thing is, although not much is known about the person, much is known about life and the times the person lived in. This story will be history lesson first, and a biography of my subject second.
Because I tend to be such a visual person, I first started out drawing a timeline of what I learnd about my subject's life. On this timeline, I've marked important dates; when the person was born, when they died and all other pertinent information that I've found in my research. Many of the dates have nothing to do with my subject's life, per se, but more to do with what was going on in the world, and how these events would have affected my subjects life. Not much is known about Jane Doe, but if she was black, lived in the Jim Crow south in the 1920s, I can assume her life was probably not a box of cherries. I'll be making some broad assumptions based upon research, and using a lot of probablys to qualify my statements. I'll cover myself and tie all the pieces together in an authors note at the end. In addition to writing, I've been reading other picture book biographies as homework, at least five books per day, three biographies and two general picture books.
My first draft is pretty much free writing. I am using my timeline as a guide, but for now I'm not focusing on perfect spelling, grammar, or structure. I'm not spending much time putting together just the right words, or rhythm. My goal is to vaguely tell my story. And for now, the story is littered with don't forget notes to myself for the purpose of a bibliography. My goal for finishing the first draft is Friday, then I'm going to sit this first draft aside to work revising my already finished first draft on a second entry. Whew, October 31st seems like tomorrow.