You'll have to excuse me, I'm not a very happy brotha at the moment. Some folks describe me as being aloof, operating my life out in left field. I've always rebuffed that description. However, today, I'm publicly proclaiming my doofus status.
Many people have played a part in getting me to where I am today as an illustrator of children’s books. However, it was two people who changed the direction of my career. They are artist, Brian Pinkney, and his wife, author/editor/publisher, Andrea Davis Pinkney. Ten years ago, I mailed samples of my art to Brian, and he passed them along to his wife who, at the time, worked as a senior editor at Simon and Schuster. Soon, she started up her own imprint, Jump at the Sun, under Hyperion. There, she went to bat for me, and as a result, I received my first offer to illustrate the children's book, Say Hey! A Song of Willie Mays.
I had long been a big fan of the Pinkney's before this book offer. I had been collecting this couple's books since I made the decision to enter this field. I've done my best to keep in touch with Andrea (I really don't want to pester Brian), but because I've never made a trip to New York, I've never had an opportunity to meet my heros.
All that said, guess what? I literally stood right alongside Andrea Davis Pinkney at least half a dozen times at this past weekends ALA conference, and I had no idea who she was. Yes, go ahead, punch me. I mean, my eyes kept telling me, "hey that lady looks just like Andrea Davis Pinkney." But because she was in the Scholastic booth, my mind kept telling me, "no, stupid, that ain't her."
The woman I saw — several times, I must emphasize — was running that booth like a captain runs a ship — efficiently. She didn't look author-ish. She looked publisher-ish.
Earlier today, the realization of my mistake became clear. While reading "who's moving where" at Harold Underdown’s Purple Crayon, I discovered that Andrea started working at Scholastic in November. She's the publisher for hardcover and early childhood books.
Immediately, I shot off an email asking her if she were at ALA.
Yes, she was.
I'm not a sports fan, and I’m not impressed by Hollywood. My heros are children's book authors and illustrators. I missed my Michael Jordan moment.