If you died today, what would happen with your works-in-progress? I thought about that last night while visiting the Lee & Low website. WE is one of their spring 2007 releases. The illustrator for the book, Kenneth Addison, passed away shortly after creating the illustrations.
I don't know anything about Kenneth, or the circumstances behind his death. I can assume WE was a dream of his that will never be realized. He'll never experience what it feels like to open a box filled with books covered by his artwork and byline. And he won't get to share his books with fans, in classroom schools and libraries. Sad.
With Kenneth's passing, I paused to consider my own mortality. Besides obvious familial priorities, what would happen to my works-in-progress if I unexpectedly passed away? My wife — or any other next of kin — has no idea what I'm working on or which publishers I'm working for. Deadlines would come and go, and she wouldn't know the difference. She doesn't even know how to check my email which, primarily, is how I communicate with my publishers. She knows I have a licensing agent, but I doubt she knows her name. I've shared these things with her before but...well, you know, life's complicated enough without her having to know the intimate details of my business relationships, too.
Currently, I've been compensated (advanced) one-half for both books I'm working on. Would I leave my wife in financial debt to my publishers for books I wouldn't be able to deliver? I assume those things are covered in contracts, but she has no idea where I keep my contracts. Heck, I don't either.
I have many properties under license — so many, I couldn't name them all myself without digging through files. I have speaking engagements booked. Submissions are still out. What if one of those submissions received an offer?
I have no idea how to prepare for such a situation, or if it's even possible to do so. People die, yes authors and illustrators, too. Fact of life.
Later this summer, I'll begin illustrating RON, a picture book for Dial. Shortly after I was signed on, one of the co-authors passed away. And the author of FARMER, the book I'm currently illustrating, I'm told, is gravely ill.
Again, I don't know what the answer is. I wonder how others organize their lives for such possible unexpected events. Like death.