Monday, August 28, 2006

Hope and Beauty

Children’s books ooze with themes of hope. No matter how dreary or depressing the subject matter, it’s a seemingly unbreakable rule that the children’s book reader is left with a sense of optimism.

Yet, that is not the case for the children’s book creator. Who knows, perhaps we funnel all our hope into the books, leaving none for ourselves. But the nature of our profession, between the rejections and the rat race of marketing, is one that easily leads to despondency. It’s so easy to wallow in a pit of gloom when others have legions of fans, posters, billboards and awards while your books go quietly out of print as if they never existed. Or, worse yet, when they never even get published and aren’t allowed to see the light of day. Suddenly, the hours, days and years of slaving for a project just seem so…pointless.

But they’re not. In one of my most favorite picturebooks, Miss Rumphius, the grandfather says to young Alice, “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” Alice spends her life trying to figure what to do, in the end realizing that her way is to spread lupine seeds over the earth.

Well, our books are our lupine seeds. Yes, some die, some never take root and many of them are only seen by a handful of people. But the beauty they have brought to the fabric of the world is immeasurable by a calculator or cash register. And it doesn’t matter if our books are only one or two out of the millions out there, does the commonplace nature of a daisy make it less lovely?

When things are rough, many times I say to myself, “I should quit making children’s books, I should do something else…” But the truth is-- what would I do? What else could I do to make the world more beautiful? And I realize that there is nothing else I can do because there is nothing else I want to do-- which means there is nothing else I was meant to do. And that, in itself, gives me hope.


Anna Alter said...

Thanks Grace, you are always inspiring, it makes me feel more hopeful to think of books as little seeds floating out into the world.

Sometimes it is REALLY hard to keep the faith, but like you said when it comes down to it, this is what I feel like I'm supposed to do, and that counts for something.

alvinaling said...

Thank you for this beautiful post. I always think it's worth it if even one child is moved by a book.

And this is up on my wall: "We are where we should be, doing what we should be doing, otherwise we would be somewhere else, doing something else."

It's from a Richard Stine book that I discovered back in college.

Nancy said...

Here's an obscure quote that I think works as well:

We are meant to be here.

We step from one piece of holy ground to the next under stars that ask... imagine for one second that you could drop in on a past life. What would you like to find yourself doing there? What would charm you, make you proud?

Ask yourself that, and the question of what to do in this life becomes so simple it's terrifying -- just to do that thing that would charm you, that would make you say, yes it's the real me.

Do that and you're alive.

Meghan McCarthy said...

Well said, Grace. I whine plenty about wanting a new career but then when I consider the options I always come back to books. Just a week or so ago when I turned in some art my editor said "it looks like fun." I said "It's not fun." She seemed surprised. So I guess for all our grumpiness we manage to suck the little ounces of positive thinking into our pictures. Maybe that's why I’m so grumpy--I've given all the good stuff to my books!


Courtney Pippin-Mathur said...

great post. i think we all feel morose sometimes. just know, to an aspiring illustrator like myself, you are the bomb. love your work and reading about what goes behind the scences is amazing. i have added bluerose girls to my blog roll, hope that's okay. :)