I am excited and honored to have illustrated a new picture book, written by the amazing Dick Jackson, (due for release later this year). It's the very first time I've illustrated another writer's manuscript, though in this case, it was an easy decision for me.
Back in 1999, when I decided to make a huge move to publishing from a career as an animator/producer in network television, I knew nothing about the business and I had no contacts. But ever since I was a child, I'd been logging ideas for picture books in my journals, and I'd created quite a few one-of-a-kind books that I'd never shown anyone.
So one day, I took the plunge, and called Dick Jackson at DK Publishing in New York City. The incredibly kind person who'd answered the phone told me me that he works out of his California office, and when I asked if I could have that number, she gave it to me.
The next morning, first thing, I picked up the phone and rang Dick's number. But just as he answered the phone, I remembered the time-zone difference - it was 9:00am in New York (where I live), but it was 6:00am in California, which explained his very groggy voice. "Oh no," I thought, frantically. "I'm calling the president of a major publisher at his home, and I've woken him up!" But after apologizing profusely, I explained that I'd written and illustrated a whole bunch of books and would love to get them published. "You and everyone else," he told me, but suggested I send them to him and call back in couple of weeks to find out what he thinks of them.
So I did. And exactly 2 weeks later, first thing in the morning, I rang his phone again. And he answered, groggily, again. I'd woken him up. AGAIN! But he was so sweet and encouraging, and he arranged immediately for me to meet with his Vice President at DK, Neal Porter. The rest is history. Neal has been my editor on every single one of my books - in fact we're now working on books number 19 and 20, simultaneously.
So about a year ago, when Neal casually mentioned that, though he knows I write and illustrate my own books, he couldn't help but visualize my paintings for a new book he was publishing, I asked whose manuscript it was. As he said, "it's Dick Jackson's", he'd completely forgotten that it was Dick who had introduced us to one another in the first place. I said "yes" immediately.
I am forever grateful to Dick for his kindness, patience, encouragement, and most importantly, for not hanging up on me. TWICE!