Sunday, September 18, 2011

from the BRG archives: making literature, making a living










More often then not, when I'm introduced at a book event I'm described as a prolific author/illustrator. While it is usually meant as complimentary (at least I hope so) I always wince a little inside. Just because a person (especially someone in the creative field) creates many works doesn't necessarily mean they are any good.

Of course, I am extremely grateful that I have been able to be so prolific. But the truth is, I have to be. I depend on it. If I don’t produce, I quickly drown--mortgage, health insurance, medical bills, groceries-- everything breaks through the rickety dam of my paying books.

Which is probably why I was so affected by Linda Sue Park’s speech about creating your best work . I didn’t go into children’s books for the money (who does?); and it goes without saying that I want everything that I do and publish to be the absolute best of my ability. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes my creative juices flow out of desperation for the cold hard cash, that compromises are made to get contracts, and sometimes work is rushed when bills are waiting.

To be able to make a living in children’s books is a gift, but one that is dearly paid for. And is compromising quality one of the unavoidable taxes? That is the question I struggle with when the projects are over and the bills have been paid. Could I have done it better? Should I have done it better? Was it my very best?

The answer is always yes and no. Everything I’ve done probably could’ve been done better. But it was the very best I could do at that time. And while that’s not quite satisfactory, it’s enough to make me try again with another book.

Originally published January 13th, 2007

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