If any of you read Barbara Johansen Newman's blog, Cats and Jammers, you know she's a serious artist and an accomplished children's book illustrator. Now, she adds new children's book author onto her many credentials.
Barbara's new picture book, Tex & Sugar: A Big City Kitty Ditty, was released in April 2007. A couple decades after she realized she wanted to write children's books. Like many of us, she was very busy with her own career in editorial illustration and raising her family.
But...Barbara wanted to follow her dream. She wrote a collection of poems called Seven Working Kitty City Ditties. She even went so far as to go to New York City with her portfolio and manuscript in 1984. Barbara received positive feedback from one editor who told her to turn one of the poems into a story.
But...even though Barbara wanted to follow her dream, she was getting more work as a book illustrator and her children were still young. It took another six years before Barbara worked on her manuscript again. She finally had a chance to sell her manuscript to a publisher, but found out another artist would illustrate the book. Barbara was disappointed yet very determined to be the illustratrator of her own book...after all, she was an illustrator, and a pretty good one at that. So, she decided to find another publisher who would embrace her manuscript and her artwork together.
Barbara writes in her blog, "In the spring of 2005, it (Tex & Sugar: A Big City Kitty Ditty) sold 22 years after I first wrote it, and it came out two years after that. So, for all of you out there who have been juggling families, and careers, but still long to write or illustrate, listen to me: you should never give up on your dreams. And, for what it is worth, my first book as author and illustrator is about that: following dreams."
I was really inspired reading Barbara's story on her blog. When I had a chance to meet Barbara in person last week, she made quite an impression on me. She's exactly like she is on her blog--warm, funny, honest, kind. She's comfortable with who she is, she's so welcoming and, can I mention again, how warm she is? I so enjoyed hearing her tell her story. I have to admit, I was a little shocked. I mean, here's a well respected illustrator of children's books. Even with an "in" to the children's publishing world, Barbara still had to jump a few hurdles to get to her dream.
Now I don't want you all to start freaking out and stress out about how you're going to make your work stand out, if Barbara had to work it. Remember, she kept going until she found someone who loved her work. And don't even go there with the whining about how long it will take you if Barbara's journey took a bit of time. Remember, Barbara was working at her own pace, juggling her career and her family and working the manuscript in when she had the time.
You know what you need to do, if you want to reach for your dream. Use Barbara's story for some inspiration, to get you through some of those tough days. Because if you get anything from this post today, you're gonna totally see that despite the hurdles in her path, Barbara kept at it until she reached her dream.
And what a lovely dream. Tex & Sugar: A Big City Kitty Ditty will delight children and adults with its rhythm and sweet illustrations with a folksy feel to them. Reminiscent of a hopeful country song, this beautiful picture book starts off with enthusiastic anticipation, throws in a tiny bit of adversity, then gathers up into a hopeful croon. Look at this page from her book. Isn't it lovely?
In celebration of big dreams, I decided to give away one copy of Tex & Sugar: A Big City Kitty Ditty. All you have to do is go on over to the Tex & Sugar website, find out the answer to what Barbara's dream was when she was in junior high school, and e-mail me the answer to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Tex & Sugar Giveaway.
I will try to get a personal autograph from Barbara. On the chance that we can connect with our summer schedules, just include the name and message you'd like written in the autograph in the e-mail. Just because I'm curious and this is my contest. No addresses required now. Only if your name is selected. Answers need to be in by this Saturday, June 30th, 5pm EST. The winner will be announced next Monday, July 2nd. Good luck! Now get cracking and start working toward your dreams!