Portrait of a Groundwood Intern

RachelFagan

This summer, we were very lucky to have the help of fabulous intern Rachel Fagan at Groundwood HQ. We asked her to write a few words about the day in the life of a Groundwood intern for our blog. Read on for a peek behind the curtain!

Groundwood is usually off to a leisurely start in the morning, and the office is quiet as the staff slowly trickle in; most of them with coffee in hand. Someone invariably comes bearing sweets to share.

I sit down at my desk and, as always, am greeted with a cheerful smile from Sheila who I suspect may actually live in the Groundwood office as she’s always in before me and is always there to wave goodbye when I leave.

The first thing I do is check my email, then I organize the newest mail pile and make sure none of them are for Anansi.

By mid-morning, the office is humming with activity. Michael uses my desk to spread out the newly arrived prints for the Fall 2015 picture books – very exciting stuff! I take a break from my emails to glance over some beautifully illustrated Pacific west coast landscapes from West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet written by Deborah Hodge and illustrated by Karen Reczuch. I can’t wait to see the finished product!

Suzanne stops by for a hallo! and offers me a manuscript to scour for grammatical mistakes. I’m just happy to read a new manuscript, but I get to work. Embarrassingly, I spend about ten minutes deliberating over a comma and then mention the potential intruder to Suzanne who spends another few minutes thinking about it as well. We’ll have to ask Nan when she gets in.

Soon I’m sent over to the bookstore to measure the books. Yes, that’s right. As Sheila and Suzanne calculatingly discuss the size of the upcoming fall season’s novels, they decide to send me to Type Books to do some research. I awkwardly ask the Type employees if they would mind me spending some time with my ruler in the children’s section. They happily comply. Five by eight seems to be the popular size, so I hurry back to deliver my findings.

At 3:30, the Groundwood staff file into the conference room for our production meeting. I’m just an observer, but everyone else intently scribbles away in their notebooks as Erin goes through the list of upcoming publications and delivery dates.

As the day comes to a close, I finish up any remaining emails and if I have time browse through some of the new material, trying to familiarize myself with the impressively large Groundwood catalogue. I generally get distracted until Sheila peeks out of her office and reminds me that it’s after five.

I pack up my bags, clean up my desk and arm myself with a manuscript to read at home, As I walk out of the office, I’m met with a barrage of smiling goodbyes and see you next weeks. Another busy day at Groundwood is over and I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Behind the scenes of a picture book translation

When we came across the beautiful picture book À La Sieste! (Naptime!) by Iris de Moüy, we knew we had to bring it to an English audience. But there are lots of things that go into making a picture book that the average reader might not think about. In the case of Naptime!, all the text in the book was hand-lettered to match the illustrations. We knew that to make the English translation as beautiful as the French version, we had to hand-letter our text too.

Groundwood Art Director Michael Solomon was up to the task. He let us document the process, and gave us some insight into his thoughts. Have a look!


 

About to attempt the English lettering for our edition of Iris de Moüy's Naptime. The text will print as a greyscale layer in the final production and I wanted to match the dark and light tones of the original as much as possible (it's not a solid black). I assumed I would need to use a transparent coloured ink or watercolour, but I couldn't find any that were dark enough or that pooled the pigment in the right way. Finally I settled on this Windsor and Newton India: less black than Pelikan but strong enough in the heavy strokes and then yielding a nice grey when the brush runs dry or the pressure is less. Perfection! (The ink, not me).

I’m about to attempt the English lettering for our edition of Iris de Moüy’s Naptime!. The text will print as a greyscale layer in the final production, and I wanted to match the dark and light tones of the original as much as possible (it’s not a solid black). I assumed I would need to use a transparent coloured ink or watercolour, but I couldn’t find any that were dark enough or that pooled the pigment in the right way. Finally I settled on this Windsor and Newton India: less black than Pelikan but strong enough in the heavy strokes and then yielding a nice grey when the brush runs dry or the pressure is less. Perfection! (The ink, not me).

The original. Ours will be a conventional jacketed trade picture book, not a board book. But it will print in these 4 yummy spot inks.

The original. Ours will be a conventional jacketed picture book, not a board book. But it will print in these four yummy spot inks.

I am going to need complete silence.

I am going to need complete silence.

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The weapon of choice.

Silence, I say! Mmmm... Smooth white card stock...

Silence, I say! Mmmm… smooth white card stock…

Oh, yeah!

Oh, yeah!

I'm lying. I want to have a nap. Right now.

I’m lying. I want to have a nap. Right now.

Excess feathering and other irregularities: Photoshop will see to that!

Excess feathering and other irregularities: Photoshop will see to that!

Destination: page 5

Destination: page 5

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And the final result!

Behind the scenes and between the pages of Any Questions? — Guest Post by Marie-Louise Gay

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At last! I am holding in my hands the fresh-off-the-press copy of my new book, Any Questions? It has been a long time since the seed of the idea for the story started growing, spreading itsroots and stretchingits branches to the sky.

Five years! A lot of things can happen in five years. Small trees grow, children start to read,  grandparents grow old, people stay in one safe place or explore the world while others have no choice. Books are written, songs are sung and new species of animals are discovered.

Five years of exploring a story I wanted to tell. Following paths that got lost in a labyrinth of confusion or petered outinto a dead-end. Five years of searching for the true voice or voices, of looking for colors, textures and rhythm, words, puns and rhymes. Creating  a cast of characters, from polar bears to pterodactyls, elephants to snails, giants and beasts and dozens and dozens of children brimming with questions.

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Five years spent gathering materials, ideas and inspiration to create a story about how to create a story, with words and pictures, based on the wide experience I have had in meeting with children, reading to and with them, drawing and creating stories in schools and librairies and especially answering their endless questions.

I wanted my story to be playful, magical and surprising. I  didn’t want it to be a bookthat tells children how to write, but rather to discover that there are many ways of writingand telling stories.

I wanted children (and adults) to realize that they will be moved to be more creative when they are facing the unknown in that uncertain, scary, exciting mindspace between the time you know you have a story to tell, but before you have found a way to tell it.

I hid details and clues throughout the book, sometimes in plain sight, other times more subtly. For example, take a look at the title page, an illustration of an artist’s studio…

Pore over the tiny sketches that reveal some of the images that you will discover further on in the book (singing dinosaurs, trees running for their lives, caterpillars, snails, cat’s pawprints). With these images you start to understand the creative process, random images that float into your creative radar and weave themselves into the story.

I also invited some of my favorite characters from my other books to take part in Any Questions? I gave them bit parts or cameo roles: Try to find Stella and Sam, Roslyn Rutabaga orCaramba and Portia.

I want this book to have many voices: the Narrator’s voice, the Children and Animal voices, the Second Narrator’s voice in the story-within-a-story. I also wanted to vary the visual design from black and white storyboards…

to full color spreads with another layer of action behind the scenes, to the visual creative process in The Shy Young Giant story where color and collage progressively invade the images.

Enough said!

I hope you enjoy reading, exploring and sharing Any Questions?

By the way, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I might just have some answers…

MY STAY AT RUDYARD KIPLING’S HOUSE, NAULAKHA – Guest post by Ian Wallace

Kipling’s house, Naulakha

Kipling’s house, Naulakha

In October 2012, while creating the illustrations for Just So Stories, Volumes I and II, my wife, Deb, and I rented Rudyard Kipling’s home in Dummerston, Vermont, for a long weekend and invited six of our friends to join in the experience.

I had gone there primarily in the hope of finding some detail or ornamentation that I could use as a motif, or motifs, to open and close each of the twelve stories throughout the two volumes. I must admit though, that the idea of hanging out in Kipling’s house, sitting at his writing desk, eating at his kitchen and dining tables, being warmed by his fireplace with glasses of red wine, sleeping in his bed and even taking a bath in his bathtub had a strangely delicious appeal. Who knew that the bathtub was Kipling’s favorite feature in the house? In 1892-1893 when the house was built, indoor plumbing wasn’t common in rural America and was only installed in homes of the wealthy.

Kipling’s bathtub.

Kipling’s bathtub.

The house had been designed by Kipling in conjunction with a respected New York architect, Henry Rutgers Marshall, and had been inspired by Kipling’s wish that it resemble a ship. The house was brilliantly laid out, of solid wood construction, was comfortable and inviting, and had been sensitively restored by the Landmark Trust of the UK.

Upon our arrival we toured the four floors of the house from attic to basement.

In the attic, we discovered an armadillo’s shell inside a glass case tucked in a room where one of the servant’s would have once slept. Was this the beginnings of the armadillo’s tale?

The armadillo found in the attic.

The armadillo found in the attic.

 

In the games room, there was a magnificent pool table circa 1895. Each night of our stay several games took place and we discovered which one of us was the “shark”. Her name was Sandy.

Kipling’s bathtub adjoining the master suite was on the second floor, the polished wood rim of the deep tub bore a small, brass plate with his name inscribed on it. Now that was a definite first. Who in the world has a monogrammed tub? Rudyard Kipling!

In the dining room, an exotic treasure awaited us on the first floor and when I saw it, I recognized in it what I had been hoping to find in the house. The hand-tooled leather trunk was patterned with flowers, birds and geometric designs. Had Kipling purchased it on one of his trips to the Far East? I have adapted five of the designs and you will find them throughout both volumes of Just So Stories.

 

On the same floor at the end of the house, or the “prow of the boat”, was Kipling’s den. It overlooked the gardens and terrace where he and his family and friends performed plays in summer, and the pastoral Connecticut River Valley beyond. His writing desk was still there opposite the fireplace. Editions of his books lined the shelves, and to the left of the desk hung a print of the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls seen from the Canadian side of the Niagara River, from a painting by the American artist, Fredrick E. Church — a stunning work of art.

Kipling’s den with writing desk and the print of Niagara Falls.

Kipling’s den with writing desk and the print of Niagara Falls.

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Now, no one but me would have reacted to that image hanging next to Kipling’s desk. But that moment gave me shivers from the bizarre coincidence and serendipity of it. Niagara Falls is my hometown. This moment of recognition was further enhanced by a print hanging in Kipling’s bedroom. It was titled, “The Bible of Amiens”. Again, no one but me would have reacted to the title. My father’s middle name was Amiens. His father had been wounded in the Battle of Amiens during World War I and that injury brought my grandfather home to his family and a short time later my father’s birth. In a strange way, I began to feel that perhaps I was destined to illustrate Just So Stories. Spooky. Very spooky.

Kipling’s ghost did not appear in the dead of night.  And no furniture was moved while we slept. Instead, the house just wrapped us in its warm embrace and we were besotted by it and the chance to hang out there if only for a long weekend.

On designing the poster for TCAF 2014 – A guest post by Isabelle Arsenault

When the Toronto Comics Arts Festival contacted me asking if I was able to illustrate one of the official posters to promote its 11th year, of course I was honoured and thrilled by the invitation!

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This year the festival has expanded its children’s programming, and I think they wanted to highlight this by featuring an illustrator who is associated with children’s literature.

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My graphic novel, Jane, the Fox & Me (written by Fanny Britt) was the main inspiration for the concept of the poster. The book is a celebration of literature, and speaks of its importance to a pre-teen trying to find his or her place in life.

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Hélène, the main character of the story, loves to escape her dull reality through reading books. She appears on the poster, next to that dog and other imaginary friends.

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I’ll be at TCAF with Fanny Britt, and I think we will have lots of fun meeting young readers — and older ones — seeing friends, buying new books, eating with our publishers and shopping in TO. Can’t wait!

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Meet Groundwood Creators at TCAF

Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault
Jane, the Fox and Me

Saturday, May 10th

11am-12pm: Jane, the Fox and Me read by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault
Location: Toronto Reference Library, Novella Room

 2:15pm-3:15pm: Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault present: Jane, the Fox and Me
Location: Toronto Reference Library, TCAF Kids Area – Beeton Auditorium

 3:45pm-4:30pm: Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault book signing
Location: Toronto Reference Library, Groundwood Books table

Sunday, May 11th

11:15am-12:15pm Spotlight: Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault
Location: Marriott Bloor Yorkville, High Park 2 & 3

12:30pm: Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault book signing
Location: Toronto Reference Library, Groundwood Books table

Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
This One Summer

Saturday, May 10th

12:15pm-1:15pm: Michael DeForge & Friends
Michael DeForge, Jillian Tamaki, Patrick Kyle, Moderator: Ryan Sands
Location: Marriott Bloor Yorkville, Forest Hill Ballroom

1:30pm-2:30pm: Spotlight: Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
Location: Marriott Bloor Yorkville, Forrest Hill Ballroom

2:45pm-3:45pm Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki book signing
Location: Toronto Reference Library, Beguiling Signing Area (lower level)

4pm-5pm: Queering Comics – LGBTQ identity in comics and graphic novels
Mariko Tamaki
Meet five creators who, through their stories and published projects, are queering the medium and industry of comics.
Location: The Pilot, 22 Cumberland Street

Sunday, May 11th

12pm-1pm: Canadian Reading Series: Mariko Tamaki
Location: Toronto Reference Library, Novella Room

2:30pm-3:15pm: Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki book signing
Location: Toronto Reference Library, Groundwood Books table

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