Kinderlit has been quiet for the last several months. We’re sorry for that, but there’s a good reason. (We think it’s a good reason, anyway…)
When my wife, Becca, and I started Kinderlit almost two years ago there was an ulterior motive: I’ve always wanted to create a picture book. I write. I draw. I love picture books. But I had a hard time wrapping my noggin around the idea that making picture books is a job that people have. I had been acting for a long time, making okay money, but not enough to support myself and my family, and had just decided that I didn’t want to do it anymore; or, rather, I wanted to do it, but I no longer needed to do it, which is a death sentence for an actor. As soon as you don’t need to act, the whole thing becomes a bit of a chore.
After I stepped away from acting I was in a bit of a daze: What do I do next? I had a joe job, but I’m a creative person, and I need somewhere to direct that energy. Becca, my wife, said “Why don’t you finally make a book?” I wanted to do it. I’d always wanted to. But I was weary about it. We have a kid, and, as a dad, providing for her is priority one; it didn’t quite work out with acting, and did I want to move on to another endeavour that might not pan out?
At the same time, to pay the bills I was working as a content creator for different websites, much of which can be, frankly, spiritually exhausting, and Becca and I had talked fairly often about launching a site for ourselves, focussing on something we loved.
And Becca made the point that, by doing a site about kid’s books, I would see that my work, my drawings and writing, was up to snuff. I’m self taught and in my forties, and had a lot of self-doubt around the prospect. I had done some editorial illustrations, some work for a Toronto theatre company, and some bands and films, and so on and so on, but picture books felt like a different world. I wasn’t Elly MacKay. I wasn’t Briony May Smith. I wasn’t Jon Klassen.
But we launched and did very well. Publishers sent us books, and a lot of the time I would read a book and think “Man, I can do that!” or Becca would say “Hmm… What did you think of the art in (such and such book)? Not as good as your stuff, I don’t think.” And often it wasn’t. And eventually I realized that Jon Klassen didn’t start out as Jon Klassen; at some point Jon Klassen was just a guy who drew that you had never heard of.
And I came into contact with a lot of writers and illustrators and was amazed at how open and kind so many were. I was also stunned by how insecure and full of self-doubt so many are. One in particular wrote and illustrated a book that blew us away when we first read it and remains one of our favourites, and through an extended e-mail exchange I realized that he thought he wasn’t very good at all. At first I thought it was false modesty, but no: When I said how much I liked his book, he actually thought I was lying. When we printed our glowing review he thought we were just being nice. When we nominated him for a Kindie Award last year, he really thought he didn’t deserve it. I mentioned it to him and he said “All of this is very nice of you to say, but at some point you’re going to see I’m a fraud, and then where will I be?”
Inspired by a lot of this, last year I wrote and illustrated my first kid’s book. I took time away from Kinderlit and focussed on writing and re-writing the manuscript, storyboarding and sketching characters, and finally I did the drawings and put together a dummy. I finished just before Christmas.
At first, I was still doing reviews for the site, but eventually I got to a point where, if I had free time away from my job, I needed to be working on the book. All of my free time was spent on this thing… It took many –many– months, because of other commitments, but it’s done.
Unfortunately, the site suffered, and I regret that we were unable to keep our commitments to the publishers and distributors who had been so helpful and kind to us, but also to the creators whose books built up on our “To Review” shelf.
Now that the book is finished and I’m into the process of trying to find an agent, I’ll be working hard to catch up. We’ll be reviewing our favourite neglected titles, and featuring some more of our favourite writers and illustrators. Bear with us.
Thank you so much for your patience!