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I’m taking a moment this morning to highlight one more 2016 picture book, Marsha Diane Arnold’s Waiting for Snow (Houghton Mifflin, November 2016), illustrated by Renata Liwska. (This title is fitting, given we get very little snow here in the South.)
Marsha visits today to talk about this tender, endearing story and what’s next for her. She titled what you will see from her below “Lessons in Patience,” which is also a fitting way to summarize this book. In it, Badger makes it loud and clear that he’s tired of waiting for the snow to come, despite the more philosophically-bent Hedgehog reminding him in more ways than one that “it will snow in snow’s time,” just as the crocuses always bloom in their own time every Spring. All Badger has to do is wait, but that’s easier said than done.
Let’s hear more from Marsha about the book, and I’m peppering the post with some of Renata’s beautiful spreads — and even an early sketch or two.
Marsha: Some stories come to me in a flash, then quickly leave forever. Some wander away for awhile, but eventually return. Others stay by my side until their characters have completed their journey. The last is what happened with Waiting for Snow. Badger and Hedgehog came knocking at my mind one day, wanting to be in a story about patience. Immediately, I said, “Yes.”
I can’t always trace my stories back to their beginnings. Did the inspiration for Waiting for Snow come from watching my children wait for the snow that rarely came to our part of California? Did it come the day my daughter was so impatient she beat the wall, like Badger beat pots and pans? Perhaps it goes back further, to growing up surrounded by dairy cows. Cows are never in a hurry. They always move with a calm, magnanimous patience. Maybe it was growing up in a Mennonite farm family, where patience was an important virtue. It was well portrayed by a family story of my father and his seven brothers and sisters, looking from the porch of their tumbledown farmhouse onto the fields of wheat stalks, beaten down by hail. My grandfather slowly shook his head and gently said, “No crops this year.” He, unlike our impatient Badger, knew nature held the winning hand. He had to accept and be patient until next year’s harvest, for he and the family understood that along with patience, one must have unwavering faith.
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Altogether, these experiences may have lived in my subconscious for years, simmering, blending themselves together, until one day they appeared in a story about an impatient Badger and an accepting, philosophical Hedgehog. However it emerged, it is here — Waiting for Snow. What matters most is that Badger and his friends made their way from the etheric to the printed page. That is the miracle of every book.
said Hedgehog, ‘so we made our own.'”
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Looking at my early drafts, it appears Waiting for Snow was a story that flowed fairly easily from my mind. I almost always start my stories with a title, and I often know the first sentence or two. Waiting for Snow’s first line was always, and now forever will be, “Hedgehog found Badger staring at the sky.” I started the story in May 2013, and by July a contract was being negotiated with Houghton Mifflin. Still, the final contract wasn’t signed until February 2014. In publishing, as in many areas of life, patience is required. Thankfully, my agent, Karen Grencik, loved the story from the moment she read it, emailing me, “Learning that everything happens in its own time, in this overly stimulated, instant gratification society, is absolutely priceless.”
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I’d long admired both editor Kate O’Sullivan’s and illustrator Renata Liwska’s creations. Working as a team on Waiting for Snow was a dream come true. Except for the fact that my beloved Dormouse had to be morphed into Vole, which took me a while to accept, every preliminary sketch and finished image of Renata’s was a joy to see. Vole was originally a dormouse, whom I was greatly attached to, but Renata was illustrating a dormouse for another book, so I had to sadly say goodbye. I even have a folder in my files entitled “The Dormouse Tumult.” I eventually came to adore our Vole, and I’m using Dormouse in another story. It’s nice to know that, even though we writers sometimes must “kill our darlings,” they can be resurrected.
Nature and friendship are highlighted in many of my books, and Renata beautifully captured both in the illustrations for Waiting for Snow. Expressing the joy, innocence, and concerns of childhood in her characters’ faces and bodies is her forte.
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Both Kate and Renata’s input improved our book. I’d imagined the story ending with the first snowflake of winter landing on Badger’s nose; Renata voted for something more active. Now we have the image of friends playing in new-fallen snow, which is much more kid-friendly. It was Kate’s vision to have the animals looking up at the sky on the cover. Perfection. We all went back and forth a bit on what text could be cut and what could be shown in the illustrations until the story was just right — at least in our estimation.
Following closely behind Waiting for Snow’s November 2016 launch are my very first board books, Baby Animals Take a Bath and Baby Animals Take a Nap [illustrated by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes], out February 7th from Charlesbridge.
In these books, which are already being given as baby shower gifts in my editor Julie Bliven’s circles, the images of baby animals napping and bathing are simple and uncomplicated, just right for little ones. The animal behavior research required was anything but! The idea of showing how people and animals are similar and connected, in a book for the very young, had been in my mind for years before it emerged. The stories had to have patience, as I did while doing the research.
Three new picture books are coming in 2018 and 2019, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy and can’t share details yet. Again, we must have patience! One story is set in the Galapagos Islands, one in China, and one in a fanciful place called Thistle Hollow. Yes, I love to travel and, yes, they all have animals in them. I’m passionate about both.
Above my study door is the original of Matthew Cordell’s illustration from our Lost. Found. [pictured above]. It shows Bear leading a line of animals carrying the unraveled red scarf. To me it’s a metaphor and a reminder that I enter my study to knit stories together from many experiences, many memories, many imaginative flights of fancy. And on some blessed days I not only believe “six impossible things before breakfast,” as the White Queen in Through The Looking Glass did, or “seven,” as Jules does, but I also write them.
WAITING FOR SNOW. Copyright © 2016 by Marsha Diane Arnold. Illustrations © 2016 by Renata Liwska and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. Some images here are reproduced by permission of the author.
Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.
It’s hard to find kicks this week, given the week we had in politics. But I have many kicks from last week.
1) Being at ALA Midwinter.
2) Seeing the Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women:
3) Seeing the Center for Civil and Human Rights the next day.
4) Seeing John Lewis the next day win a record number of ALA Youth Media Awards.
5) Just being able to hear and see the awards announcements live. AND we had great seats!
6) My favorite children’s novel of last year, which I read aloud to my daughters (who also loved it), won the Newbery. Javaka’s book was also a top-three favorite for me, and I was so happy it won the Caldecott.
What are YOUR kicks this week?