Thursday, December 4, 2008

Black Wednesday

It was a dark day for publishing yesterday. Layoffs, squeeze-outs, consolidations, cancellations. It was such a hard day that I for one didn't sleep last night. Couldn't get the whole morass of change out of my mind.

But I'll tell you, there was a small but very bright spot at Bowen Press, yesterday afternoon. And that was the moment that we opened two FedEx boxes from Peter Reynolds, in which we found his watercolors for a book we're publishing next fall, called Tess's Tree.

The text is by Jess Brallier, and it's the story of a girl who loves a tree -- a tree that is so old that it needs to be cut down. Tess sees it fall, and only lets go of her anger and sorrow when she has a funeral for her tree, celebrating its life, and learning about its small but important role in the fabric of her neighborhood in the process.

Of course there's a parallel in Tess's story to the events of yesterday, but that's not what I want to say here. What I want to say here is that we all stopped what we were doing when the shipment arrived. We gathered around a table and carefully opened the boxes. (Truth be told, Jordan manfully ripped off the flap of one box because there are NO EXACTO KNIVES around original art.) Peter had packed a lovely simple black box within the FedEx box, and when we opened it, truly, it was like opening a treasure chest.

I'll post the images as soon as I get to the office, but let me tell you, there is no thrill like seeing pictures you've only seen as jpegs or scans or sketches in their original state. The texture of the watercolor paper is toothy, the white is rich. The tissues over the art crinkle and you have to lift them like a bride's veil to see what's underneath. And then the art itself -- sweet, delicate, powerful, with impeccable line and (to our surprise) really drenched in color.

We'll publish Tess's Tree next fall. There will still be books, and there will still be children who turn to books to learn about themselves and the world. So black as Black Wednesday was, for me it will always be linked to that moment of ripping and opening and crinkling and wonder at the sight of something new, something unique in all the world.


Unknown said...

I can assure you that there are lots of librarians here worrying about our friends in publishing, hoping for the best. For myself, I can promise to buy as many books for holiday presents as possible!

Your post was lovely. In difficult times, it is often the simple details and small gestures that get us through. Hang in there!

Rhonda Helms said...

Beautiful post. Thank you, and I hope you guys continue to keep on keepin' on!!

Peter H. Reynolds said...

I'm honored to be a bright spot in a stormy day! I am thrilled with Tess and excited that Bowen Press will help share it with the world!

By the way, did you notice (this is SO me!) that I painted that double page spread of Tess's tree being taken down on the back of the a pencil sketch of Judy Moody which was signed by both me AND Megan McDonald! We have only co-signed a few books as she live in San Fran and I live in Boston. I think that is the only piece of art co-signed by us! I chuckled when I rolled it up carefully for the Fed Ex tube and saw the "bonus art!" Judy Moody has sold many millions of copies, so perhaps it is a good luck charm?

Wishing you and the BP Team good season ahead! Proud to be in the garden with you!

Molly O'Neill said...

Peter, I DID notice the bonus art! And I wondered if it was perhaps a painting-until-the-wee-hours-and-
suddenly-out-of-paper incident. But I was secretly hoping there was actually a story behind it. Delighted to know that there was!

who loves Tess an inordinate amount and expects the rest of the world will feel likewise once they meet her

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Anonymous said...

this history reminds me when I was a little child: I love the apple tree next to my room, but one dad cut it away. It was one of the saddest moments in my life, really.

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