Louise Menzies, a New Zealand artist, has returned to Archives & Special Collections to explore the extensive holdings in the Alternative Press Collection, with the help of curators Graham Stinnett, Melissa Watterworth Batt, and Kristin Eshelman. Ms. Menzies’ new exhibition is a “series of new photographic and paper-based works that merge form and content, raising subtle questions about the values inhabiting certain processes and styles, as seen [in] the predominantly activist and underground press material that comprise the collection.” (Professor Barry Rosenberg). Ms. Menzies will also present a 16mm film from 2013, entitled The Press, Kodak Eastman 5222.
Ms. Menzies gave a gallery talk on Time to Think Like a Mountain on Wednesday, Oct. 8 to an appreciative audience in the Contemporary Art Galleries, Art Building. The exhibition will run through November 21, 2014, For more information contact Professor Rosenberg at 860.486.1511.
This exhibit shows scenes of Connecticut’s workers doing Hard Work. Capital H, Capital W. The kind of work where you surely need the brains but if you ain’t got the brawn it’s not gonna happen. And we’ve got plenty of photographs in our business collections showing the men and women in the state in various depictions of work where some of the main job requirements are muscle and sweat. I’m sure tears were there somewhere but the photographs don’t really show that.
In the late 19th and early 20th century — a time period in America known for big industry — Connecticut was one of the major players, producing brass, iron, steel, tools, textiles and more for the state, the country, and the world. These products didn’t just happen. It took a workforce of thousands, many of them new immigrants who flocked to Connecticut for these types of jobs, to produce, to make, to build, and to work.
The exhibit is currently up in the Dodd Research Center Gallery until the end of the year. I’ll show photographs from the exhibit periodically through the next three months but if you can stop by (the building is open Mondays through Fridays, 8:30a.m. to 4:30p.m.) you’ll see them all in one fell swoop.
Looking at Layers
A picture book starts with a great story told in words (and in the sound of words read out loud). Illustrations accompany the author’s story. In the best picture books, the illustrations actually expand the story. The adult reader, as well as the child listening, feast visually on these layers that enrich the text in delightful and often unexpected ways.
As a picture book author, I focus my drafting and revision efforts on the story I want to tell. An illustrator’s considerable contribution to the final product most often comes long after I am done with my personal revision process (and any revisions guided by an acquiring editor). The publisher’s editor and art director usually select, guide, and supervise the artist. So the illustrator’s role seems a bit remote to me as I ply my craft. But remembering that layers can and should be added via art will help me create opportunities for an illustrator to deepen and expand my stories.
As I study the NCLC author/illustrator archives, I am examining the layering of art in picture books created by author/illustrators, whose creative talents allow them to tackle the words and art together. Author/illustrators don’t forget to leave room for layers—they create them as the picture book progresses in a unified way. They revise both words and illustrations to create balance and get it “just right.”
What does one find in the layers added to a picture book by illustration? Here are some thoughts, based on examples from author/illustrator archival material.
Anita Riggio writes and illustrates from the heart. Emotion is the starting point for her wonderful stories. In Smack Dab in the Middle, Rosie Roselli is “smack dab in the middle” of her large, busy Italian family. Her many joyful accomplishments at school are ignored when she tries to share them at home, and she starts to wonder if maybe she isn’t the center of her loving family universe after all.
As I reviewed Anita’s process for Smack Dab in the Middle, I studied the text and illustrations on each spread, comparing what each separately communicates to readers. A particularly touching spread contains these words on page 20:
really needed a hug.
She needed a hug
right this minute,
but her mother’s arms
were full of Rosie’s sister.
Rosie Roselli couldn’t wait.
She stepped up close.
She breathed in.
and lavender water.
It smelled like a hug.
But it didn’t feel
Then and there,
Rosie Roselli decided
just want she
Anita’s evocative words tell us of Rosie’s need; they give the reader an expanded sense of story by dwelling on the scents (which can’t be illustrated) that she associates with her mother.
The related illustration (see below) shows Rosie’s mom’s back turned; she is attending to Rosie’s sister. Rosie’s head is bowed, her eyes are closed. The text doesn’t say, “Rosie felt disappointed, ignored, and rejected.” Those emotions are flowing from the illustration, creating a strong emotional layer to add to and support the text. (Even Anita’s placement of text and art emphasize Rosie’s loneliness here; the text snakes down the left page of this spread; there is empty space continuing onto the right page, where mom is facing away, almost out of the picture at the far right margin.)
Riggio, Anita. Smack Dab In the Middle! (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2002), 21. Photo taken from CLDC776, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
Sometimes, illustrations take readers to places not even mentioned in the text. In Mabel the Tooth Fairy and How She Got Her Job, Katie Davis had some ideas about what might happen to a tooth fairy who works in the dark. The starting point for such an opportunity (to take the reader places) is text that is spare and full of possibilities. Here are three variations of a line of text Katie entertained (the third is final text):
After a few false starts, Mabel was considered an expert in the field.
After a few false starts, Mabel got to really like her work.
Working in the dark presented its own challenges.
All text versions support the three scenes shown below, although the final version perhaps is the funniest, with its spare understatement. The illustrations show the tooth fairy being accosted by the household mutt, slipping and falling on spilled “marbles,” and making noise by stepping on a toy horn.
The pictures transport the reader; the text does not say, “The dog of the house attacked me. I stumbled over a jar of spilled eyeballs…” Another whole layer of action/plot (with humor—the marble jar reads, “Slimy Eyeball Game”) has been added to the story through these illustrations.
Davis, Katie. Mabel the Tooth Fairy and How She Got Her Job (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2003), 16. Photo taken from CLCD1438, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
Author/illustrator Tomie dePaola also shares humor via his illustrations. His creative process for Strega Nona Meets Her Match began with a handwritten story accompanied by parenthetical notes to his editor. In this picture book, Big Anthony (Strega Nona’s loyal lunk of an assistant) “defects” to work for the competition, Strega Amelia. When Strega Amelia is away and Big Anthony is left in charge, he messes up the magic big time. Tomie’s earliest draft includes pertinent text (italicized) as well as his illustration ideas set forth in parentheses:
Big Anthony was in charge! (Series of pictures showing Big Anthony reading instructions and making big mistakes on the Husband and Wife wheel – mismatched couples – confusing wart cream and hair restorer – hair falls out, warts increase.)
Things weren’t going too well. (Source:Tomie dePaola Papers Box 41:125K).
Tomie then created illustrations (see below example of mixing up wart cream and hair restorer) to develop the humor of Big Anthony’s bumbling efforts.
Illustration for Strega Nona Meets Her Match, folder 125Y, Box 41 of Tomie dePaola papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.
What is interesting, however, is that Tomie’s editor suggested adding text to provide more at this point in the story, explaining that “for read aloud purposes it was important to have a few words.” (Source: Letter from Margaret Frith, Tomie dePaola Papers: Box 41:125L). Ultimately, the spare text was revised as suggested, and lengthened to:
Big Anthony smiled. He was in charge.
The first day he ran the husband and wife machine backwards.
The second day he confused the wart cream with the hair restorer.
Things weren’t going well.
As an author, I suspect that this lengthier text is where I would start my writing process for the same story action. How else would a reader know of the funny mishaps I envision? One possibility would be to include brief illustration suggestions to go with spare text. However, unlike an author/illustrator, who can write such notes to him or herself or to the editor (as Tomie did), an author must tread carefully when making suggestions for art so as not to be directing or limiting the illustrator’s creativity.
The right balance of text and art is achieved on pages 21–23 of the published book (see below). The complexity of Tomie’s illustration panels benefit from the added text that helps communicate his intent and humor regarding Big Anthony’s bumbling. The added text also nicely paces the story, allowing the reader to dwell on these silly mishaps.
[text: Big Anthony smiled. He was in charge.]
[text: The first day he ran the husband-and-wife machine backward.]
[text: The second day he confused the wart cream with the hair restorer.]
dePaola, Tomie. Strega Nona Meets Her Match (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1993), 21–23. Photo taken from CLDC776, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
Authors as well as author/illustrators must be mindful that there is a balance to be found between the read-aloud component and the illustrations in a picture book. However, an author who writes minimal text (even though he or she has a vision for what an illustrator might add) may run the risk of creating a manuscript that seems too slight or unclear to an editor, or perhaps, to young readers who may need some words to decode illustrations.
As I write and revise stories, I’ll keep thinking about layers. I’ll remember that my words need not dwell on emotions that an artist can convey with illustrations. I will deepen stories by words that can’t be shown in the art. I’ll choose words that may give an illustrator opportunities to take my protagonist to places (literally) other than those I may have had in mind. And if I am writing “funny,” I’ll strive for spare text that will encourage a clever artist to add visual jokes and hyperbole. I shall have trust to let an illustrator help tell my story—so that “our” story will marry text and art in a truly memorable picture book.
About Janet Lawler:
A recipient of a 2014 Billie M. Levy Research grant, Janet Lawler of Farmington, CT, is studying the relationship between art and text in picture books at the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection. Through studying the work and process of author-illustrators, she hopes to better understand how a story’s text interfaces with the art. She is searching for a deeper comprehension of why the best picture books are those where the final product is “greater” than the sum of the parts (text + illustrations). She looks forward to applying knowledge gleaned from her research to her own work process as a children’s author.
Ms. Lawler’s picture books have been published by major and specialty publishers. Two have been Children’s Book of the Month Club main selections, and two have been licensed into the Scholastic Book Clubs. If Kisses Were Colors has been translated into Spanish, Japanese, Hebrew, and Korean. Her recent credits include Ocean Counting (National Geographic, 2013 (named a 2014 Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers Association)) and Love Is Real (HarperCollins, 2014). National Geographic will publish Rain Forest Colors in November of 2014.
What a fantastic time we had on Sept. 19 when Richard “Huck” Scarry II visited with his lovely daughter Olympia and folks from Random House (Jason Zamajtuk, Lydia Finn, and Heidi Kilgras). We were joined by representatives from the School of Fine Arts, the English Department, the UConn Foundation, and the Neag School of Education. Huck is on a tour to promote the reissue of his father’s book “Busy, Busy World.”
Everyone had a tour of the archives, looked at some of the Richard Scarry original illustrations, listened to a tape of Huck’s mother being interviewed by Richard Scarry’s art director Ole Risom, and had a wonderful dinner in the Reading Room. Thank you, Huck and everyone, for the visit.
Was train travel from New Haven, Connecticut, to New York City faster 100 years ago than it is today? Here are two pages from the public timetable of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad from September 1914:
How does that compare to today?
This photograph was taken to document a train accident on an industrial siding in Dayville, Connecticut. Apparently the man standing on top of the freight car was there to show how the conductor of the train was injured when he came into contact with wiring. Someone amusingly wrote “Tony-the-hobo going South after being caught — watch out for the wires!!” on the print.
This print was recently donated by donor Edward J. Ozog.
Ethan Avery, a senior undergraduate student in history and political science, is a Student Library Assistant for Archives & Special Collections. Because of his academic concentration in (and general penchant for) the Early and High Middle Ages, Ethan took interest in the Medieval Fragments Collections. Below are his observations:
Stealing pages from medieval manuscripts has historically been a common practice due to value of even the individual pages. Most of these missing pages will fall into private collections or become lost after a short time. Fortunately, some of these pages return to archives, such as the pages that can be found in the Medieval Fragments Collection within Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
This collection was purchased in the early 1970s by the Special Collections division of the UConn library. It contains several pages from medieval manuscripts, showing beautiful calligraphy and artwork. These pages are primarily from the 15th century, but the earliest page was taken from a 13th century manuscript.
The purpose of the collection is to provide examples from the history of printing. These pages show the development of printing in France over the medieval period and are invaluable to the study of printing through the ages. But besides the aesthetic quality of the fragments, these pieces highlight the importance of collecting, preserving, and studying medieval manuscripts in the modern age. To view this fascinating collection, one simply has to visit Archives & Special Collections and request to use the Medieval Fragments Collection in the John P. McDonald Reading Room.
Blog Post 1: Author-Illustrators
As a writer, I confess to a long-held jealousy of the author/illustrator who gets to “play” with both parts of the picture book package, from idea through publication. I somehow had the idea (prejudice?) that creating a picture book is easier for these multi-talented people because they can “see” the whole project; the story (and related art) must just flow for them. I suspected that their process would not include the painstaking attention that I give to every word, and to every one of multiple variations of a story.
Although I have had several well-received picture books published, I continue to strive to improve my craft. I decided that a study of the process of author/illustrators might well help me better understand the magical interface of text and art that occurs in the best picture books. I hope my research helps improve my skill as a picture book writer, even if unlocking the secrets of author/illustrators can’t turn me into an artist.
Because I mostly write for the very young, I started my research with archival material of author/illustrator Katie Davis, who also writes for this audience. While I have only completed a review of two of her picture books, Kindergarten Rocks! and I Hate to Go to Bed!, I have already learned so much. And I have totally discarded my assumptions and prejudices.
Katie’s author/illustrator process is meticulous and time-consuming. For I Hate to Go to Bed! I studied twenty-seven dummies that Katie created. Each one included text revisions and illustration revisions, as she tweaked her story in major and minor ways. It appeared that many of these versions were done as part of her creative process before she came to the point where she was satisfied and ready to show a dummy to an editor. (I hope to interview Katie, to confirm this and ask other questions).
I now think that the author/illustrator’s job of writing a story may even be harder than mine because he or she thinks visually and can see so many possibilities.
Text and illustration revision of I Hate to Go to Bed! by Katie Davis
As a representative sample, here are several text revisions Katie played with for the opening spread of this book:
I hate to go to bed! This is because I’m a very outgoing person and I can’t stand the idea that I’m missing something. And I just know I’m missing something really fantastic.
I hate to go to bed. This is because I’m a very fun person and I can’t stand the idea that I’m missing something fun. And when I’m sent to bed, I just know I’m missing something really fantastic.
I hate to go to bed! My mama and daddy absolutely swear nothing good is happening and that I won’t miss anything but I’m not too sure.
I hate to go to bed! This is because I’m a very fun person and I just know I’m missing something really fantastic.
I hate to go to bed! Because I just know I’m missing something really fantastic.
I HATE to go to bed! I just KNOW I’m missing something.
I HATE to go to bed! I just know I’m missing something!
A study of the illustrations in these many dummies reveals a similar “visual” revision process. All of the dummies show a frowning little girl (Katie captured her protagonist immediately). Some of the earliest dummies show “thought bubbles” of her parents partying after she is asleep. Others show her room with piles of toilet paper rolls (from which she later makes binoculars for spying). In some, her matching fowl (ducks/chicks?) slippers are quipping back and forth.
Here are three examples of Katie’s many illustrations drawn for the opening spread of I Hate to Go to Bed! Click on each image to enlarge.
A later version, with simplified text:
And the final opening spread found in the published book:
The study of both text and illustrations reveals that Katie kept working the text and art, paring both to their essence. Her final version of the first spread immediately grabs a reader and sets the stage for the storyline to play out in a well-paced way over the rest of the book.
The frowning face of the determined protagonist remains almost identical throughout all versions of the first spread. Ultimately, that face, along with twelve words in two short sentences, clearly share her BIG problem with the reader.
Throughout the many variations of the remaining storyline, Katie explores different approaches, both with art and text, to reveal how her protagonist tackles and solves her dilemma. All versions include varied layers of meaning and humor. Sometimes, the same words, illustrated in different ways, change the plot and the story’s pacing.
How will what I’ve studied so far change my own process as an author?
I plan to slow my process down to focus more clearly on my story’s essence. I will try to pare text to get to the universal—the situation, emotion, or problem that every kid can relate to in my writing.
I hope slowing down will help me to imagine different ways the story arc might play out around the universal theme. I shall play “what if?” and “why not?” with my words in a way that will let an illustrator fill in blanks. I will strive to be less wedded to the “first” story I write; there may be other words or plot angles that offer more opportunities for an illustrator.
If I am to truly leave room for an illustrator, I need to focus even more on making every single word musical and meaningful.
Writers should make dummies as part of their process
To accomplish all of the above, or to strive to do so, I plan to create a dummy (for the text) for every story I write. I have done this with some of my manuscripts, but not all, since I have developed a good sense of story arc and appropriate length for a 32-page picture book. However, I believe parsing the text of each story I write, and placing it on the pages, will further improve my craft by encouraging me to 1) better examine what words belong on each page/spread, 2) consider whether my words allow for expansion of my story through different actions/illustrations, 3) improve forward plot motion and page turns,4) evaluate alternate story possibilities and pacing, and, just perhaps, 5) “see” more clearly how a better story might be told.
I can’t wait to start! And I can’t wait to continue my research!
[This summer, we at the Archives and Special Collections department at the Dodd Research Center had the pleasure to welcome Forrest Hylton, PhD, one of our Strochlitz Travel Grant awardee of this year, who came to us to do some research for his coming book, Reverberations of Insurgency: Indian Communities, the Federal War of 1899, and the Regeneration of Bolivia. Below is his essay recounting his experience working with a selection of Bolivian newspapers that are part of the Latin American Newspapers Collection. Enjoy, Marisol Ramos, Subject Librarian and Curator of the Latina/o, Latin American and Caribbean Collections]
It is always a pleasure to work in the Archives and Special Collections of a research library, and thanks to a Strochlitz Travel Grant, I came to the Dodd Center to use the Latin American newspapers collection, which is particularly strong for Bolivia in the nineteenth century. The research I did in the course of several days will allow me to analyze key features of Bolivian political culture in the years between the War of the Pacific and the Federal War of 1899 for the first chapter of a book manuscript entitled Reverberations of Insurgency: Indian Communities, the Federal War of 1899, and the Regeneration of Bolivia.
The manuscript examines sovereignty, political representation, and property rights, as well as processes of racial-ethnic and state formation, and highlights indigenous forms of organization and mobilization that combined elements from pre-colonial, late-colonial, and republican political cultures. I argue for the role that politics played in defining collective self and other, and thus for its centrality to the construction of ethnic and racial identities in late-nineteenth-century Bolivia. In the Federal War of 1899, modes of indigenous sovereignty and political representation that had been forged in anti-colonial insurrections of the late eighteenth century resurfaced with dramatic force, and victorious Liberals tarred them with the epithet of “race war.” These were non-liberal, but not separatist or ethnocidal movements, which aspired to hegemony at the sub-national level. Non-indigenous groups would be subject to indigenous authority, at least in the countryside where nine of ten Bolivians lived. Yet indigenous insurgents were firmly allied with Liberal federalists. I have used judicial sources from Bolivia to understand these aspects of indigenous insurgency.
I came to Storrs to look at Bolivian newspapers from the 1880s and 90s to develop a clearer picture of the Liberal Party, in its own words and in the provinces, as well as the Conservative response to Liberal initiatives, proposals, and candidates. The Latin American newspaper collection at the Dodd Center has a number of papers, such as El Artesano Liberal, El Artesano, La Democracia, Ecos Liberales, Ecos Federales, Ecos de Aroma, El Liberal, and El Imparcial, that explicitly identified themselves as organs of the Liberal Party in Sucre, Potosí, and Oruro, as well as La Paz, and these papers—many of them produced by and for artisans—carried extensive coverage of elections of 1884, 1888, 1892, and 1896 and the fraud, intimidation, and violence that went with them, in country seats as well as provincial capitals. This coverage helps us see why the Liberal Party revolted against Conservative rule in 1899, since the electoral path to power was blocked by Conservative political monopoly, which also favored Conservative business interests in land and commerce. It also allows me to reconstruct the political and journalistic careers of leading creole figures in the Federal War, Conservative as well as Liberal, such Severo Fernández Alonso, José Manuel Pando, Ismael Montes, Fernando Guachalla, Adolfo Mier, and Claudio Quintín Barrios, and focal points of Liberal organizing in the provinces, such as Sicasica, Colquechaca, and Corocoro.
One of the remarkable things about Liberal newspapers is their interest in and coverage of local electoral efforts, particularly in Sicasica and Luribay, the area south of La Paz where the most important leaders of the Federal War emerged on the creole as well as the indigenous side. I had hoped to find news of local indigenous uprisings connected to Liberal electoral campaigns, particularly in Sicasica, but it appears that indigenous communities were largely absent from official debate and discussion among Liberals and Conservatives during the 1880s and 90s. The two articles I found in the Liberal press that mention indigenous uprisings (or the threat of them) condemned them as a threat to property rights and propertied persons, which suggests that Liberals had not seriously considered mobilizing indigenous communities until the late 1890s, even though there were local-level indigenous revolts beginning in the late 1880s.
I had expected to find evidence of Liberals and indigenous communities working together against Conservatives at least since the late 1880s, but it now looks as though indigenous activism against the privatization of community lands and Liberal opposition to Conservative political monopoly operated on largely separate tracks, with little overlap before 1896. Thus it is possible to see the Federal War of 1899 as the result of a general crisis of sovereignty, in which the convergence between indigenous movements for self-government in the countryside and the Liberal opposition based in provincial capitals and county seats—a temporary marriage of convenience—changed the country’s political geography decisively. The short-lived nature of the convergence, in turn, makes it easier to understand why Liberals turned on their erstwhile indigenous community allies immediately after coming to power.
The Dodd Center’s collection is essential for anyone wishing to understand creole and mestizo political culture of urban centers in nineteenth-century Bolivia, and though they fell beyond the scope of my own research on the 1880s and 90s, I found numerous papers from the 1860s and 70s, as well as the 1830s. What makes the collection particularly remarkable is its variety and diversity, for it contains materials from provincial capitals that have not, to the best of my knowledge, been preserved in Bolivia itself. I am grateful to have had a chance to look at the Dodd Center’s impressive collection, however briefly, and hope to return in the future.
Forrest Hylton, PhD, was a Lecturer in History & Literature at Harvard University in 2013-14, and beginning in 2014-15, he will be a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Northwestern University.