Dia de Los Muertosby Rita Goldner
My overall agenda in writing these posts on the first of every month is to be lighthearted and upbeat, with a whimsical illustration. It’s a tough job to find any whimsy in Dia de Los Muertos, but I’ll give it a shot.
It’s a rich cultural tradition that I won’t detail here, although it was interesting to research on Bing. Briefly, it’s a fun – not scary – tribute to deceased ancestors that includes celebrations, parades, costumes, and family altars with marigolds and sugar skulls.
How can we extrapolate this theme as it relates to authors? We’re diverse in our genres and our artistic expressions, but here’s what we have in common:
- We all have a personal “manuscript graveyard” full of ideas that didn’t work and have been laid to rest.
- We occasionally resurrect spirits of old plot twists, discarded characters, and settings, and parade them down the street to see if they’ll work for us now.
- We find that nothing is ever gone for good. Those old stories come wafting back to haunt us, until we dust them off and view them in a fresh new way.
- We find ourselves chained to a word processor, doing a lot of midnight howling.
A year ago I started writing and illustrating a children’s picture book about an orangutan in the rainforest. I’m passionate about endangered wildlife and sustainability, so my story took a turn toward preachy and gloomy. I buried that work and focused on a different book, which I just finished. My editor/publisher encouraged me to unearth the orangutan story and rewrite it in a different voice. This time, I’m presenting it as a day under the rainforest canopy, with fun, interesting facts, not the doom of humans encroaching on the habitat. My editor advised that since young kids can do little about the problems, it would be more effective to teach them to love and respect orangutans. Then when these kids grow up, they might have a stronger interest in helping to preserve the rainforest.
I like this new plot much better, and my publisher is planning a release in May 2015. The title is “Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy.” Visit my Facebook page to see the cover illustration and periodic sneak previews and updates, and leave much appreciated comments and suggestions.