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Story of a Sale: Blue & Egg by Lindsay Ward

Last week, I announced the sale of a particularly adorable picture book: BLUE & EGG by Lindsay Ward. BLUE & EGG is the story of a bluebird in wintertime Central Park who wakes up to find a snowball in her nest. Friendly Blue thinks the snowball is an egg who has lost its way. Blue flies all over New York, first trying to find Egg’s mother and then, when no mother shows up, enjoying the sights that the big city has to offer and developing a quirky and unexpected friendship. But then the inevitable happens, and spring comes. Not to worry, though! When Egg eventually melts, a lovely flower grows in its place.

Here’s a sample sketch of Blue, with Egg:

blue-sketch-1_small

I love all my projects, and I love all my clients, but this project has had a very special place in my heart ever since Lindsay first mentioned it last winter. You see, Lindsay is the first client I took on as an agent (apparently my offer phone call went semi-competently, as she did not realize this until recently). And BLUE & EGG is the first picture book dummy that we worked on together where I think Lindsay’s blend of art and writing craft really rose to the next level.

Lindsay queried me originally with a project called PELLY AND MR. HARRISON VISIT THE MOON, and an existing relationship with publisher Kane/Miller. (Her first illustrations with them come out this fall. The book is A GARDEN FOR PIG, with text by Kathryn Thurman…it has a great gardening/fall/harvest hook and the most adorable pig you’ve ever seen…pick up a copy in September!) We sold PELLY to Kane/Miller and it will be her author/illustrator debut in 2011.

Lindsay went to work on other picture book dummy ideas. In the meantime, I got a copy of Lindsay’s portfolio, helped her design some postcards, and went to editors, designers, and art directors everywhere to tell them about her work. As Lindsay and I tried to rustle up illustrator jobs, she churned out one dummy that I thought was especially charming. After a fairly lackluster submission round, though, we decided to go back to the drawing board.

I urged Lindsay to revisit BLUE, which had been a rough idea for about two years. “What about that wintertime Central Park book?” I nagged. We worked on some text for it and went through four or five revisions (Lindsay will probably tell you it felt like more). In terms of text and story craft, I think Lindsay finally hit the sweet spot of poignancy, sweetness, charm, emotion, and character development that is a perfect fit for her art. I was over the moon. She came up with a dummy very quickly, and seeing it for the first time brought tears to my eyes. She’d nailed it.

Lindsay says, of the process:

The process of creating a dummy for Blue has taken almost three years. Writing has always been the hardest part for me. The images come naturally. I can visualize a book long before I can articulate the story, which is the one thing that never changed about Blue. The visual aesthetic of Blue was pretty established in my mind from the very beginning. I just had to figure out Blue’s story.

I wanted to tell a story that was universal through Blue. Blue is naïve and hopeful throughout the story and that is what I love so much about her. She never gives up on Egg. I think that is something very relatable for kids.

Just as we were finalizing the dummy, the submission for BLUE came out of the, well, blue! A chance lunch encounter with Nancy Conescu, who had just come over to an Executive Editor position at Dutton, an imprint of Penguin, sparked a connection. And then a quick offer. Here’s what Nancy had to say about BLUE:

When I saw Lindsay’s dummy for the book, after having seen samples of her work online, and read through her text, which was alive with personality, I just knew I had to have this book. I was so touched by the idea of a bird mistaking a snowball for an egg because, naturally, we all know what inevitable fate a snowball faces. But even so, Blue’s spunk and good spirit came through.

I love the way Blue immediately names her newfound friend Egg and totes it to see the many sites of NYC, never seeming to mind that Egg doesn’t have very much to say. And then when egg melts, as heartbreaking as that is, we see the flower that arrives in her place and Blue’s willingness to welcome Flower too. The story speaks about friendship, loss, acceptance, and hope on so many levels.

In terms of the art, Lindsay has this wonderfully warm collage art style for her characters set against detailed architectural scenes that I could see kids poring over for hours. And I thought the pairing of her two styles made the book both accessible and sophisticated with a lot to connect with and see. She had paced the text very nicely and had even thought to include gatefolds that showed all the places Blue and Egg went together.

I knew I was holding onto a gem of a story, and I emailed Mary about a half an hour later to say I wanted to pursue Blue. I feel very lucky to be Lindsay’s editor.

As it happens, this story ends with another perfect first: Lindsay is Nancy’s first picture book acquisition as she builds her new list at Dutton! Here’s what Lindsay says:

I am lucky enough to have an amazing agent (I know Mary hates that I just wrote that) find a home for Blue with Nancy Conescu at Dutton. I am very excited about my new relationship with Penguin and cannot wait to begin bringing Blue and Egg to life.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a few thoughts about the art. Lindsay’s big pleasure with BLUE & EGG will be rendering the characters against a detailed New York City landscape, in her trademark cut paper and sketch style. Here’s what Lindsay has to say about the illustrations:

Visually, I wanted to create a book that included a lot of architecture while also having the stark contrast of Central Park in the winter as the backdrop. I primarily work in cut paper and mixed media, using stamps, paint, and pencil. I prefer this medium because it allows me to take an image and break it down into layers of shapes and pieces and then figure out a new way to put it back together.

Here’s a parting image of Blue in her nest:

central-park-with-blue_small_2

You can find more of Lindsay’s portfolio on her website, LindsayMWard.com. Look for BLUE & EGG (title subject to change) out from Dutton in Spring 2012.

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  1. Katharine Owens’s avatar

    really fantastic images.
    can’t wait to check it out. My boys will be 5 and 7 then– not too old I hope.

  2. KellieD’s avatar

    I’m so happy for Lindsay and for you, Mary! What an amazing story of this wonderful story. It is so much fun to watch Lindsay’s work come to life. Thanks for sharing the perspectives of all sides included in this deal.

  3. Joseph Miller’s avatar

    What a great idea for a picture book and a wonderful story of how it came to be! You, Lindsay, and Nancy should all be proud of this story. I wish it and you gals all the best ;)

    -Joseph

  4. Naomi Canale’s avatar

    What beautiful work! My boys will love these stories, especially the illustrations. Cant wait to pick one up Lindsay and Mary, what an awesome team the both of you are.

  5. Melissa Gill’s avatar

    Oh wow! This sounds like one of those great stories like The Giving Tree that I’ll cry all the way trhough and my neices will look at me like I’m looney. But I’ll love it and want to read it over and over again. I can’t wait to see this. I’m in love with Blue already.

  6. Sheri Dillard’s avatar

    Great story — thanks for sharing! :)

  7. Julie Hedlund’s avatar

    Love it! Congratulations to you, Lindsay and Nancy. This will be a very special book.

  8. Olleymae’s avatar

    I love her illustrations–they make me want to be more creative! Congrats Mary and Lindsay!!

  9. Susan James’s avatar

    Ooooo! I love the illustrations. Blue is darling, but chic too, in her little red cap. Congrats to you both!

  10. Weronika Janczuk’s avatar

    I *love* the artwork here. I might have to get it for that very reason. :]

    And great story, too.

    Weronika

  11. Krista V.’s avatar

    Congratulations, Lindsay and Mary. It sounds adorable.

  12. Ishta’s avatar

    Beautiful artwork! And it sounds like you’ve paired it with a lovely story. Congratulations!

  13. Lisa Albert’s avatar

    What great first picture book sale story!! I love Blue already and totally want that hat!! Seriously!

    Major congrats, Mary and Lindsay!!

  14. joshferrin’s avatar

    What a unique and wonderful style. I love the little map and the use of sheet music. Very original and powerful stuff.

  15. Talia Vance’s avatar

    Blue is adorable! What a beautiful book and fun post.

  16. Adele Richards’s avatar

    What a wonderful tale of trial and success. The artwork is captivating! I’ll buy on for sure!

  17. Adele Richards’s avatar

    What a wonderful tale of trial and success. The artwork is captivating! I’ll buy one for sure!

  18. Kristin Gray’s avatar

    LOVE. Congrats to you both!

  19. @jmartinlibrary’s avatar

    Um, you can bet I’ll be snapping this up for the library! The kids will love its sweet, smart sensibility.

    And when it wins awards and makes state lists I can brag on you and Lindsay!!!

  20. Deni Krueger’s avatar

    Congratulations! It looks beautiful. I’ll definitely be adding it to my collection.

  21. Ramona’s avatar

    this is brilliant.
    I know several people who will receive a copy of it already.

  22. Kat Zhang’s avatar

    This looks absolutely gorgeous. I adore the art. And thanks for the look into how a picture book is created and sold! I never knew much about that process and have been curious for quite a while :)

  23. christine  tripp’s avatar

    I LOVE the art!!! The use of collage and design element, coupled with this sweet bird, beautiful!
    (page sample of that tree is just wonderful)
    I would buy the book for the art alone.

  24. Daisy Whitney’s avatar

    This is beautiful! And I’m so jealous you get to work with my former editor Nancy!!!

  25. Margie’s avatar

    Wow! Incredible illustrations and sounds like a really charming story! I can’t wait to read it. Congrats, too, to all involved.

  26. MM’s avatar

    Mary – It’s encouraging to read of your huge commitment to your client, believing in her, going through the whole process repeatedly, etc. Good for you and I hope you guys get lots of sales!

  27. Jennifer B’s avatar

    I love this post and have it bookmarked to read, over and over, again. What an inspiring journey for you and Lindsey! It gives great hope to the aspiring artist and reminds this one that success does not come easily.

  28. Anne’s avatar

    Having just met Lindsay in Ohio & seeing that piece from Blue, I just know I will LOVE this book, can’t wait to see it, hold it, read it & cherish it!

  29. Cathy Mealey’s avatar

    Cannot wait to own this book and read it with my children!

  30. Mary Ann Duke’s avatar

    In this post I felt warm, happy, and excited for all three of you. Your enthusiasm permeated my iPad. Great work ethic turned to love.

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