Jennifer Maher Author & Illustrator of the colourful and dreamy children’s picture book
“The Happy Half-Moon Girl” took my course in February 2020, just before lockdown. It was in my home studio and we shared a week of creativity, lunches and laughter. Jennifer showed a hugh passion for children;s picture books and created some great characters while on the course. This is her story:
I grew up in a house with 5 brothers and 2 sisters. Myself and my twin brother being the youngest of the pack. There was always plenty of adventure and mischief. I started writing poetry and short stories from a young age. I also spent hours every night sketching and painting. Although I am a confident person, I never had confidence in my art or ideas. I kept them safely locked away in the world of my notebooks for my eyes only.
I always had a love for all things creative and a passion for books. It was a natural progression for me to write my own story. The idea for “The Happy Half-Moon Girl” originally came to me when my daughter as a new-born had to wear a cast for hip dysplasia. It went from her armpits to her ankles and it never bothered her. Because of the half-moon shape of the cast, I called her my Happy Half Moon Girl. The name stuck and a story quickly developed.
I wanted to create a strong female character for my book. I loved the idea of the Happy Half Moon Girl sending happiness and positivity through dreams to all the sleeping children. I wanted her to stand out and be unique. I played around with several ideas and designs. The HMG had gone through a lot of changes and transformations including one of my earliest drawings of a blue-haired, wide-eyed HMG that looked like an electrocuted puppet.
After many, many, many sketches and failed attempts, I finally settled on an image I loved and dressed her in the blue space suit and helmet.
For the child who explores the dreams, I wanted to keep the child character neutral and relatable. For every child who reads my book, I want them to be able to put themselves in each dream and imagine they are that child.
Once the characters were complete I then started putting my storyboards together and working on layouts and backgrounds. I kept my storyboards very rough to start with just to get a feel for the layout of the page and how the book would flow. I reworked the storyboards several times and made changes right up to the end even adding in two pages to the middle of the story.
WHAT MEDIA TO USE
At first, I planned to do the book using watercolour pencils. I liked the look of the images in pencil. They were sketchy and uneven but also smooth and warm. Over time I felt there was something missing and I was not completely happy with the finished look.
I also experimented with watercolour paint and collage but finally decided to Digitally Illustrate each page. I scanned in all my original drawings and reworked them in Adobe Illustrator and immediately knew that this was the look I wanted for the finished book.
WHEN THE BOOK WAS FINISHED
My insecurity was ever-present but through the encouragement of my husband and a nudge from some highly creative and talented people I decided to push forward and bring my work out into the open.
I did a lot of research on Publishers and read the “Children’s Writers & Artists Yearbook 2020” from front to back. I sent my manuscript along with a query letter and some original sketches to all the relevant Publishers and waited anxiously for a reply. I was so excited the day I got the email from Olympia to say that they loved the book and wanted to represent me.
It has been a lot of hard work and it takes a lot of dedication especially with two small children taking up most of my time, not to mention a pandemic showing up out of nowhere! But it was also very enjoyable and rewarding and I cannot wait to finish my second book to do it all again.
My book will be on sale from April 29th. I have already contacted potential buyers and have had amazing feedback on Social Media. Keep your eyes peeled for a book reading with Barnardo’s Book Club and an interview with YOU Magazine.
I really hope you and your little ones enjoy this colourful and dreamy world that I created with much love and hard work.
For more please follow me on Instagram www.instagram.com/wren_work/