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Gracie characters are coming to life


Gracie: top left and right (in blue) with her brother Freddie (top right), dad (bottom left) and mom (bottom right)                — illustrations by Lillian Lai

What a joy it is working with illustrator Lillian Lai as she produces thumbnail sketches for my upcoming children’s book Gracie’s Got a Secret. I love the process of seeing how she translates my words into images. She’ll email me and the publisher roughly nine rough drawings or scenarios for each page, and we’ll select the ones that we like best. (Lillian took 2D and 3D animation at Capilano University in North Vancouver.)

She started with multiple drawings of each character and then the publisher, William Gelbart, and I suggested changes regarding facial expressions, body shape, colours and so on. It feels like participating in a magic show: you make comments, then see the results come back to you quickly. Voila — there’s the character, looking like a real creature with a personality all its own.

This reminds me of a playwriting course I took years ago. There were several professional actors in the class and when they read one of the students’ lines, within a minute, they truly inhabited that character.  It was like witnessing on the spot the embodiment of a new person who previously existed only on the page. I love witnessing such creative talent — it’s a gift that no one can put a price on.

As a first-time children’s author, having such direct, ongoing access to, and feedback regarding, the illustration process as it unfolds is indeed a privilege. I have a poet friend who has had dozens of books published and he often never even saw the cover of his book until it was already out. In most cases, he hated it.

Therefore, I am very grateful to William Gelbart, publisher of MW Books Publishing, for giving me this insider’s opportunity to shape the visual look of the characters and backgrounds of my story. It feels a bit like playing God — and I love it.

February 15, 2011 at 10:24 am
  • February 15, 2011 at 10:11 pmJane


  • February 15, 2011 at 12:21 pmWendy

    It is going to be terrific to see the finished product!
    Bravo, Heather.

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