As my first interview for 2011, I would like to introduce you to Janeen Mason, author and illustrator of her latest picture book, THE GIFT OF THE MAGPIE. It's coming out right about now, so be looking for it in your local bookstore!

Q. Janeen, when I think of your art, I mostly think of blues, and water and undersea life. What moved you to the sky?
A. Florida has magnificent cloud formations. I've heard them described by our old timers as 'Florida's Mountains', and I've always wanted to paint our skies, our brilliant sunsets.

Q. The strong black and white graphics of the birds lends a beautifully folksie look to the art in GIFT OF THE MAGPIE. What was your inspiration?
A. I'd had a studio in a building built in 1926 with a courtyard behind it. The doors were 10' tall, and there were windows up near the ceilings for cross ventilation. At a certain time of the year flocks of crows would land on the power lines above the courtyard in the back. The crows were so excited, shouting to each other for 30 minutes or so before they all lit off somewhere for the night. So this story began with crows, but one day a friend of mine (a clown - for real) read the mss. and smiled when she finished it, saying "Ahhh. It's like Gift of the Magi.." I thought she said Magpie and suddenly the whole vista opened before me.

Q. GIFT OF THE MAGPIE reads like a classic folk tale. How did you pull that off?
A. Thank you! I didn't realize I'd pulled that off. Have no idea how it happened.

Q. The two magpies also feel so human. Are they modeled after anybody you know?
A. Yes. It's like Mars and Venus, isn't it? When our children were little I took them by train to visit my parents, we had a lovely visit. Unbeknownst to me, my husband bought a car for me while I was away. We hadn't had a second car until then and he was so sure I'd be thrilled. That car was a lot like Max's basketball shoe. I was horrified. It didn't look safe to me! I thought it made a lot more sense to stick with one car until we could afford something with a little more durability, completely overlooking his gesture. Sigh.

Q. You have been sharing your talents with the world for some time now - how many books is this for you now? Will there be any fun events surrounding the release of GIFT OF THE MAGPIE?
A. Gift of the Magpie is my 12th picture book, but only the third one I've written and illustrated. There are two more in the wings behind it.
     On Thursday, January 13th, we're celebrating the release with a publishing party at the Blake Library in Stuart, Florida. On Valentine's Day, February 14, 2011, we'll have another celebration at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach where I'll be conducting 6 2-hour workshops this winter/spring for adults aspiring to write and illustrate children's books.

Thanks Janeen! Here's wishing THE GIFT OF THE MAGPIE much success!

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