Julia Patton and Samantha Berger's SNAIL MAIL

I flipped when I saw the cover for SNAIL MAIL (from Running Press Kids)! I mean, it's pure genius, right!? Why had noone thought of this as a picture book before??? And then I saw that it was illustrated by my good friend, Julia Patton. OMG - of course! She looped in the brilliant author, Samantha Berger, and I have them both here for you today - woohoo!
e: Samantha, tell me about the original inspiration and concept!
Samantha:
I happen to be someone who is madly, wildly, passionately-passionate about handwriting. I've always believed handwriting was something that's all our own, like our fingerprint, our retina scan, our voice--something that naturally makes us US! Handwriting is like someone's voice, written down.
      And it's truly meaningful to me, in my own life, that I can STILL SEE the actual original handwriting of the greatest heroes and sheroes of my lifetime - the people who I have looked up to forever - the people who live in my cellular memory and DNA - and have helped me become me. It gives me CHILLS when I see Jim Henson's handwritten scripts and notes about the Muppets and Sesame Street. (I am writing stuff for Sesame Street International right now!)
      It fills my HEART when I see Charlotte Zolotow's and Maurice Sendak's handwritten letters and edits. (I keep all my correspondence with my editors while making a book!)
      It sings to my SOUL when I see Sondheim's original lyric brainstorms (I could break into some Sweeney Todd right this minute!)
      What a gift that we can still SEE the thought process, the ideas taking shape, the voice springing to life on the page.
      And in America, where handwriting is going extinct, writing with a pen is becoming a lost art, and learning to write in cursive is being eliminated from school curriculums, it was meaningful for me to create a book that celebrated handwriting in all its ink-blazing glory.
      And then there's the letter writing thing.
      As miraculous, instantaneous, gratifying and downright cool texting, emailing, ichatting, Skyping, Facetiming, and Social Media-ifying can be (and it CAN BE!) there is something extra special about sending letters and packages the old fashioned way, that sometimes just can't be captured by technology.
      Those things can be found in the pages of Snail Mail and in Julia's brilliant illustrations.
      Things like letters to Santa Claus and Birthday Cards, and postcards.
      Things like letters from a pen pal across the world.
      Things like Brown Paper Packages tied up with strings (which I actually received from Julia once!)
      There is nothing in the world like this.
      So Snail Mail is also a love letter...to LETTERS!
     Finally -- I've been all over the world, and I think Julia has too, and there is NOWHERE as vast and diverse and wonderfully vastly diverse as the United States of America.
      I want to celebrate that diversity!
      We are different from state to state and in every landscape and in every time zone.
      We are different in every background and every story that brought us here.
      We are different in every state bird, flower, anthem, sports team and history.
      BUT WE ARE UNITED AND STRONGER AS ONE.
      We are a true melting pot and that is one of the best things about this country.
      Slow down to see where you live and where you may travel.
      Discover everything you didn't know about each place, and what makes it uniquely IT.
      Do whatever you can to make it a kinder place - because we are so fortunate to call this place home.

e: I agree!
Julia, what is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
Julia:
As manuscripts go, getting Samantha’s first draft was an illustrators dream come true. I could visualise every word and instinctively feel a connection with not only the narrative but the protagonists. I could see Samantha in every word, feel her passion and her vision, and to illuminate this was just an incredible experience. Lucky me. Here are some ‘under construction’ and 'before and after’ images for you….

e: Samantha, what do you hope readers will come away with from Snail Mail?
Samantha:
Write stuff down with a pen! You'll be so happy to see your handwriting one day!
      You'll be happy to see someone you love's handwriting also.
      Use a waterproof, archival pen (so it doesn't fade away over time or bleed) and write on one side of the paper so it doesn't leak through.
      Just ask Simpson's creator Matt Groening. He'd say the same thing. In fact, I got this advice from him.

e: Samantha, what would be your dream project?
Samantha:
Collaborate and make books with people you LOVE, like Julia.
      and always respect the snail.
      Especially the ones who wear pink Speedo bathing suits!

e: Julia, what are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Julia:
Samantha and I are in top-secret talks as we work on a new collaborative book. We’re enjoying throwing lots of ideas around. Watch this space…

e: I will!
So, what do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Julia:
What makes me revisit an illustration is the attention to detail, the tiny things you missed on the first few readings. I deliberately create lots of tiny additions to keep all ages of audience engaged as it’s often that different age siblings/groups of children are present at a reading. I have read picture books to my own children before they could speak and conversely, they have re-read their favourite picture books innumerable times once they were older and firmly into chapter books. Picture books offer so much so to many at many different times of peoples lives. I have my own collection of picture books as an adult I drool over for their sophisticated palate or sensitivity of a certain narrative. I’m utterly delighted in the new emergence of all the cross-over genres, from picture books to graphic novels to chapter books and non-fiction. The once unbreakable rules and boundaries are being challenged with much more emphasis upon representing our unique and breaking diversity which is well overdue. I believe Heart Art speaks in different vocabularies to each individual. A beautiful book can physically stop you in your tracks or the manuscript can metaphorically pull at your heartstrings with it’s quiet but revolutionary voice. Picture books are now being utilised as tools to assist classroom discussions of important global and political issues, also they are powerful enough to help a child understand their innermost feelings when a loved one passes. Picture books begin adventures, fantasies, hopes, dreams and most importantly conversations...

e: I SO AGREE!! Can't wait to have you both back for the secret project reveal!
     
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