INTRODUCTION: HOW I DISCOVERED THE WORLD OF CHILDREN’S BOOK WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING
The painting above is the one that helped me launch off into Children’s Book Illustrating. I’ve been an artist all my life, but it never occurred to me to write and illustrate kid’s books. I’m from Plattsburgh, New York way up on the Canadian border an hour south of Montreal. Right after I married Bill Jantz, a Detroiter and moved to Detroit, I finished a B.F.A. in Painting and Sculpture at Wayne State University in Detroit, and then we took off to see the World. Bill was an Automotive Draftsman, and he got a job in Australia. Over the following years, we lived in Australia twice, Germany three times, Sweden twice, England, Belgium, and The Netherlands (Holland) while Bill worked for car companies.
I studied art all along the way. We kept coming back to the States between contracts, and we managed to have our son, Matthew in Florida and our daughter Kathryn in Michigan. We kept on traveling with both kids in tow until Matthew got to Middle school age, and then we came back to Detroit. I painted, wove tapestries, painted on silk, and did sculpture through those years. I also wrote a spy novel using all our temporary homes as backgrounds.
Once we were back in Detroit, I went to community college for Drafting, and then got into CAD (Computer Assisted Drafting) for Architects. CAD all evolved into 3D design as the years rolled by, so that Sculpture degree came in really handy.
In October of 2014, out of the Blue, I got an invitation to come to a Meet-up for people who wanted to be Children’s Book Illustrators. As I said before, up until then I had never even thought about it, but it really did catch my attention. The organizer suggested that people bring one of their paintings that they thought might make a good cover. I looked around my studio and spied the painting at the beginning of this post. I’d done several years before. It is a young Ocelot high in a tree in the Rainforest surrounded by trailing leaves and white orchids. I’ve always been attracted to ocelots, and I often paint orchids, so I decided that was the one. I took it to the Meet-up.
I had asked my friend Carole Kersten to go to the meeting with me. She’s a retired school librarian, and she speaks fluent Bookese. The meeting went very well. We met at the coffee shop of a local Barnes & Noble. Carole and I were the only ones that showed up besides the organizer, a darling young man named Soloman. Soloman liked my painting, and encouraged me to go for it. Nine months later I pushed a button on my computer and “Olivia Ocelot Comes to the Rescue: Adventures in the Rainforest” was born. Of course it wasn’t quite that Wham, Bam getting from A to B, but I thank Soloman and Carole for the seeds they planted that day. It was a truly doo-doo-doo-doo moment for me and for Olivia Ocelot, the feisty little wild cat from Costa Rica who became my main character. I’m not very religious as a rule, but I do believe in synchronicity. That day was a very synchronistic moment.
I created Olivia Ocelot for that first book. She is a brave and beautiful little wild cat who lives in the Rainforest in Costa Rica. Olivia Ocelot is all about community building in whatever local she leaps into. My goals are to Entertain, Educate and Empower the readers in her books. In her first book, Olivia Ocelot is helping her neighbors in the Rainforest with a problem. In book 2 she is in the desert in Arizona helping to solve another problem with them, and in book 3 she will be in Michigan, U.S.A. at the invitation of her cousin, Lydia Lynx. The problem she is solving in Michigan is the war between the Black Squirrels and the Red Squirrels. My beautiful, awesome daughter, Katy Jantz Kott and her kids, Aemelia (14) and Wesley (11) help me all the time with my book writing. They give me a lot of advice on what Olivia Ocelot should and shouldn’t say to her friends.
A couple of days ago my brilliant daughter-in-law, Janna Moll Jantz, who, is also brave and beautiful just like Olivia Ocelot, suggested that I go to the web with my book writing efforts! How great is that? It hit me like lightening! I love all the processes for creating the books, but I realized it would be so cool to do it with an audience on the Web. So, I will be launching interactive children’s book writing with the Arizona book. That will be happening right here: https://oliviaocelotchildren’s books.com . Please visit me here, and please let me know what you think. The title is “Olivia Ocelot Saves the Day: Adventures in the Desert”. When it’s completed I’ll publish it in book form.