May 14, 2014

Celebrating the Norwegian Spirit: Yo, Vikings!

In this post on my website blog, I wrote about a fantastic yet true-to-life book created by Judith Byron Schachner, of SKIPPYJON JONES fame. 
Original, 2005, the first of many.

As the weekend approaches and I load books and supplies for my signing in Stoughton, Wisconsin on Syttende Mai, Norwegian Constitution Day, I'll share the post here. Judith was a featured faculty member at our Fall Wisconsin SCBWI (writers/illustrators) conference last October and shared her story about creating Yo, Vikings! She's as entertaining and genuine as a speaker as she is a talented author and illustrator. Sometimes, though, life drops a story in your lap. This appears to be especially true if your lap resides in Judith's household, apparently, and if the lap happens to be hers. I hope you'll enjoy reading more of what I mean, and of the true Viking/Norwegian spirit this book portrays.

It’s another new year.
Rather than reflect on resolutions, plans, and goal-setting, I’m taking a different tack. This is only one of many (MANY) new years I’ve welcomed in with well-considered, constructive resolutions. Truth be told, that’s worked out well for me over the years.
Writing has always figured prominently among those plans. With resolutions to guide me, I’ve managed to write more, write in wider genres, learn more about writing, develop professional associations, find writing partners, and share my writing with wider audiences, including social media.
No regrets there. All of the above, and more, have led me to where I stand today, anticipating the release of Odin’s Promise in just a few months. Actually, MAY 17, Saturday!
What if I had been bolder, more imaginative, and even a tad foolish in the scope of my earlier intents?
What if I had been more  like a Viking?
Or at least like the daring protagonist in Judith Byron Schachners picture book, YO, VIKINGS!  My previous methodical resolutions led me to become an active member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), including attendance at conferences. At our  October Wisconsin gathering I was privileged to hear Judy speak about her work. In the course of a lively, informative presentation on her process, her inspirations, and the irrepressible SkippyJonJones, she shared the family story behind YO, VIKINGS!
Click here to read about her bold and imaginative daughter Emma, and to view a news video of the real thing- Emma, Judy, and their backyard Viking ship!
This book is a treasure on many levels: compelling characters, vibrant and richly detailed illustrations that extend the text, delightful language, and the most improbably true story you’ll ever read.
YO, VIKINGS! nudges me outside the comfort zone of my previous resolutions. Meeting Emma in the pages of this book inspires me to imagine beyond the “reasonable” or even “possible”  and set my sights on the vast unknown. Emma didn’t hobble her dreams to methodical steps, nor wait for Star Trek Captain Jean Luc to “make it so”.  She spoke her dreams publicly, she recognized the hand of fate when it showed itself, and she took its hand eagerly. The results were beyond even her wildest dreams.
The fact that Emma’s imagination happened to land in the realm of Vikings is my signal that fate is offering me opportunities and adventures this year that could lead beyond my annual steady pace. Rather than approaching 2014 with plans and persistence, I intend to follow Emma’s lead. I’ll keep Judy’s book propped on my desk as a reminder to sail into this year with true Viking bravado!
There. I said it publicly. Watch me.
Crispin Books, 2014

Back to now. Saturday I'll be facing large crowds of people who are strangers, not the welcoming smiles of friends and writing colleagues at the book's birthday party. Granted, they'll arrive with a strong interest in all things Norwegian, but with no predetermined interest in Odin's Promise or in me. But I'll be there, proud to share my own admiration for Norway's history and courage in the face of overwhelming odds. 
Odds not unlike those facing bold little Emma Schachner when she first called out, 

Yo, Vikings!


Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.