My latest picture book work-in-progress is partly inspired by the melancholy feeling of dusk and how it’s always been connected to a feeling of homesickness for me. I wrote a little about it here. I was in a very melancholy place physically and emotionally when I originally wrote those words, but in the four or five years since, I finally experienced the first truly settled, welcoming sense of “coming home” that I’ve had since I lived at home with my parents. I feel rooted in my cozy house in Colorado, contented with the little family my husband and I have made and connected with our community here. My days are mostly sunny now, but I still reap so much inspiration from the gloomy, overcast days that remind me of our time in rainy northern Germany.
Living near Hamburg, Germany in an urban setting made quite an impact on my creativity. I always thought I would enjoy living a rural life, but it turns out big cities inspire me too! I grew up in the suburbs and live in the suburbs now, so the few years we spent living in a third-story apartment (not very high, I know!) on a busy street with busses passing and the entrance to the U-Bahn just a short walk away, was a new and inspiring experience for me. My imagination was sparked by how many lives were lived in such close proximity and by how much activity still occured outside my window under the streetlights of midnight.
Our neighborhood was extra special in that it bordered a forest. It was the best of both worlds–you could go outside and catch a train into downtown or you could walk the curving paths and lose yourself among the trees. I chose to lose myself among the trees quite often, my two little girls in tow. We’d go out and play on on several different playgrounds, then walk back home in the vanishing daylight, feeling chilled and windswept and aching to see the lamp glowing in the window of our apartment.
My latest project, Guardians in the Dark, is about that tension between the light and the dark, between finding comfort in small, enclosed spaces and also in expansive, open spaces. Mostly, it’s about fear and the power we choose to give it (or not to give it) over us. The biggest challenge for me right now is how to balance that melancholy feeling of my past years with the sunny feeling of more recent years, and how to present all of these ideas in a way that children would enjoy. How do I tell a hopeful story about creatures in the dark to small children without inspiring or deepening their own fears? It’s a balancing act! I hope I can pull it off!