By G. Michael Dobbs
AMHERST It’s quite a transition from being the associate producer of the PBS/Frontline production “Red Flag over Tibet” to writing children’s books, but Kate Feiffer is happy with her second career.
When she moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1998 after a successful career as a television producer in Boston, she admitted she didn’t know quite what to do for a job. She told Reminder Publications there wasn’t much call for a television producer on the island and she decided to pursue an idea she had long fostered: write a children’s book.
Her new career started with the publication of her first book, “Double Pink,” in 2005 and now she has written nine books for children. She will be appearing with her father Jules Feiffer for a presentation and book signing from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 8 at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art at 125 West Bay Road.
Admission is free to the event.
The appearance coincides with the exhibit “Growing Every Which Way But Up: The Children’s Book Art of Jules Feiffer,” which runs through Jan. 22.
Daughter and father have collaborated four times, with their next book “No Go Sleep” scheduled for publication next year.
Jules Feiffer is a legendary cartoonist, journalist and screenwriter who has won a Pulitzer Prize, an Obie Award, and an Oscar. His cartoons have appeared in The Village Voice, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Esquire and The Nation. He illustrated children’s classic “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster and is the author-illustrator of several award-winning children’s books.
Kate explained, “When picking an illustrator, you really want to someone whose look and style do the story justice.”
She picked her father as the artist for her book “Henry the Dog with No Tail” because, she recalled with a laugh, the book was based on her dog and “my father was one of the few people who remains fond of him.”
She said her father’s well known style “wasn’t right for all of the stories [she has written],” but added her editor was eager to work with Jules.
Kate said, “When I write a story I visually illustrate it and I’m influenced by my father’s style.”
Among her books are “President Pennybaker” and “My Mom Is Trying to Ruin My Life,” both illustrated by Diane Goode, and “The Problem with the Puddles,” illustrated by Tricia Tusa. She has written two novels for children as well.
Despite a famous last name, Kate admitted breaking into children’s books “was a little bit of a struggle.”
“I’ve been incredibly lucky,” she said. She quickly said she has a file of “however letters” rejection letters from editors and publishers.
The way she works is to first write the story, and then the artist will complete the drawings. She then checks to see if the information carried in the drawings has created redundancies in the narrative. She explained, for example, if the artist paints a character’s hair red, there is not need for the story to note that detail. She will then edit the text once more.
Although she hesitated a bit about answering a question on her father’s transition from the sharp and edgy cartoons that made him famous to illustrating children’s books, she admitted that he has “softened a bit” and that the books for younger readers “give him a lot of fulfillment.”
She added he has expressed “frustration at the country’s politics.”
For more information on The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, log onto www.carlemuseum.org.
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