Thursday, January 21, 2010

Now What?

I am learning the first rule of freelance illustrating.......well actually it is a toss up between- insist on a contract, early in the game or don't hold your breath depending on any job. I got myself in a pickle with both, entirely my own fault and then had to inact rule #3- once in a mess, do the best you can to survive it and not burn any bridges. Well after months of false starts and changed manuscripts, layouts, deadline, hummmm did I miss anything that good be changed after you thought you had things in the "can"- my little mini book on a Navajo Trading Post is now  "on the back burner" due to the publisher "over extending" themselves.
Not really surprised. Not really bummed- way better now then when I had completed half or all the finished illustrations!! I was at the final sketch phase. They say they will reimburse me for the work completed- did I mention the golden rule of freelancing- get a contract!! Ummmm- they sent me two with typos- and we were on our third when got the news. Did I mention my husband is an attorney!! ( its the cobbler's kids don't have shoes, mechanics cars are always breaking down, attorney are not always as careful as you would think!)
So I have a lot of reference photos, a lot of sketches, a lot of ideas and now, past next week when my current deadline for a children's magazine is due- a lot of time!
    I will come back to this idea- the editors in New York encouraged me in one way- in their total ignorance about what does happen at a Trading Post- even if they seemed to want to hang on to their misconceptions, instead of listen to me. But it just motivated me more to bring the modern life of Navajo children to other children in the world- guess that is what motivates most of us as writers and artist.
So here are some of my reference photos, believe it or not taken in four different states- when I did a circle out on the reservation on day- between dropping the girls off to school and being back in plenty of time to pick them up! The Four Corners is the only place in the USA where four states Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, intersect  in a +- if you know what I mean- and it is smack dab in the middle of the Navaio Reservation- the biggest reservation in the USA also.

It is a desolate barren land, with red dirt, red rock formation with names like Chimney Rock, Squaw and Papoose, and Shiprock. The Navajos are well off for a tribe due to the oil and gas leases that now are scattered across what the US thought in the 1800s was worthless land.

Here it is in Arizona looking in to Colorado. The "game plan" of the US government after out and out war with the Navajos did not seem to be working- was to break them by literally killing their livelihood- the sheep, making them dependent of goods supplied by the government through trading post, and eventually taking their children out of their mothers arms and putting in them in boarding school where they cut their hair and punished them for speaking their native tongue.

The round building is called a Hogan- they are tradtional homes but mostly you see this set up- a hogan, a trailer or double wide complete with a satilite dish, a lot of cars, pick ups and a lot of rubble.

But there is a lot of beauty too- like when the cottonwoods turn in the fall as do the grasses.

The Trading Post still holds an important place, many Navajos are hours away from any real town that would have a Walmart- which they love- so they get gas, food, coal, hay etc still from the Trading Post.

And trade, buy or sell- their livestock

I'm learning alot about the "Biz" of publishing- I know it is a fast flowing stream that I am the one who needs to learn how to "swim" in it, not complain about how it flows- but if this, the Navajos, their modern life now- is not an untapped "Niche" I don't know what is. I'm just trying to figure out how to proceed and it is becoming apparent I just need to write and illustrate my own project ( create a dummy) and then try and sell it. Ok -this is on the "back burner" but  its more in a slowly bubbling pot of yummy soup- that is all the better for being on the back burning cooking away a little bit longer!


  1. Simmering can make for blending of spices, and bring out the subtleties to be sure. But I hate that they are messing with you. You really need to do your own thing and submit it to a publisher who will appreciate your unique gifts and location in this great country. It would be invaluable for you "to bring the modern life of Navajo children" to the rest of the world. Fascinating, Julia.

  2. I think you need to tell this story--however it happens to happen. Good luck figuring out the next step...