I recently listened to an illustrator describe the tools she had used to produce a picture book – “graphite pencils, watercolour, collage, old photographs…and stubbornness.’ Ah. Yes.
Picture books may look simple. In fact, the simpler they look or seem, often the better they are. But there is hard graft in simplicity; in elegance. Brevity is difficult. What looks easy probably took years, sweat and tears.
Eight years ago I wrote my little picture book, the first book I ever wrote. Marjory and the Mouse tells the story of a baby boy, Marjory Vendramini and the founding of the Macau-based orphanage, Cradle of Hope. Over twenty years ago a baby had been found abandoned in a rubbish bin. Rats had bitten him and he was quickly rushed to hospital. Marjory offered to care for the child until a permanent home was found for him and when he was adopted Marjory found herself caring for more and more babies and children. Over 200 children to date, since 1993, within two residential homes – Cradle of Hope and Fountain of Hope. Marjory’s story was an unshakable tale. I lay awake thinking of it. Thinking about her resilience, humility and compassion, the role she has played in changing and shaping the lives of hundreds of children and the way every terrible thing, including the rat bites, had led this child to Marjory’s care. This was a story that had to be shared.
Having an idea – for a book or otherwise – is easy. Cheap, you might say. It costs you nothing to have an idea but often quite a lot to make it a reality. Over the course of a few days I had written the first draft for Marjory and the Mouse. Easy! But then I rewrote the draft. Many times. I explained the book idea to a friend and Cradle supporter, Fran Thomas, who quickly came on board as chief cheerleader and co-ordinator. We translated the english-language story into Macau’s official languages – Chinese and Portugese. We found an illustrator who, after several attempts, was then unable to complete the project. This happened at least half a dozen times. Years passed. Almost a decade. I was unsure if the project could be revived. But after a couple of serendipitous, mutually exclusive events, which reinstated the book as a priority for both Fran and me, it was slowly resuscitated. This round of revival, after the completion (hurrah!) of the illustrations by French artist Mahe Corrolleur, began in mid-2015. We had words! We had pictures! I thought – we must be close now! Cut to over a year later and, as the clock struck midnight last night, I was on a phone call discussing whether Marjory and the Mouse will be printed in time for the book launch. The launch which is on the 16th of October. Oh, my heart. I have to admit – I never thought producing a picture book would be easy, but I also never imagined it would be this challenging.
But Marjory and the Mouse will be published. We will find a way. Fran and I, Marjory, Mahe, Helene, Luis and Joana, generous sponsors and tireless supporters, all of those we have gathered along the journey will make sure it is published. And when it is you will see that it is beautiful. Mahe’s illustrations are bright and charming, the translations have been completed with great effort and care and the print quality will be gorgeous. A book to keep and gift, one to share with your youngest loved ones, a story to help explain that some are less fortunate than others, one that demonstrates that even if you feel small you can make a HUGE difference. Marjory and the Mouse is a simple but heartfelt story with illustrations that are darling and uncomplicated. Hopefully it will all appear very easy. When in fact it was anything but.
Marjory and the Mouse Book Launch – An invitation to all Fork & Fiction followers:
Date: Sunday, October 16, 2016
Time: 15:00 – 16:00
Venue: Orient Foundation Praca Luis de Camoes, 13 Macao
RSVP: Please indicate your attendance by Friday, October 7, 2016, and let us know if you wish to bring family members or children with you. Please contact Ms Fran Thomas or Ms Melie Ruston; email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: (853) 6684 1718
We would love to see you there!
* With warm, heartfelt thanks to all those who have ensured Marjory and the Mouse became more than an idea; who have been generous and thoughtful and tirelessly determined. Including, but not limited to: Marjory Vendramini, Fran Thomas, Helene Wong, Timothy Ma, Joana Vann, Luis Pereira, Mahe Corolleur, Kylie Rogers and Melie Ruston. Your efforts have made an enormous difference. Thank you for your stubbornness! *