Behind the scenes of Jeanne Balsam's "Where Do Butterflies Go at Night?"
'Magical', 'evocative' and a 'masterclass in children's writing and illustrating' are just a few words that have been used to describe Jeanne Balsam's stunning book, "Where Do Butterflies Go at Night?". And yes, you should believe the hype.
We wanted to understand the genius behind this absolutely gorgeous new release, so we sat down with Jeanne to learn all about her life, her inspiration, and just why Butterflies is so meaningful to her.
World, meet Jeanne Balsam.
Here's what she had to say:
So Jeanne, you’re now a published children’s book author! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?
Such a broad question! I am an author, illustrator, and graphic designer, and have spent many years fundraising for animals in need.
In all I do, I always hope that my contribution will help make the world a little better somehow. Never have there been more wisdom, inspiration, and tools available for us to do so.
My love of animals has inspired much of my work and how I live, which is vegetarian, near-vegan. Lastly, I am deeply grateful for the many people who have guided me – and still do - on my path in this life. I wouldn’t be here without them.
Does this little boy find his butterflies? You'll have to buy the book to find out.
Your career has been so interesting, Jeanne, could you tell us a bit more about it?
Sure! My career has, by and large, always been in helping others. A Pratt Fine Arts graduate, I discovered Art Therapy while in my senior year, and went on to work as an Art Therapist, working with ED and NI children. I then worked with the same kind of kids, but teenagers, in a classroom situation, and loved it. It was during that time, that I began to take classes in the Writing and illustrating of Children’s Books at the New School and I was hooked.
But my life took a circuitous route in which I studied further and became a psychotherapist. At one point, I volunteered my art to help abused animals, and had created for me the position of Fundraising Manager for the largest animal sheltering system in New Jersey. During that time, I also created/ran my own rescue for pit bull terriers, had my artwork published quarterly in Just Frenchies and Just Terriers magazines which inspired a business; published my writing in magazines; and began my own graphic design business.
About 13 years ago, I saw a local group forming for children’s books -- I was back on the path!
Many authors say their inspiration to write started when they were quite young. Is there anything from your childhood that comes to mind here?
My earliest inspiration was actually in art, drawing from around 4 or 5, and photography, when I got my first camera at 9.
I was truly fortunate in that I was read to frequently as a child, and I couldn’t get enough of the wonderful stories read to me, and later, by me; they filled my head with excitement and what I might do in the future.
I was writing daily in a journal (then a diary) from the age of 8, and journal to this day. All have inspired me.
Were the books of Jeanne's childhood as magical as Butterflies? We doubt it.
Getting published is so hard! Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors on how to get published?
Getting published is hard! Aspiring authors (and illustrators) need to keep up at their craft, and learn how to do it well. It’s important to be aware of the books and stories that are being published today, join critique groups, attend conferences where they can meet editors, agents, and art directors who can mentor them.
And then submit judiciously and often.
It is a highly competitive field, so persistence in the face of rejection is important. Don’t give up!!
Your debut title, Where Do Butterflies Go At Night?, is about to be released. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
Where Do Butterflies Go at Night? was literally inspired by the dozens of cabbage white butterflies that would appear on the privet hedge outside my home office window.
They disappeared at dusk and re-emerged in the morning.
I wondered where they went and then began to imagine it through a child’s eyes. Butterflies is my only story in rhyme.
In the still of the night, Jeanne's butterflies certainly have some incredible adventures.
Ethicool Books is a special publisher that promotes understanding of the issues that matter. What is the issue you hoped to highlight with Where Do Butterflies Go At Night? Why is that particular issue important to you?
Although I didn’t actually write Butterflies to highlight a special issue per se, the issue of the loss of our pollinators worldwide is a critical one. Honeybee collapse disorder is the most prevalent, but the loss of other pollinators, such as butterflies, is also critical. Without them, we simply won’t have food.
In my picture book stories, I hope to awaken a child reader to the magic and wonder of the world around them, sometimes to bring attention to the needs of animals and people, and how they can make a difference.
The writing in your story is BEAUTIFUL. Can you tell us a bit more about your creative process?
Thank you. As I am also an illustrator, my process integrates both writing and art. I often write and visually imagine the story in my head long before I actually record it.
At some point, it seems well-enough formed, that I begin to write. As I write, I see the pictures, which then feeds the writing, then the images, and so on.
By the time I finish writing a story, it is also illustrated in my head.
Jeanne's background as an illustrator helped her envision the scenes for Butterflies.
Then comes the editing and the first dummy which is absolutely essential to the writing and revisions.
And finally, if you could inspire the next generation of kids to do just one thing, what would it be?
Be kind. Simply share some love and kindness with anyone and anything on this planet.
There is so much need and opportunity to give, to make the world a better place however one chooses to do so. Just look; it’s waiting there for you.
Pre-orders for Jeanne's absolutely stunning book will open soon!