We are pleased to host a guest post today from author-illustrator Eva Eland, whose picturebook book When Sadness Comes to Call is the winner of this year’s Klaus Flugge Prize (see more about this year’s shortlist here). The book sees a young child opening the door to an unexpected visitor, Sadness, personified as a semi-transparent amorphous shape. As the two spend time together, the child comes to know and understand Sadness, and then one day wakes up to find the visitor has left. Judge and winner of the 2019 Klaus Flugge Prize, Jessica Love says: “This book is profound in its simplicity. There isn’t a single line that Eva Eland puts down that doesn’t tell the truth. Perfect.”
Eva tells us more about the process of creating a picture book that captures ‘sadness’ in the form of a character….
Guest Blog Post
by Eva Eland, author of the award-winning picturebook When Sadness Comes to Call (available here)
During my studies at MA Children’s Book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art, I proposed to make a book about difficult emotions that could comfort, console and inspire compassion. I soon realised I would need to understand those ‘difficult’ emotions better if I was going to find a way to create something comforting for them, so I started to explore those emotions in my sketchbook. I soon found myself stuck with ‘Sadness’. Even though I also explored feelings like anger and fear, sadness was probably most familiar to me, almost like an old friend.
After drawing all these emotions as characters and possible interactions between them and a girl, I started exploring making different stories and ideas in sequences, like one where sadness isn’t let in but ignored and gets upset and grows as a result, so large and out of control that its tears cause a flood. It’s the Jungian concept of shadow: the feelings we don’t acknowledge and don’t take responsibility for get banned into the ‘shadow’ of our subconsciousness and will grow bigger and manifest themselves outside of our control as a result. They may be expressed as irritation, when we project them onto others, or we can suddenly feel triggered by a seemingly insignificant event. I do believe that if we (adults) will learn to acknowledge our feelings and deal with them, the world would be a much better place and feel emotionally safer, or at least less complicated, for children.
I also asked myself the question: what if there was a user manual for sadness? What would that look like? I imagined a little booklet, or foldout poster. I thought it could be funny, the illusion of being able to manage and contain a rather big and complex emotion, in a ‘manual’. I didn’t think about creating a picture book for children yet at this point, however, the little booklet with sketches I made then, can be viewed as a very rough blueprint for what eventually became my debut picture book ‘When Sadness Comes to Call’.
I talked to many people, to find out how they dealt with sadness and researched the topic further, by reading, writing and drawing. I also experimented with different ways of making artwork and other representations of sadness.
Along the way I must have accumulated hundreds of other ideas, trying to distract me or sneaking into my sketchbooks. As I started to feel overwhelmed with all the possibilities, I felt urged to start narrowing down again and to edit – so I set myself the task to finish my book, at that time still called ‘Sadness, a user manual’, for the children’s book fair in Bologna, where my work was going to be represented at the stand of the Cambridge School of Art. Because of the tight deadline I was forced to make a lot of decisions in a short time which actually helped me move this project forward. I managed to print it all on the Risograph machine and to hand stitch the book, just in time for the fair. I think the texture of the prints have helped to make the book stand out, and it was there that my publisher Andersen Press found my book and approached me.
Once we started working together I would repeat much of the process again, with help of the feedback of my editor Libby Hamilton and art director Rebecca Garrill. This time my biggest challenges were to develop a consistent child character and to narrow the story down to twelve spreads. I used the opportunity to throw everything upside down again and to explore how much I could tell in the combination of word and image, by using as few words as possible and using the pacing of the book for a more immersive read, yet giving the reader as much space as possible to draw their own conclusions and making the story their own.
As I was still learning so much at the time and pushed myself to do better, the book kept evolving till the very end. It’s amazing to have followed this longwinded path where I was still learning and exploring a lot, and end up winning such a prestigious prize as the Klaus Flugge Prize. I could never have dreamt of such a positive outcome, especially as I was doubting myself all the time during most of the stages of making the book. The only thing I did feel certain about at the time, was the message behind it and the need for such a book. I’m proud that I’ve been proven right, as the book is welcomed by many, and ‘sadness’ is hopefully also met with more curiosity and compassion as a result.
Click here to read more about the 2020 Klaus Flugge Prize and shortlist.
You can order When Sadness Comes to Call online or from Bookshop.
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