On June 18th, a Sunday evening, Andy Boerger gave a talk entitled ‘The Alphabet Tower: a picture book project from conception to bookshelf.’ An Ohio native and long-term Tokyo resident, Andy started by telling us he has always loved the idea of things on top of each other. He showed some of his early artwork that had various animals and objects piled on top of each other, and commented how he found the lines and shapes that emerged aesthetically pleasing. Just before the pandemic began, Andy held an art exhibition where he drew things on top of each other on a large poster. That poster became kind of a prototype for the book.
A friend on Facebook worked for the publisher japanime.com. Even though the company had never published children's books, they thought Andy's project would be a good fit for them. From there, things progressed in a fairly rapid and relatively straightforward manner. Andy pointed out that he delivered his final artwork by hand, rather than submitting scanned copies, which illustrator participants found refreshing.
After giving us some background on the project, Andy read through the picture book from start to finish. He pointed out that the impetus for the book was both illustration-driven and inspired by his love of verse. He shared images of a book he had previously published for adults, A Grownup's Garden of Verses. For the story, themes such as paying card characters emerged (Joker, King and Queen), as well as a sub-plot involving an octopus looking out for baby birds in a nest. He told us how some choices seemed obvious, such as A for Apple and Z for Zebra. Other choices were less obvious, such W for Whale. And some choices he suffered over, such as V for Vulture, a bird he thought might not work too well in a children's book (but when you see the book, you will realize Andy's talent makes it work).
The final third of Andy's talk focused more on the business side of things, and participants offered a few ideas on how to garner more attention for the book. Andy appreciated the suggestion of going on school visits and having children create their own art towers, as it offered a genuine way to bring art to the classroom, rather than just going along to 'sell' the book.
Andy was articulate and candid in his reflections on the project. He offered insight into not only the creative process, but also the craft and business aspects that need to be engaged with in order to get a project from conception to bookshelf. You can find out more about Andy and his work at https://andyboerger.com/