Twenty years ago my husband and I spent our honeymoon in Hawaii and New Zealand. We lived in Brooklyn at the time. I worked as a children's book art director at Four Winds Press, but had originally moved to NYC study illustration at Pratt Institute. I was nurturing other illustrators in my job, but still hoping for my own picture book contract. My husband writes, so we decided to combine forces on picture book projects and make our trip tax deductable at the same time.
We collaborated on a whaling story set in Hawaii and submitted a dummy to Rosemary Brosnan at Lodestar Books. I worked with Rosemary in my first publishing job at Dutton and she had been pestering me since to show her my portfolio. The whaling story was not acquired, but Rosemary saw something she liked in my work and offered me my first picture book to illustrate, Juan Bobo and the Pig retold by Felix Pitre. At tax time the whaling story covered the Hawaii part of our honeymoon. My husband and I also came up with stories set in New Zealand. Perhaps some day I'll dust off my Maori story, A Paddle for Mokopuna, and I should definitely polish my dummy for my husband's funny kiwi story, Lester's Bug Hunt Goes Bad.
Whenever I travel, even within the U.S., I make sure there is some way I can make the experience meaningful for my work life (nudge, nudge, wink, wink—write it off!) When I moved to California after living eighteen years in NYC, I was thrilled to have research that took me back "home." Sky Dancers is about Mohawk high steel workers building the Empire State Building. I spent extensive time researching in the NY Public library as well as the ESB, and as a bonus got to reunite with dear friends, too. I enjoyed traveling to many Noguchi exhibits in New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles when I researched The East-West House, and recently gave a presentation at a Noguchi exhibition in Laguna Beach. All of these trips combined business and pleasure.
When I leave home to speak at conferences, give presentations, meet with publishers or editors, I save all my correspondence documenting our plans, a calendar of my appointments, and any pertinent receipts. If I travel for recreation I make sure to come up with new story ideas set in that location. There is nothing really shady about this. I'm a storyteller—visually and verbally. I approach life finding the narrative around me.