My two-odd-year stint as a designer with Greenwillow Books was a shining period in my life I like to call “Camelot”. I had been working as a design assistant with HarperCollins Children’s Books for about two years when talk around the water cooler turned to an open position with Greenwillow. (This was my first “office” job, so I found things like “water cooler talk” to be very exciting.) It was my boss, creative director Barb Fitzsimmons, who convinced me to apply for the position. “It’s like a small family up there,” she said. “The way publishing houses used to work.”
The Greenwillow offices were located on the floor above the design department, and as I headed up for my first interview I felt like I was entering a new office building altogether. Greenwillow posters lined the walls, and designers, editors, and copyeditors had offices clustered close together—a novel concept to me.
This is how I remember my interview with Paul:
Thankfully it turned out he was not really so intimidating; I was just nervous. My follow-up interview with the rest of the Greenwillow team is also kind of a blur. By that point I realized Greenwillow was something special and my thoughts were mainly, “I WANT THIS JOB. I WANT THIS JOB. I WANT THIS JOB.”
Luckily for me I got the job, and I moved my pencils and paper up to my luxurious new digs on the fourth floor.
Greenwillow WAS like a little family, a fact that really struck home shortly after I began working there. Kevin Henkes was visiting the office, and we were all invited to a pizza lunch in the conference room when he arrived. “Me too?” I asked. “But I just started working here. I’ve never worked on one of his books.” It didn’t matter—I was now part of the family. And a famiy eats together! Free pizza and meeting Kevin Henkes in one day—one of the highlights of my career thus far.
As in any family, I was expected to do some chores around the house—aka, my job. Paul gave me a lot of freedom and responsibility in my assignments, which helped me grow tremendously as a designer. One jacket design that was particularly memorable (and one that I, uh, actually documented) was for The Curse of Addy McMahon, by Katie Davis.
So here is the final jacket:
It was a long and twisty road to reach that version, however. Here is the very first version of the jacket I came up with:
It was decided that more colors were needed, and a little more levity.
So, I added the firebolt-wielding fairies (from an interior illustration), and some colorful comic book-y panels, since Addy keeps a graphic novel-esque journal. Great! Everyone loves it! I breathe a great sigh of relief and move on to the next project. My work here is done.
. . . OR SO I THOUGHT! Months later, I get the message that every designer dreads: “_________ doesn’t like the jacket. We need something new.” I don’t actually remember at this point who objected to the jacket, but it didn’t really matter. I was back at square one, this time with the added bonus of a ticking clock!
Kept the fairies and the cloud, lost the panels.
Lost the fairies, added photographic girl.
86 the photograph, sub cartoon girl! Much discussion as to whether three clouds were better than one.
And that’s all she wrote! Now the jacket is immortalized on a wide range of exclusive merchandise.
I now live far from the Greenwillow clan, but I am happy and secure in the knowledge that the design team has found a suitable replacement to carry out their important work.
Victoria Jamieson is the author and illustrator of Bea Rocks the Flock, published by Bloomsbury. Her next book, Olympig!, will be published by Dial in 2012. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband Herm. Follow her further exploits on her blog.