Monday, August 7, 2017

Don’t Fret, Fred, Your Day Will Come (hopefully sooner, since it’s already later)

spot illustration from Don't Fret, Fred by Traci Van Wagoner
Fred from Don't Fret, Fred Version 1
I’m happy to say that Fred is finally ready (again) and has ventured out into the wide world all shiny and new.

I revised and polished the manuscript, sketched out the dummy and completed (or should I say, redid and reillustrated) three samples spreads and it is now out into the world for consideration by agents and editors. Whoopee! And to tickle your curiosity, it is being seriously considered somewhere. To be named later if it comes through.

Don’t Fret, Fred is a wild romp of a tale in which Fred discovers that exciting things can happen when you look up from your e-things and use your imagination.

 This story has pretty much always been about that. Even though the journey has meandered to and fro, the heart of the story, the bare bones of a bored kid, Gram knitting and telling a wild yarn which spins out of control and Fred having bring them home has remained the same. Gramps has always been like, here we go again. The happenings, the specific interactions has changed, but the core has remained the same.

This picture book has gone through three major revisions (not to mention the many, many edits, and fussing with words, paragraphs, spreads.) I sent out the manuscript alone many years ago. I got personal rejections with editors who liked the humor but felt there wasn't enough there to pass the last hurdle to acquire it. After a pile of rejections, I put it in a drawer where it sat with all those rejection letters for a looooooooooong time.

Until…

My nephew stirred interest again when he casually said one day, "don't fret, Fred." He remembered the fun repeating line from my book from when I read it to him years before. That gave me heart. I pulled it back out, reworked it with my husband and business partner and my wonderful crit buddies (where would I be without their invaluable input?), and I hammered away at it till I got something I was happy with again.

So, good to go, I created a dummy book and finished sample illustrations.


Don't Fret Fred, version 1, by Traci Van WagonerDon't Fret Fred Cover version 1, written and illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner

Don't Fret Fred, version 1, by Traci Van Wagoner

Don't Fret Fred, version 1, by Traci Van Wagoner



Fred had his debut showing at the SCBWI Winter Conference in NY, I also sent it out to to editors, agents, and hit the twitter pitch parties. I received some interest here and there, but I wasn't quite happy yet and neither was anyone who saw it. Something niggled at me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. In one of the twitter parties, I saw someone was interested in a book with yarn bombing and -- boom! -- the seed of an idea was planted. Then taking a walk in my neighborhood (on what we call the chicken walk) I came across this:

yarn bomboing on the chicken walk by Traci Van Wagoner
Yarn bomb on my dog walk

And the idea clicked. That’s what I needed! Gram is a yarn bomber. I went back to work.

Edit. Revise. Redraw. Sketch. Paint.
New Fred sketch by Traci Van Wagoner
New Fred sketch adding yarn bombing

A new manuscript, dummy book and sample illustrations were born now with a yarn bombing gram. You see her behind the scenes yarn bombing all the places they land, which in the end gives Fred an idea to help bring them home. I think this has tied it all together with humor, surprise, and a bucket load of imagination


Don't Fret Fred illustration by Traci Van WagonerDon't Fret, Fred version 2 by Traci Van Wagoner


Okay, I was done. Sent out some more and received a smattering of interest. Then I received a great comment on twitter from Guiseppe Castellano which basically said (I can’t find the actual comment), “fun, but strange there are purple outlines.”

This was something that had been niggling at me, but I’d ignored for many reasons. It was an illustration style I liked and had developed for various reasons which I won’t go into here. I came to a conclusion that I needed and should and wanted to redo the final illustrations yet again. I wanted to loosen up and have fun just painting and breaking free from a conception of what my style was or should be. So I did, and I had a ton of fun. And this is what happened.

Don't Fret Fred cover illustration. Written and Illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner

Children's book illustration by Traci Van Wagoner

Sketch for children's book written and illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner

illustration for Don't Fret, Fred by Traci Van Wagoner
©2017 Traci Van Wagoner, all rights reserved

There you have it, the basic progression of this book. It's been a long road, and now I hope I'm at a point where others will enjoy it too and someone will be willing to take it on. One can hope.

And here's my query schpill:

Don't Fret, Fred written and illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner. Dummy book available upon request.

Don't Fret, Fred by Traci Van Wagoner

Cut off from the electronic world, Fred is worried a day with Gram and Gramps in the boonies will be boring. Boy, was he wrong. While balling Gram’s yarn (yawn!), he asks her for a story. Crazy and out-of-this-world things begin to happen, spinning them up into a wild yarn of an adventure bigger than all of them. Fred will have to use his rusty imagination to get them back home before they are lost in space.

Dummy book available upon request.



I would love to hear what you think of Fred and his yarn bombing Gram. And please feel free to share any pictures or stories you have of yarn bombing in your neighborhood.


If you'd like to see more of my illustration process, click here to see the making of The Mermaid's Gift by Claudia McAdam, published by Pelican Publishing.

Thanks ever so much for sharing in my journey.