How Oddfellow’s Orphanage Came to Be: A Story with Five Chapters (and a Moral)
Today, we’re thrilled to introduce our new monthly Editor’s Corner feature with a post from editor Mallory Loehr. She shares the inside scoop on one of our favorite new middle grade titles, ODDFELLOW’S ORPHANAGE.
Chapter 1: The Bad Habit
I have a Bad Habit. It is called Etsy. Some of you may share this Habit (in varying degrees of badness), finding yourself on the marvelous Etsy website looking at all the cool and beautiful things that people make by hand and fantasizing about all the things you could buy, or all the things you could make should you actually have any extra time.
Chapter 2: The Artist
Emily Martin, author and illustrator of ODDFELLOW’S ORPHANAGE, has a shop on Etsy, selling prints, buttons, and some original art. The first time I saw her work I fell in love. I stalked her onto her website and read her blog. I watched her make paper dolls with Martha Stewart. I ordered prints. Then I read all the little blurbs that went with every single piece of art—her descriptions of her characters had a strong, unique style and point of view that matched her art style. I noticed that there were a set of characters who came from an imaginary place called Oddfellow’s Orphanage. Aha! I sent Emily an email.
Chapter 3: The Phone Call
The emails flashed back and forth, culminating in a phone call. Yes, she was interested in doing a book. Yes, it could be a picturebook. Yes, it could be something longer (the Oddfellow’s kids seemed to call for a longer story). Emily agreed to work with me on writing a young middle grade story, featuring the orphans, inspired by episodic classics such as Winnie the Pooh. It would be filled to the gills with art.
Chapter 4: The Manuscript and Art:
We spent a year working on the text alone, sending drafts back and forth on the internet from Manhattan to Portland and back again. Somewhere in that year Emily acquired an agent and signed a contract. Once the text was done, we moved on to the easy part—the art. First the book was designed lovingly by Nicole de las Heras. There were more conversations with Emily about the design, the font choice, the style. There were no arguments, just excited suggestions. It was as if this book was meant to be. The sketches came in—cute as a button. The final art came in—and blew us away (including the production manager!). Emily tinkered with the art until the last minute, we’d get an email, “Ava isn’t quite right, let me send a new-and-improved Ava” or “I think I can do a better bee for page X.”
Chapter 5: The Book:
Well, I think the book speaks for itself. It is a perfect little creature with dark brown ink inside, a blue cover with golden bees on the spine, dressed in a matte jacket. It is as sweet to read as it is too look at, but not too sweet. You’ll find a little girl who never speaks, an onion headed boy, a horned bunny, a teacher who takes kids out to find a sea serpent, and a lot more besides.
Sometimes Bad Habits Make Fabulous Books.
*all images from theblackapple Etsy site