Bryce was thirteen years old when he landed his first magazine illustration job. A story of a family who rented a houseboat and made a group decision to NOT put their life jackets on and then the boat proceeded to sink, came into Pennsylvania Magazine. Of course, there was no photo to support the piece because everyone was too busy trying not to drown and did not think to document. Bryce imagined them scrambling to put on their PFD’s while the front of the boat filled with water and in his characteristic humorous style, successfully drew this hysterical event. It was pretty exciting to see his first illustration in print.
Editor Matt Holliday employed him for many more illustrations over the course of the next few years. Bryce had some challenges but got a real taste of what working with editors is like. One story in particular was about a ghost walk at a historic cemetery in Philadelphia. After he had the ink and colored pencil drawing completely finished, I read the copy that accompanied the illustration and said to Bryce, “You drew the docent in street clothing. The article says she is in period costume!”
So he had to redraw just the docent on another piece of paper, cut her out and overlap the new figure on top like a paper doll and Matt was able to scan it in. Bryce learned that he needed to read the copy concisely before beginning to draw.
Another time he was to illustrate a woman pilot from WWII. Very poor photos accompanied the story and he had to do extensive research on the web to find out what the plane looked like that she flew, as well as learn the different parts of it to make sure they were included.
One illustration got rejected when it was shared with the couple that this particular story was about. They found their portraits too cartoony they thought they looked too chubby and not nearly as complimentary as they would have liked, so it got tossed. I told him not to be disappointed, bringing your vision and their vision together can be very challenging and sometimes pleasing people can be impossible.
When my first book, A Woman’s Journey on the Appalachian Trail was reprinted for the sixth time, my publisher asked for a new cover. I hung up the phone, looked at Bryce and said, “You can do it.” He did an ink illustration of his sister walking down a woods trail from a photograph. Even though when I wrote that book, over thirty years ago, I was not a parent, both children are now present in some form in that first book.
Both of my children have grown up believing that the life of a travel writer is a charmed life. I have not shielded them from the vast disappointments of being rejected, dealing with egotistical editors, the toughness it takes to be assertive, the competition, and on and on of what goes along with the territory. Still, regardless of what their primary occupational choice is, they both want to be travel writers too, as well as travel photographers.
Sierra felt this way many years ago and so I worked on making that happen for her. By the time she went to college, she had twenty-four published pieces on her publist. By the time Bryce went to college, he had about a dozen published magazine illustrations on his pub list.
After Bryce went to Tyler School of Art and enrolled in a photography class, he began accompanying me on Pennsylvania press trips during the summer. The children always accompanied me on domestic press trips while they were growing up for they acted as my models and my companions. But now I handed my very expensive Canon camera to Bryce, told him the job to document was all his and I just concentrated on taking notes. He was great company and his creative young eye brought a freshness to my stories. Once again, my editor of Pennsylvania Magazine, Matt Holliday, embraced his work. (Yes, we have a lot to be grateful for in this area).
Since we were in one another’s constant company, I could teach Bryce about composition, show him how to frame a shot, point out subject matter that he might not consider shooting. Besides his photography professor at Tyler instructing him, he was apprenticing under me every time we went out to shoot.
When my articles were published and Bryce’s work decorated the pages, it was very satisfying for him. When the checks came in and I figured out his cut for the art, it was again very satisfying for him. Todd was concerned when he saw the hundreds of dollars going to his son instead of into our checking account and I teased him and said, “What difference does it make? We can help him at school by contributing to his groceries or he can earn his own money and pay for it himself. Which teaches him more?”
I personally, was extremely happy to have his company on press trips as my daughter has since began traveling the far flung corners of the world on her own and is rarely around to accompany me.
Recently, Bryce has observed his sister landing some travel writing jobs of her own (with Mama’s help and contacts but nonetheless) and Bryce remarked, “I wanna be a travel writer too.”
I laugh and say, “You can. You can be anything you want. You can be multiple things- an illustrator, a photographer, a writer, a rapper. Don’t ever see limits. ”
Now Bryce has half a dozen written articles to his credit- some co-authored by both of us, some on his own. I’m giving away my work and that is fine. It allows more time for me to get this book written for no one can do that but me.
But before I end, let’s talk about these marvelous editors that have embraced my work all these years, trusted my vision on stories that they might not be thrilled about upfront, who continue to doll out contracts and jobs and allow my work to grace their magazine’s pages. These published stories not only help pay my bills and put food on my table, but beyond any monetary gain, broaden me as a human being because of this travel, encounters with people and life experiences. I only feel immense gratitude towards them. BUT THEN on top of all of this, to take the leap of faith and INCLUDE MY CHILDREN into the mix, give them writing and illustrating and photographing jobs goes way beyond a work relationship.
It takes a village to raise a child and I am grateful for my editors who care enough to help my children succeed in life too, besides their mama.
Posted in: Book Blog- Modeling a Life