Midweek. The weekend is almost here. LOL, I can hear some of you groaning. It'll be okay.
If you've been to the site enough, you know what I'm up to. For those you that don't, in the middle of editing book 6, constant marketing/promotion, keeping blogs & social media up to date.
I was just skimming through my Twitter feed and came across a great profile article on Sandra Boynton. Her board books are wonderful. If you like her books, then you'll like the article below.
Hippos, birdies, T. rexes, pigs: How Sandra Boynton built an empire and won your child’s heart
Sandra Boynton lives on a farm in rural Connecticut. She works out of a converted barn, surrounded by pigs in overalls, frogs wearing cowboy hats, a clutch of bemused chickens and a few skeptical sock puppets.
Standing there, you get the feeling that at any moment they might all come alive and break into a high-stepping song-and-dance. Which they probably will. Because this is Boynton’s world, and in Boynton’s world, animals do whatever she wants. And what she wants them to do, mostly, is make her smile.
It’s nice that along the way the charming creatures have sold tens of millions of children’s books and hundreds of millions of greeting cards, recorded six albums, nabbed a Grammy nomination and co-starred in a music video with B.B. King. They’re not slackers, these furry and feathered friends. They always do their job — they make Boynton smile. And then they go out into the world and do the same for untold multitudes of kids.
Sandra Boynton hangs back at the farm. There’s always another critter to conjure into life. Almost every waking moment she is working, bringing more lightness, more laughter into her world. And, thank goodness, into ours.
Boynton’s office is in a converted barn on her property. (Photo by Jesse Dittmar for The Washington Post)
Boynton started drawing her animals on greeting cards to help pay for college. (Photo by Jesse Dittmar for The Washington Post)
Perhaps you’re so intimately familiar with Boynton that you can recite her books by heart. Bow to the horse. Bow to the cow. Twirl with the pig if you know how. Or perhaps you’ve never heard of her.
She is both ubiquitous and anonymous. She’s one of the best-selling children’s authors and card designers of all time, yet rarely recognized even in her own small town. This year marks the 40th anniversary of her first kids’ book, and this month she’ll release her latest record, “Hog Wild! A Frenzy of Dance Music,” which includes the Laura Linney/“Weird Al” Yankovich duet the world has been waiting for. But chances are, if you’re not currently driving a minivan with car seats in the back, you might miss it.
Boynton is 64. She wears Converse sneakers, jeans and her feathery blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. Red reading glasses hang around her neck. On a sunny day in July, she pops them on to inspect an image on her computer screen of a dinosaur walking out of his house. Then she adds a vase of red flowers. Because: Why shouldn’t a T. rex have something lovely and civilized?
This is the irreverent whimsy at the heart of Boynton’s world. A world she’s been creating and re-creating for 60 years. As a 4-year-old in Philadelphia, she was hospitalized with encephalitis. She doesn’t remember much except that it was scary, and that Bruce, a slightly older boy in the same ward, always looked out for her, but she knew, somehow, that he wasn’t going to make it.
Somewhere around the same time, she illustrated a short paper book. Here’s the text: “Once there was a funny animal. He had a birthday party. All the animals came. They did not like it, so they left. The end.” Thematically, it’s not that different from the 50-odd books she’s published since.
Her intention then? And now? “I think,” she says, “trying to create safety.”
Boynton grew up Quaker. Her mother was a pointedly funny homemaker, she says, and her father a brilliant English teacher and headmaster of the school she and her three sisters attended. She enrolled at Yale with dreams of becoming a theater director. To help pay for college, she painted the cartoon-style animals she’d been sketching since childhood onto blank gift cards and sold them to specialty shops. Over the next two years she water-colored 60,000 cards by hand.
Just before heading to graduate school in drama in 1976, Boynton swung an invite to a greeting card trade show. Company buyers were interested, but they wanted her to give the characters names and distinct personalities. “They were basically trying to turn me into ‘Peanuts,’ ” she recalls. “I said, ‘That’s not what I’m doing.’ ”
Then she was introduced to the founders of a Chicago upstart called Recycled Paper Greetings. Mike Keiser and Phil Friedmann liked her animals and offered to pay her $50 a design. “I want a royalty,” she remembers saying. “They said, ‘It’s just never done.’ ” But in the end, they agreed.
Keiser recalls that when Boynton signed on, the company was doing about $1 million a year in sales. Within five years their annual revenue topped $100 million, almost all because of Sandra Boynton.
“What a genius,” says Keiser.
See what I mean? Wonderfully written. Read on for more...
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