A Second Sneak Peek of My Children’s Book, “A Birthday”

I’ve already introduced you to my labor of love—a children’s book called A Birthday that I’ve been working on for…um…more than 20 years. With that amount of time, “labor of love” seems more than appropriate, right?

A Birthday is based on a student film I did that caught the attention of Disney Animation Studios back in 1987. The story follows a little old lady, Emma, who is alone on her birthday.

So far, I’ve finished five of the 32 illustrations that I need to complete the book. The next two illustrations, pictured below, were images that I created simultaneously (Old Emma & Young Emma), trying to make a time jump with these two.

An illustration from Brenda Chapman's A Birthday

Brenda Chapman illustrations

It’s funny seeing the little girl. My daughter was 2 when I did this one, and she always held her hands up and twisted them back and forth when she got excited about something—the above pose was inspired by her.

And the funny thing is, my daughter is named after my old lady character “Emma.”  The character is named after my wonderful Great Aunt Em whom I loved dearly. She always had kittens somewhere on her farm whenever I’d visit. In the barn, or the old chicken coop, under her porch—it was magic!

Aside from having a bunch of illustrations to finish, I want to rewrite the story and possibly add to the ending. I find it interesting that a project can sometimes be punched out in a really quick space of time, and then others are a very slow evolution – you never know how your muse is going to affect your creative spirit!

I have one more illustration to share with you, so stay tuned. And in the meantime, I’m making plans to head back to my studio and finish Emma’s story.

Is there something that you’ve been working on for years and struggle to finish?

  • oh I love these! You must finish this story Brenda! x

  • Bertgrubman

    I love these Brenda, especially “Older Emma” – I just gotta know what’s inspiring her grin!

  • I too, can’t wait to see what you have planned for this story. It looks wonderful. I love the colors.

  • Stephani Soejono

    These are quite lovely. Pastels? 🙂

  • Claudia

    WOW! can’t wait to see more of this!
    Looks wonderful so far ;D One of my goals its to wirte a book for kids…I can’t imagine something better than illustrate something for kids and then see their happy faces 🙂 I did illustrate a book for kids in highschool, it was so great to see them so interested in the story.
    Like I said! Amazing, I’d like to know more about this!

    • Thank you, Claudia! You’ve done one more book than me! I illustrated a story for an author when I went to my community college. But I wasn’t very smart and let the author have them before I was paid. The author and my illustrations disappeared. And I’ve never seen the book – I don’t think it was published. Ah, well. Live and learn. – I don’t consider that one “done” – and this one has a LONG way to go.
      Thanks for the interest! Makes me want to keep going! 🙂

  • Cbrew

    I have enjoyed perusing your blog. My professor told me about you and your career as a director for Pixar because of a comment I made in class about the animation industry being male dominated. My question is: what are the special qualities that a woman needs to get into the animation industry and what do you do to keep your spirits up in a heavily patriarchal environment?

    • We don’t need “more” special qualities – we just need to be talented like the rest. We may just have to prove it more than the guys do – depending on where you work.
      I kept my spirits up by really enjoying the people I worked with – getting inspired by them – having a good laugh everyday with them.

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  • Thearetical

    I can sympathize with the long-term projects, I have many in my head that I’m hoping to release into the wild some day.

    How do you pick one project to focus on? Do you ever have multiple “labors of love” all vying for your attention at once?

    • All the time! And sometimes it paralyzes me to the point I don’t work on any of them. But if I push myself, one will stand out more than the others… and that’s the one I work on.

  • Yep — I started writing a novel (for adults) back in ’92, around the time I was at Disney, and only finished it two years ago! Now an agent is shopping it around. It’s far from perfect, but I was amazed at the energy it freed up, getting it out of my hands and moving on.

    Just completed a second novel I’ve been writing for years, and a picture book. It feels so good to finish. Wonder why its such a struggle sometimes??

    Your finished illustrations are so beautiful — please DO finish so the world can see them!!

    • Thank you, David. It’s that eternal struggle… in my case it seems more to be procrastination. So many things to do… I will get there!

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