What will 2009 bring? I'm pondering this question as I sit here munching on Fruit Loops, watching Clifford with my 8-year-old and wondering where 2008 went. Something about Fruit Loops and Clifford makes me feel hopeful and inspired. Maybe it's the 12 grams of sugar. Or maybe it's the fact the Norman Bridwell, author of the Clifford series, is just a regular guy from Kokomo, Indiana. Just "down the road a piece" from where I sit. Here's a bit of Bridwell's story from the Scholastic website:
It was in 1962 while he was working as a freelance filmstrip and slide illustrator and drawing mostly cartoons that Bridwell decided to put together a portfolio of colorful drawings and make the rounds of children's book publishers. Now married, with an infant daughter — Emily — he was hoping to supplement his income with some extra work illustrating books.
Bridwell visited about fifteen publishing houses but there were no assignments to be had, and even worse, seemingly little hope for any in the future. One editor at Harper & Row went so far as to tell Bridwell that his art by itself was just not good enough, and she didn't think anybody would ask him to illustrate a book for them. But amazingly enough, she also made the suggestion that helped bring him the phenomenal success he enjoys today. She advised him to write a story to go along with one of his pictures. She picked out his sketch of a baby girl and a horse-sized bloodhound and casually said, “There might be a story in this,” Bridwell remembers.
He wasted no time in taking her advice, but he did decide to make the bloodhound even bigger and more of an “all-around” dog — much like the dog he had wanted as a little boy, one that he could ride and who would be a fun companion. Bridwell remembers speaking to the editor on a Friday, and “By Monday, I had done this little book about a girl and her dog,” he says.
Now all he needed were names for his characters. “I wanted to call the dog 'Tiny,' but Norma (his wife) said that was boring and suggested 'Clifford' after an imaginary friend from her childhood,” Bridwell says. The little girl's name, however, was easy. Bridwell named her Emily Elizabeth, after his young daughter. He dropped off his drawings and manuscript at Scholastic and tried not to expect anything. Three weeks later the phone rang. Scholastic wanted to publish Clifford the Big Red Dog. At the time, Bridwell couldn't quite believe it. “I said to my wife, 'Now don't count on there being any more. This one is just a fluke. I don't know if there will ever be another one.'” But it was no fluke — so far over 40 Clifford books have been published. So, take heart, writers, from Bridwell's inspiring story. 2009 may be your year!