amy young
school visits

Although the story for Belinda the Ballerina came to me in a flash and took very little time to write, it took me ten years to get it published. It happened like this.2

One night in 1991 I was eating dinner with my husband Paul. Suddenly, a story popped into my head. I told it to him, writing and sketching as fast as I could. Here is the very first picture I did of Belinda when she starts dancing again. I was drawing fast!

I wrote the story and put together a dummy (a book that lays out where the text and illustrations will go, using rough sketches of the artwork). The dummy version of that same picture is below.

I was ready to be published! I did my research and sent my package off to an editor in New York.

5I waited. And waited. And waited. After nine months I got a nice rejection letter. I had made it past the first cut, but the story was just not quite right for them.

That happened over and over. Finally I got sick of submitting it. I gave up, and just focused on my other illustration jobs.

Years went by. In 2001 I did some artwork for a story called Spike and Cubby’s Ice Cream Island Adventure, written by my friend Heather Sellers. I made appointments to show the work to some art directors in New York. Henry Holt loved the Spike and Cubby story, and made an offer a week or two later. Oh my!

The people at Viking, on the other hand, didn’t feel that Spike and Cubby was right for them. They asked if I had any other stories. I didn’t even have Belinda with me, but I told them about it. “Send it!” they said. I was dubious, but I sent it. Amazingly, they loved it. 4

We spent a little time working on the text. The editors helped me make it the best, tightest story it could be.

Because the text had changed a bit, I had to do a new dummy. Also, after ten years my art had changed, and I wanted to bring Belinda up to date. Here she is in 2001 dummy.

Once the new dummy was approved it was time for final art. I always do “color roughs” for myself, so I can think about the role color plays. Here, I like the way the wall behind Belinda looks like a blue sky.

3Are you amazed at how much work I do before I even start the final art? Fortunately, most of the time it feels more like playing than working.

For me, the really hard part of the whole process was all those years of waiting to get the book accepted in the first place. I couldn’t help but get discouraged. But I learned that if you have a dream and work hard at it, you may be surprised to find that some day your persistence is rewarded.

You may think I was happy when, after ten years, Viking bought Belinda. The truth is, I was more stunned than anything else. In fact, I didn’t really believe it had happened until I had the actual book in my hands, about a year later.

THEN I was happy! I still am.1

inspiration | research | practice | belinda the ballerina