I don't know how many of you are familiar with the Louisiana artist George Rodrigue.
Here, this will help:
His iconic image of "Blue Dog" is one of those images that stays with you. It's haunting. It's compelling. It's intriguing. There is ONE blue dog, and he appears in every one of George Rodrigue's paintings.
I saw George speak a few years ago, and he talked about working as a painter for years before he painted this image. He had had some success as an artist, but it wasn't until that auspicious day, the day that "Blue Dog" emerged from somewhere deep within his consciousness, that he hit that next level. He became a very successful artist--one whose works sell for huge amounts of money and whose works hang in museums, galleries and collections around the world. The "Blue Dog" image has been compared to the Mona Lisa for having that unique quality that resonates with people. That je ne sais quas. Even George Rodrigue said that he doesn't quite understand why that one image hits an emotional chord with people. But it does.
Katie and I attended the MidSouth SCBWI Conference in Nashville over the weekend. It was a great conference, and we both left feeling energized and inspired. But, on the way home, we started talking about what it takes to make it in the publishing world. We were surrounded by so much incredible talent--both the illustration and writing talent. We heard some incredible first pages read and the illustrations exhibited were AMAZING. I was truly humbled.
But, talent aside, the reality is that many of the people in that room will never be published--that's just statistics! It can be disheartening when you really think about it--you're good enough, but you might not make it.
So what is it that brings a few people to the top? Hard work--yes. Tenacity--yes. Talent--yes. Fearlessly submitting--yes. Revising and rewriting--yes . . . .
But, I think that there has to be something else. A little bit of God, luck, or good karma.
That "Blue Dog" quality.
You have to have that little something extra, some little flair, that gives you that tiny edge. There must be something iconic in your work that sets you apart--whether it's a great character, hook, writing style, or voice. And, you have to be able to recognize those "Blue Dog" moments when you have them and exploit them for all they're worth. Okay--maybe exploit isn't the right word. But, you do have to latch on to those moments of brilliance (I believe EVERYONE has them at some point) and have the good sense to run with them.
So, everyone . . . what's your "Blue Dog"?