Miten Lyhtyjen maa syntyi/syttyi

How the Land of Lanterns was lit

Illustrator and visual artist Karoliina Pertamo (KP) and author Katri Tapola (KT) talk about their work and how their poetic and autumnally atmospheric picture book Land of Lanterns came to be.

KP: Katri wrote a small text on Facebook. It was like the beginning of a story. I don't remember which came first, the text or the fact that for some reason we started sending each other pictures of the lanterns in our house.

KT: In October 2017, I wrote like this:

I opened the door, behind it was October. I stepped through the door and was dazzled by the splendor I saw. Gold was shining everywhere. They had promised rain, it was shining. A pearl of water sparkled. The old people were very slow. They saw the glimmer. I stood there, newly arrived, and I saw them. And when darkness fell, all those stars lit up, and all those snails began their journey with lanterns on their heads. The lanterns didn't go out all night. It always looks beautiful when the land is full of snail light. I haven't thought of going back. The path of snails attracts more, the mouldering, the dark window of November. A flash of blue in black. It's a wonderful blue, my eyes sink into it. I'm going now, I'm sloshing here, I'm gathering the coins that drop from the sky for the journey.

If I remember correctly, I sent my little text to Karoliina via e-mail or messenger, which we used to send every now and then when we do or come up with something together. In my case, the text that went by the working title Lantern Book seems to have originated from these types of visions: lanterns of snails wandering overhead, the dark earth, entering into the darkness where all light and glory is.

KP: Little by little, I looked for lantern-shaped flowers and seed pods in the garden and sent pictures of them as well.

Katri asked which flowers in the garden are still blooming even though the leaves are falling in the forest. Purple bell, sneezeweed, cup-and-saucer vine...

KT: Karoliina and I were apparently mesmerized in the same way by the glow of autumn, I can't really think of any other explanation for why we now finally have the Land of Lanterns book in our hands. For three autumns, we message each other. Karoliina sent photos of her lovely garden. I lit lanterns here and there and sent pictures of them. The idea to make a picture book for small children started from these messages. Is 'thought' the right word? Perhaps we rather had a sight, a vision, a goal that could be shared... Darkness is good and soft. And only in the dark does the light shine and glow while maintaining mystery. That's the beauty of autumn. I looked at this beauty and at the same time wrote my short poetic text, which at some point I dared to show Karoliina with shame. Shame comes with this job, always. The illustrator's approval means a lot to the author. Karoliina and I had previously done five books together, so we have a relationship of trust. As a writer, I do not interfere with the illustrator's work, as I respect the illustrator's professionalism and vision.

KP: As the leaves fell and the paths were filled with the gold of the leaves, the idea of ​​a book came to life several autumns in a row. There is little text in the book. It doesn't tell about all the characters or environments I've drawn. In fact, looking at it later, the text gives very few hints about what should be in the pictures. However, when I was drawing, I absolutely felt that it was telling me everything I needed. Maybe only a small hint of the atmosphere is needed to create the image.

KT: I have written 31 books for children and adults. Perhaps the biggest lesson in recent years has been understanding how to trust the short form and giving space. This is especially important in certain picture books and illustrator collaborations. I don't want to write too much text, subtlety is often good. I appreciate children's picture books as an art form, they are suitable for all ages. I thought of introducing the lantern book like 'aimed at poetic babies and grannies'. Sometimes I felt like an (enthusiastic) crazy person when I was doing my handiwork with my one-page text, in which Karoliina saw the possibilities, but which the publishers were not interested in (difficult to market, to whom it is aimed, etc.). I wanted to find the right level with the language. I wanted the text to be poetic, without falling into cuteness. I tried different styles, more direct, more poetic, all kinds, and it really took time. In the end, I was somehow satisfied, even though the ending was difficult for a long time. Karoliina's opinions were also important - after all, the illustrator is a true connoisseur of the text. It's a terrible thought to be a boring children's author. However, the language had to be brought out in all its richness and expressive power in a short text. Language has rhythm, alliteration, surprising word choices... also gaps, line breaks, giving space, what is not said.

KP: Curiously, I also felt the continuity of the story through the book somehow more meaningful than in those where there is more story. I felt that I was carrying the wordless part of the story forward with the help of the pictures especially strongly.

KT: The author chooses a language register that fits each book. The choice is not necessarily conscious, but is determined by, at least in my case, the subject, in its own way, and so each work has its own voice. The beauty of language means a lot to me. Children are wise, also linguistically, and I never want to be guilty of explaining to children in my texts. However, this does not have to mean obscurity.

KP: For me, image-making often starts with color and atmosphere. It may be that I paint colors, before I think more about what figurative elements will be in the picture. I'm not sketching, I'm gradually growing the picture to be more complete in all its aspects. I make traces by painting and drawing and drawn elements on paper. I combine them in a computer and do the rest with a digital drawing tablet and stylus. The characters in the pictures also arise from the atmosphere, from what kind of creatures can live and walk in the landscape of this story.

KT: I think that over the years my own style has crystallized and become shorter in form. However, in my work I have to struggle with the question: am I a 'real' writer when I write a short picture book text? Of course I am, but where did that idea come into my head? Does it tell about the general cultural appreciation and valuing of literature in terms of greater/lesser, real/marginal? Despite the fact that when I write for children, I feel that I am at the heart of the matter, often also approaching poem. A children's author must also be cooperative and give the illustrator freedom, while seeing in his or her own way, for example, the dramaturgy of a page turn.

Fortunately, Etana Editions saw the potential of the book and we received a positive publishing decision from Etana in the summer of 2019. The road of a 'small' book can be so long. I'm happy if our book delights and soothes children and adults who read aloud to them, as well as everyone else who longs for picture books. It is the possibilities of picture book art that fascinates me and moves forward, and of course the belief in children who have the ability to be open and the opportunity to grow into beauty.

























































































































































Back to blog