WEST CORNWALL — Space — it’s all around us but do we ever notice it unless it is filled with something or someone? What about empty space? Do we think about it? Does it serve a purpose? Author Jacque Lynn Schiller and illustrator Lydia Nichols have created “Space Matters,” a delightful and inventive book for children from four to seven-years-old. But its charm and information will appeal to children — and adults — of all ages.
Most of us don’t think of space unless something is filling it.
“I went to a lecture about architecture,” explains Schiller. “and it involved a discussion about designing space with breathing room. A foyer — a pause before entering the main area, a period and space before the beginning of the next sentence, spaces between buildings, the pregnant pause before you blow out the birthday candles — pauses that allow you to take in the view, get your bearings.
“From that moment I started noticing spaces and gaps and pauses. I started making lists of them and decided that I would write a book for children, explaining how it’s okay to slow down and appreciate the power of empty spaces. In a sense we are all surrounded by these pauses during this pandemic — waiting for life to continue as it was.”
“Space Matters” is Schiller’s first book for children (and hopefully not her last) but she has been involved in creative endeavors since she was a child. And with her insatiable curiosity she is always discovering new paths to follow.
“I grew up in a very small town in Texas,” says Schiller, “which is probably why I then gravitated to a small New England town where I now live. I was the kid who was always up a tree reading a book or on my bike exploring, in my own head and my own thoughts. I always liked to write and I made cards for everyone.”
Schiller is a multitalented and eclectic person, perpetually seeking and trying new things. She has been a jewelry designer, a party planner, community volunteer, writer, and art lover, among other things.
“I like to say that I am an unapologetic dilettante and a self-described dabbler. My career path is dictated by whatever I’m interested in at a particular time. There’s always a creative element, but I like to think you don’t have to limit yourself. I believe one has to be curious. If you feel drawn towards something, seek and find out more about it. Stay open-minded and maybe climb a tree once in a while — with a good book (or postcard) in tow.
“I have a closet full of abandoned hobbies,” Schiller admits, “but I am never disappointed in having tried them. You never know what’s going to work out. That’s the best part.”
Schiller wrote “Space Matters” in a matter of weeks and then edited it down to the number of words required by her publisher. Meanwhile, the illustrator began her work.
“My publisher found the perfect person to work on this book,” says Schiller. “From the get-go Lydia understood what I was trying to say. I had written in the pauses and space breaks. You have to wait a second before you turn the page. You think you are looking at one thing and then you turn the page and it’s something totally different. I wanted to introduce deeper concepts, which the drawings represent so well.”
Lydia Nichols, the illustrator, easily interpreted what Schiller was saying because she, too, places an emphasis on shapes and spaces.
“Like most people who grow up to be artists of some variety, I spent a lot of time drawing as a kid and just never stopped. Shapes and lines are a language that just really makes sense to me, which is why I love working with them.”
Together the two women have created a work that is sure to attract children, engage their curiosity, and hopefully become a classic. And, of course, it will appeal to the child in all of us. The images are sharp and colorful and their charm is contagious.
Schiller, who spent some time in New York City, now makes her home in the wooded serenity of West Cornwall, with her husband Tom Schiller, himself an Emmy-Award winning writer and one of the original creators of “Saturday Night Live.” While the couple has not collaborated on a project, Schiller is looking forward to a time when they might.
Reviews have praised the book calling it “beautifully brilliant in its simplicity.” Because of the ongoing pandemic personal appearances to promote Space Matters have been canceled. However, on Saturday, Nov. 7 from 3 to 4 p.m., Schiller will be doing a book signing on the porch at The Wish House.
“The Wish House is a go-to spot for gifts, sometimes for myself,” says Schiller. “And owner Bianca Griggs is very supportive of artists in the community, so I am thrilled to be doing a socially-distanced event there.”
Wish House is located at 413 Sharon Goshen Tpke., West Cornwall. For more information visit www.wishouse.com.