I’ve a great book to share with you today. It might just set someone on the path to their future career, and will certainly make you giggle when you read about some of the weird, wonderful and disgusting things people do for a living!
So what do you want to be when you grow up? A doctor, a lawyer, an athlete? Or perhaps something a little less conventional? Maybe you’d like to work with animals but being a farmer is too run-of-the mill? Have you ever considered being a snake milker or a pet preservationist? Book Boy was surprised to read about Japan’s train pushers. It’s their job to physically push people onboard busy commuter trains and making sure no one gets caught in the doors – sometimes the rains are packed to double their intended capacity!
Now let’s hear from Natalie about where where fascination with unusual jobs comes from, and about the process of putting her book together:
I’ve always been obsessed with weird jobs and I think I blame my family. My grandfather was a part-time cab driver, part-time singer at weddings and funerals. My mother did painting restoration (in the book!) My father was once an extra set of hands for a traveling wrestling group in France that would set up their ring in the parking lot of grocery stores that needed help with promotion (France is weird). He then was a carpenter in Amsterdam and now is the superintendant of the building I grew up in here in NYC – a job that contains many strange jobs. It can be raining in Apt. 5B one day, and the next, he’s teaching my sisters and me to kill a rat “humanely”: you catch it in a plastic bag, tell it you’re sorry, and swing it as hard as you can against a wall. Not traumatizing at all.
I’ve also had run-ins with a few strange jobs myself. For a year I sold 2 ft tall dolls in a fancy store for $100 dollars a pop. At this store there was a restaurant where the girls could have lunch with their dolls, who also got their own plate and miniature versions of the same (real) food. The waiters had to talk to the dolls like they were alive and I think that was more upsetting to me than the rat-bag thing.
I also used to cat-sit a lot and was once was trapped in the owner’s kitchen for a good half an hour because I was terrified of this cat and she chose to block the doorway for fun. I eventually used a chair, like a tiny lion tamer, and climbed over a long dining room table to make it out the front door. Not my proudest moment.
So you could say strange jobs have been on my mind for a long time! Some of the jobs in the book come from research but a lot of them come from a lifetime of collecting! For instance, I first heard about chicken sexers when I was 13 the day my sister Camille announced to our parents (she was 11 at the time) that she would grow up to be a chicken sexer. She found out how much money they made and decided it would be an easy/adorable way to make a living. Some jobs came from my love of reading books by Mary Roach and David Sedaris who are professional collectors of strange information and people.
When I knew I wanted to make a children’s book, the idea of putting together this weird collection of jobs made a lot of sense to me – especially since, as a kid, the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question always stressed me out and I would like to have known earlier that you’re not limited to the top 5 most obvious jobs out there!
When making this book, research was the very first part of the process (and maybe my favorite??). I absorbed as much information as I could – from books, documentaries, interviews, articles, and put all the job titles in a pile in front of me on index cards. I then tried to make some sort of structure: these are in space, these are morbid, these are emotional… and once that was figured out, I then wrote the main text that links everything together. I worked super closely with my publisher Nosy Crow, especially when choosing the order of the spreads. I think making the whole thing flow was the trickiest part. Next comes drawing thumbnails of what I thought would be the funniest ways to show the strangeness of each job. (Maybe this was my favorite part, actually?) I then made roughs for each spread and a super rough sample of the color palette throughout. Finally, comes the clean-up stage, where I’m still making design decisions, and sometimes deliberately drawing something really fast and loose because sometimes the most interesting shapes happen by accident! The thumbnails and writing stage all happens on paper but the rest (aka roughs, color roughs, clean-up) is all done in Photoshop. I have a full-time job as an animator for advertising so this would all happen at night and on weekends. I couldn’t begin to count the hours of podcasts that fueled this book, but I will say that most of them were true-crime related. I can actually remember what I was listening to when I look at specific parts of the artwork in the book, which adds a spooky layer to the story that is just for me.
As an animator it was really fun and challenging to communicate ideas with only one image. I had a blast and really look forward to making the next one!
Being an illustrator and an author sounds like an incredible job to me! Thank you, Natalie for sharing those (slightly disturbing) inspirations with us!
*Thank you to Nosy Crow for sending me this title to review*