Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Part 12. The Creation of Dinotopia: Book Launch

When the book was published, Turner Publishing sent me on a three-month-long book tour.

They put me on Good Morning America and Larry King Live and a lot of other TV shows. Which was funny, because I haven’t owned or watched a TV since the mid 1970s. So I had never watched those programs and didn’t know the celebrities. The publisher also wanted me to go on QVC to push the book, but I had never seen that show either and I declined because it sounded like something I didn’t want to do.

They flew me to 35 different cities, and whisked me from one bookstore to another. The tour was disorienting for me, because I had to meet so many new people each day, and say the same things over and over.

It was difficult for my wife, too, since she was left home with two small kids. We only had one car, which was often left at the airport. That meant she had to put the two kids in a wagon and walk a mile to pick up the mail and groceries. When the publisher realized our problem, they sent stretch limos, but that was kind of weird too, because I just couldn’t get used to living that way.

At St. Columba's School in Ballarat, Australia

During the tour, I met lots of kids, and received boxes of letters. I tried to respond to each one, and I’ve been very pleased recently to meet some of the kids who wrote to me and even sent me their drawings. They’re all grown up now, and some are artists, which makes me really proud of them for sticking with it.

I was excited to learn that the book had a strong effect on some of its readers. One girl told me that when she read the book she was careful not to lean too far forward, for fear that she would fall headlong into the pages and never return.

I visited a school in Connecticut where each of the teachers—in science, art, and language —did a unit based on Dinotopia. I put on the costume of Arthur Denison and we had an impromptu parade in the field out back.

When Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time was published, what struck me was how each new reader discovers something of himself or herself on the island. One girl wrote me and said: “My brother and I had an argument. Can you settle it? He says Dinotopia is made up. I say it is real. Please tell us who is right. And don’t lie.”

That’s a hard question to answer. On one level, the brother was right, because as I’ve shown, the book came into existence from an arrangement of pencil and paint. But at a much deeper level, the sister was right, too.

Myths and stories are real, I tried to tell her. And they're enduring. They're the one thing that lives on through the years as the physical monuments of old civilizations crumble into dust.

A well-worn copy of the first edition
The key to inventing Dinotopia was believing that it already existed beyond the confines of my own mind. Even if I couldn’t tell the the latitude and longitude, I believed it was out there somewhere beyond the reach of my senses. To engage readers with that reality I had to pay attention to the spaces between the paintings, the moments poised across the page turn, which each reader conjures anew.

I’m grateful to Dover Publishing for making the book available again in this new edition, so that new visitors can find their way to its distant shores.

So, thanks, Jeff Poindexter for asking me that question: “What inspired you really to create Dinotopia?” I’m afraid I’ve given you a rather long answer. Now, back to the drawing board.
More at these Links:
The new official Dinotopia website
Dover has just published two new 20th anniversary editions of the original  Dinotopia book: a regular hardcover edition and a slipcased collector's edition. Both have 32 pages of new content and 45 behind-the-scenes  images. You can get a signed copy from me via Paypal at my website shop. For multiple-book or international orders, you can order them unsigned and send me an email saying to whom you’d like your books signed. We’ll ship within 24 hours of receipt  of your order.
You can also get it from Amazon, and you can give a review there.
"Origins of Dinotopia" series on GurneyJourney:
Part 1: Childhood Dreams
Part 2: College Obsessions 
Part 3: Lost Empires
Part 4:  Dinosaurs
Part 5: Treetown
Part 6: The Illustrated Book
Part 7: Utopias 
Part 8: Building a World 
Part 9: Words and Pictures 
Part 10: Canyon Worlds 
Part 11: Putting it Together
Part 12: Book Launch


phiq said...

This has been a great series. Mega thanks for the inspiration!

Mario said...

I've really appreciated this series, thank you. Many of us have some "big project" in our minds, it's good to see that sometimes our plans and dreams come true.
I hope you don't mind a possibly silly question: how did you change, as a man and as an artist, after the book was completed (and proved successful, too)? I mean in terms of self-confidence, creative freedom and power, "boldness"...

Brandon A. Miltgen said...

Thanks for the great article. It made me laugh. I can especially empathize with how hard it is not to put the momma in a rough spot for my work regarding our kids. Although my wife only has to walk to the front yard to get our mail, we do have three little ones and only one car. Family and art/work are indeed a tricky and important balance to learn. Thanks again for your sharing.

Chris Dunn said...

Thank you for a fascinating series of posts. Your dedication to the creation and promotion of Dinotopia is inspirational.

Tom Hart said...

I love this final post! It says a lot about the warmth that you inspire in and around the Dinotopia project. Kudos to your wife and kids for their support! And I applaud your desision to avoid the QVC type approach. There's something about that approach to merchandising that (in purely my humble opinion) devalues the product.

Beck said...

Awesome series. My kids will be going thru Dinotopia and a paleontology segment in Feb. I'm going to make large cardboard dinos that will "live" in class with them. Great ideas for parents in these posts. Thanks Jim! PS. I had no idea about the mega book tour - neat.

Claire Vrabel said...

I like long answers... they are much more fun!! ;)

Christian Schlierkamp said...

Thanks Jim! What a wonderful tour you set us on!! What I found most inspiring is to read about you and Jeanette and how you managed to do Dinotopia and be young parents at the same time, with Dan and Franklin being little boys.
Being Dad of two little kids and a freelance artist myself I can deeply understand what for a challenge that must have been! I bow in respect!
Thanks for that series!

Nick said...

Awesome series, thanks!

On the tan makeup, I always thought they did it out of vanity. Generally speaking though, it was an artifact of the old NTSC color standard - in order to not look like zombies on TV they wore exaggerated makeup to try to appear healthy!

Anonymous said...

I've been enjoying these latest posts, watching you grow from early schooling through the publishing of the first Dinotopia book. I also just got my copy of Color and Light (finally), and am loving it! Thanks for continuing to be an inspiration to us all!

David Teter said...

I agree, this has been a great series of posts to read.
The journal of your (years) journey.

The average person has no concept of what goes into making art let alone a huge project like this book.

youngstudios said...

any chance theres some video of the good morning america or other shows laying around?

wouldnt mind seeing it, i would have been 4 when it aired.

Aaron said...

I am glad that you shared your journey with us the past few days, like Mario said I am sure it has helped inspire many of us working on ideas or projects of our own. I know Dinotopia will continue to inspire many generations of children for sometime to come (In my case the Dinotopia 20th Anv. edition is currently wrapped and is sitting under the tree.)

Chris Jouan said...

Thank you for this fantastic behind-the scenes look. It has been personally inspiring to hear how Dinotopia came from such an organic beginning.

I have renewed inspiration to complete my own project and feel like it is not so impossible as it seemed.

Thanks again, James!

Rick Hansen said...

G'day James,

Did you get to see much of Australia when you were promoting your book? Ever consider returning for a holiday or perhaps to do a workshop event here in Oz if transport & boarding expenses were covered?

Enjoyed these series of posts by the way.


James Gurney said...

Hi, Rick, yes, I came to Australia in 1993, and had a wonderful time there. I visited Sydney, Melbourne, Ballarat, and a little of the Blue Mountains. I'd love to visit again someday if there's enough to accomplish on the trip.

Vickie said...

I've really enjoyed reading about Dinotopia's journey into book form. thanks for sharing it :)