Jean Dayton has been putting authors and illustrators together with their audiences for a whopping 18 years! I had the good fortune to work with her for ten of those years. Jean booked me gigs in places as varied as Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, California, Hong Kong, Singapore, and India. She made it easier for me to travel to schools and communities and to present at conferences. She took care of all kinds of details that my mind could not wrap itself around–travel and itineraries, time commitments and audience size, contracts and payment. She sent me emails and texts along the way to make sure all was well.
Now Jean Dayton is closing her business, Dayton Bookings, and retiring. I got to talk with her about this transition in her life.
[Uma] First of all, happy retirement! You’ve been booking speaking gigs for writers and artists for quite a while. Tell me about what you see yourself doing in your newly found leisure time.
[Jean] Thanks, Uma, for your good wishes on my retirement! I’ve been toying with the idea for a year or two and finally decided that the time was right to leave my booking days behind and begin to pursue some of my other interests. I’ve been a Rotarian for 16 years — almost as long as I’ve been a booking agent. And, in fact, it was my job as a booking agent that opened doors for me in Rotary International. For years, I’ve given an annual holiday talk to service groups suggesting great book gifts for ages 2 through 92. Following a talk that I gave to a group in Stillwater, MN, the president stepped up and asked me if I’d like to join them. Rotary is a group that encompasses many of the things most important to me: literacy, world peace, health and wellness, and international exchange. It was a perfect fit! I’ve been as active as my work schedule would allow me to be for 16 years. Now that I’m retired, I’ve taken on a role in my district as Foundation educator which will entail speaking to 36 clubs throughout central and southern Indiana about the important work that Rotary does around the world and at home. I’m just delighted to have the time to do this and to give back to an organization that has meant so much to me over the years.
[Uma] Sounds great! But you’re also starting to create art of your own. Talk about that if you will. You spent years exploring other people’s creative impulses—linking people with the organizations who know or want to know their work. What does that experience mean to you now as you explore your own artistic abilities?
[Jean] Yes, I established a new business as I retired my old one. I’m now an entrepreneurial artist working under the name “Lakeside Artglass.” During a trip last spring, I discovered a wonderful mixed-media format of using broken glass shards on painted canvas and sealing it all with resin. Although I’m incapable of drawing so much as a stick figure, I’ve always had a keen sense of color and design and this format allows me to play around with broken and recycled glass as well as fossils and rocks from our lakeside property.
For years, I worked with wonderful authors and artists as I booked them into schools and libraries around the world. Story has always been important to me and linking students and educators with fine stories and storytellers was extremely rewarding. Through my artwork, I feel like I get to join the community of visual storytelling.
[Uma] Of course, story is in everything we live and imagine. Can we talk about the process of creating and developing it? I know how that can work in writing–drafting, revising, and finally letting the work go into the world. How does that work when the materials are glass and natural found objects?
[Jean] I find myself looking for images everywhere now that I can create in glass and stone. Because I live on a beautiful lake in southern Indiana, I am surrounded by woods and water and have the opportunity to take in the lake beauty daily. Many of my pieces are of sailboats on the water, trees and flowers from around Lake Monroe or butterflies and dragonflies that thrive in our garden. Since I’m using broken glass as my medium, I piece things together as though they came from a puzzle — although it’s a puzzle with no concrete solution! I just shift the pieces until they suit me before sealing it all in artist’s resin.
[Uma] You were a part of nurturing the community of writers and artists who work in children’s and YA publishing. Many of us who worked with you also became colleagues and friends over the years, in other contexts. Do you have an arts community now?