Well-known Northern Michigan author and illustrator Brianne Farley is at it again, with a story inspired by her Traverse City childhood! Her latest children’s book Secret Tree Fort will be released April 12, but on April 9 it will be for sale at downtown Traverse City’s Horizon Books during a family-friendly event.

Read on to learn more about the Traverse City event and the after-party celebration at The Little Fleet (including kids activities and special-themed cocktails for adults!), with this Q&A with Brianne Farley.

Congratulations on your new book Secret Tree Fort! Can you tell us a bit about it? 

Thank you! Secret Tree Fort is the second book I’ve written and illustrated with Candlewick Press. The first was Ike’s Incredible Ink, which the students at Bertha Vos turned into a parade float for the 2014 Cherry Festival!

Secret Tree Fort tells the story of two sisters who are ushered outside to play. One sister just wants to read a book, while the other tries to grab her attention with descriptions of a tree fort that grows ever more fantastical in the telling. There’s a water-balloon launcher, a trapdoor, a basket for snacks, and … even more, which I can’t tell you about because it’s a secret! It’s inspired by my own sister and the tree forts we designed as kids growing up in TC.

It seems like you have a great release party going on in Traverse City! Would you mind telling us what to expect at Horizon Books and the after party at The Little Fleet?

The release party at Horizon is going to be so much fun! Secret Tree Fort is releasing to the world on April 12, but it is for sale early at Horizon Books on April 9 at 3 p.m. We’re going to read the book, talk about the process of making a book, draw an amazing tree fort as a group, eat snacks, do a book signing, and take photos in monster hats and pirate eye patches (hmm, that will make sense once you’ve read the book).

From Horizon we are going to head over to The Little Fleet for an after party. There will be coloring pages for kids, Secret Tree Fort-themed cocktails for adults, and more monster hats for everyone. It’s really just a chance to hang out and celebrate the finish of a big project and thank everyone who helped make it possible. All are welcome! (I’ll also be reading Secret Tree Fort and showing some of the original illustrations at ELF on April 8.)

We can also see your artwork around town in other formats … like on the wall at The Little Fleet! How did that come about? 

Yes! I love working with Allison and Gary! When I was living in Brooklyn I came back to TC to read Ink at my alma mater, Old Mission Elementary. At that reading, I met the amazing Stephie Luyt, the TCAPS librarian and media specialist, and she introduced me to the Jonas’. We decided I’d paint the mural freehand, in one day, while The Little Fleet was open, which made the whole experience really fun. Now that I live in TC, I love hearing people talk about how they see themselves in one character or another. I learned recently that someone got a tattoo of one of the characters! Me and a few other artists are working on some limited editions t-shirts with The Little Fleet, and we’ve hosted a live-model drawing night there. It’s such a great community space.

Where else can we see your work?

I’m wrapping up the illustrations for another picture book, Charlotte the Scientist is Squished, written by Camille Andros, which will be published by Clarion Books in early 2017. Later that same year, my third picture book with Candlewick Press will be published (if all goes well!). It’s called Everything is an Elephant. I also do editorial illustrations and take occasional commissions for private illustrations and murals. You can always find my work at briannefarley.com and in-progress work on Instagram @briannehfarley.

If you’d like to make art together sometime, I’m working with the lovely people at ELF to plan a few classes for kids and adults this summer. I also host a monthly art night, Workshop Social, at my co-working studio, Studio Smiths. Its a super casual night where about ten people get together and learn a new art-making skill, such as printmaking. We’re blocking printing textiles on April 5 and making pom-pom mobiles on May 5. You can reserve a seat at studiosmiths.com/workshopsocial. I’m also doing a stationary printing class at the East Bay Library on April 7. It’s a busy month!

Illustration above: SECRET TREE FORT. Copyright © 2016 by Brianne Farley. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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Photo(s) by Candlewick Press