Do it with Madonna
When Loren Long found himself hugging Madonna – the Madonna – amid a blast of camera flashes, he wasn’t nervous, just dazed.”There was just this swarm of media and paparazzi. It was just all surreal,” said the Lexington native, a children’s book illustrator who has risen to international fame with a book written by Madonna.
It was part of Long’s strange trip that led to an extended stay on The New York Times Best Seller list as partner to The Material Girl on the picture book Mr. Peabody’s Apples.
Now he has a multi-year contract with a publishing house. He may write a book of his own. He has been talked about on Jay Leno‘s Tonight Show and Live With Regis and Kelly. He gets a cut of the sales of the book, which has been translated into 38 languages and is, in the words of the publisher, “huge.”
Nicholas Calloway, president of Calloway Editions, which is publishing Madonna’s series of four books for children, said finding just the right artist was crucial.
“As we approached each story, we were trying to find someone who matched the spirit of the story,” said Calloway. For Mr. Peabody’s Apples, set in a town called Happville, they were looking for someone “in the great tradition of regionalist painters.”
After searching “far and wide,” he said, they approached Long. It was very hush-hush.
Long was told the author was famous, but that was it. He figured that because it was Calloway Editions, founded by the son of the man responsible for the Big Bertha, it must be a golfer. Maybe Tiger Woods.
When it turned out it was Madonna, his first thought was: “Wow!”
“It was bizarre. Here I was working out of my basement in a suburb of Cincinnati,” and one of the biggest stars in the world beckons.
Still, he wasn’t ready to commit until he read the book, which is based on a 300-year-old tale that Madonna learned in her Kabbalah class. He said he would have passed on it if it had been awful.
“I am serious about children’s literature,” he said. “I’m not after 15 minutes of fame.”
But he liked the book, and after the publisher told him, “Madonna wants to know what is in your head,” he connected with Madonna creatively. The first painting he created, the one that landed him the job, turned out to be the cover.
For the record, Madonna was easy to work with. Though he didn’t meet her in person until the book launched, she was “very, very involved,” sending detailed responses to his sketches, which first had to be sent to Calloway, then faxed to wherever the globe-trotting, Britney-kissing superstar might be.
“She treated me like a peer,” said Long, who now has a multi-book deal with Philomel Books, part of Penguin Young Readers Group. “It was a creative experience, second to none“.
“I’m fortunate and blessed to find something that I love. I do feel like God has given me something very special.”
His favorite Madonna song, by the way: Like a Prayer.
From an article by Mary Meehan, Lexington Gerald Leader