Sometimes even your most indulgent hobby might end up changing your life. When Adele Enersen’s daughter, Mila, was born in the spring of 2010, the infatuated new mom started photographing her baby’s dreams and blogging about them (in an effort to avoid emailing her friends and family with baby pictures 100 times a day). After only two months, Mila’s Daydreams received over two million visitors, and now, over a year later, Adele’s written and illustrated her first book, When My Baby Dreams, just published earlier this month by Balzer + Bray.
To be perfectly honest, Mila’s Daydreams started out as a total coincidence — at the time, Mila was only two weeks old, and she just happened to fall asleep in a funny position on a blanket on the floor. The more we looked at her, the more she appeared like a little fencer, and we took a few pictures. That’s when I started to think of making whimsical backgrounds around Mila that would match the charm of her sleepiness — they could be her dreams, illustrated!
In the very first official Mila’s Daydream picture that I ever took, Mila’s playing with her friends in a little forest that I made out of pillows and blankets that were already lying around the house. The daisies she’s picking are from the flower bouquet I received while still in the hospital. The next day, while doing laundry, I had another vision for what Mila might have been dreaming about, and then, while cooking dinner that same night, another and another…
I’m pleased to say that I never bought any props for the pictures; it was much more fun and economical (and eco-friendly!) to rediscover household items that I’d been looking at and using for so many years. I noticed that my old bed sheets were the same color as the ocean, and that’s when I built the set for this “precious pearl” photo. The sand was really a blanket that usually hangs over our sofa, and the oyster was a combination of cloth nappies and a sarong I’d picked up during a trip to Goa. I made the octopus from an old purple bed sheet (which I was going to make rags out of, anyway). Last but not least, the octopus’s eyes were perfumed rose candles I received as a gift from my mother. Finally, I’d found a use for them!
I enjoyed my little creative outbursts so much that I decided to start a blog for my family and friends, so they could see my funny baby pictures and how much fun I was having in my new life. Little did I know what would happen after I uploaded the first few pictures. Literally over night my blog had received almost a million visitors, and my inbox was filled to the brim with comments from other parents and soon-to-be parents and aspiring parents (and people who didn’t even like kids!) who enjoyed my baby photos. At first, I totally panicked — what had I done to my private little life?! But because of my work in advertising (where the Internet plays an increasingly important role), I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop the phenomenon. My pictures were already out there, so all I could do was own them and keep going.
And after all, I’m a part of the Internet generation, so the web definitely had an impact on my creative process. I really love the way the Internet connects people and creates otherwise unlikely interactions, and on several occasions I got fantastic ideas from my fans and friends for new daydream photos.
Thanks to the Internet, I was also contacted by several literary agents and publishers very early on, and this was only after two weeks of blogging, so that’s when I realized that I’d stumbled upon something special in Mila’s Daydreams. I was a few days away from signing a contract with one agent, when I received an email from another agent, a young fellow named Stephen Barr at Writers House. I have to admit — I started dancing when I got the email from Writers House (they represent some of my absolute favorite authors, like Neil Gaiman and Stephenie Meyer), but the greatest impact was the way in which Stephen wrote to me. He was funny, very sincere, and really witty. You can tell so much about people from the way they write, and I knew immediately that this was the person I wanted to work with. He’s been helping me at every turn and he found me a superlative publisher in Balzer + Bray, and I’ve been so happy working work with my editor there (and the co-publisher of the imprint), Alessandra Balzer. I feel really lucky to be surrounded by such awesome people!
During the book design process, I was very hands on — I’m happy (and relieved) that everyone tolerated me, as I can be a bit of control freak! Before I knew who my publisher would be, I told my agent that I had a very clear vision as to how Mila’s Daydreams ought to be built into a book. In essence, the photos are the “main thing,” and our main thing was to keep the main thing as the main thing.
It’s been especially interesting working on a book where a healthy portion of the content was already available online for free — the Internet certainly made things simpler compared to the hard work of polishing a design for print publication! However, the Internet is still just one dimension. A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes it’s the 1,001st word that really opens up a project and transforms it into something beyond its original scope.
Adele Enersen is an author, amateur photographer and blogger living in Helsinki, Finland with her daughter, Mila, her composer husband, and another baby on the way. She’s currently on maternity leave from her day job as a copywriter and concept designer. While she spends most of her time looking after her daughter, creativity is still a big part of her life, whether that means writing and illustrating stories or avoiding housework (such as making funny characters out of the laundry instead of washing it).