I am writing this post a bit earlier than my usual mid-month timing because I really wanted to share my excitement for this dream-come-true moment that is happening in March…
I’m a published children’s book illustrator!
(Someone pinch me please!)
I have seriously dreamed of getting to illustrate children’s books for years and never quite know how it would happen. But I did have faith I would get there eventually. So I thought I would share the story of how it unfolded for anyone reading this that has similar ambitions. I am NOT saying that this is the only way or even a typical way for how this could happen. I’m just sharing how it happened for me.
I have been a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) since 2008. SCBWI is THE trade organization in the world of all things children’s books, so I actually do think this is very useful for anyone else wanting to get into the world of books for kids. As an illustrator, you can post a portfolio. I have had a portfolio on the site since I became a member. I try to update it somewhat regularly to show my best work and the style and subject matter of work that I would love to illustrate.
In fall of 2021, I was contacted by Darcy Pattison, an award-winning science writer. She found my portfolio on SCBWI and was interested in having me illustrate a book she had written about the desert. After looking her up I realized that this was a rare opportunity! Darcy’s books, published with Harcourt, Philomel/Penguin, Harpercollins, Arbordale, Dayspring, and Mim’s House (her own publishing house) have received recognition for excellence with starred reviews in Kirkus, BCCB and PW. Five of her books have been honored as National Science Teaching Association Outstanding Science Trade books. In short, she’s the real deal!
We negotiated the terms of our agreement, and I started initial storyboard sketches in the fall of 2021. When we had agreed on the rough outline of the book, I started developing more detailed sketches. And from there, I did my thing – using traditional collage to create the key elements of the story, digitizing them, and finishing the compositions in Photoshop.
Because this book would be published through her own publishing house, we did not work through an art director, editor, or all the other middle-people involved in traditional publishing. This worked out great for me. I really enjoyed working with the author directly. Darcy is an absolute wealth of knowledge, decisive, and very responsive. She had a clear vision for the book, but still gave me quite a bit of leeway to interpret her words and story in my own way.
As an ecologist, I soaked up learning about the desert and its inhabitants who are uniquely adapted to their “all-or-nothing” relationship with water. Darcy knew that she wanted to be able to show how several desert species move through their entire life cycle in the span of a week when spring monsoons hit. So, we worked together to identify ways to incorporate this into the illustrations.
Most of the initial spreads were done by mid-spring of 2022, but as we worked to finalize the book in preparation for printing, we continued to fine tune images and details. We even did this after her printer had made proofs right up through the end of the year to get the species information as accurate as possible! This is not ideal. And I’m not sure that we would have had this same leeway if the book was not being produced by Darcy’s publishing house. Darcy was cool and patient with the process – and my learning curve!
So, there you have it! “I am the Thirsty Desert” is being released on March 14th and I am so stinkin’ excited to share it with you! You can pre-order your copy right over here. Books will ship on March 23rd.
Thank you for all your support!
With gratitude and love.