My newest book, Sailor's Christmas Sweater, just came out. I'm proud of how it turned out, I'm proud of the beautiful artwork my illustrator Anastasia Yatsunenko created for it, and I'm proud to finally have a Christmas book out because it's my favorite holiday. But what I'm most proud of is the role my co-author and seven-year-old daughter had in creating this book.
Someone recently asked me what is special about this project. This is what I wrote:
I wrote this book with my daughter. Though I teach high school, I also homeschool her. While I was off work during the pandemic and summer this year, I was still writing and marketing my books, as well as homeschooling her. Over the summer, it occurred to me that as much as I love Christmas, I'd never written a Christmas book. And as crazy as the pandemic had made the world around us, I think we were craving a little Christmas magic, the familiar coziness of our favorite holiday.
In July, Rachel and I started discussing the plot of the story, the setting, who we'd want to see as characters (the polar bear was her idea, the penguin was mine), etc. I taught her that all stories have some type of conflict that drives the story forward (I said our polar bear needed to want something - colors was my idea; she thought our story needed a blizzard, which we added in, too) and how each story needs resolution. I was using it as a teachable moment in our homeschooling journey, but I also thought how amazing it would be if she went along for the whole ride with me to see what publishing a book looks like, what kind of work it takes, and what the feeling of accomplishment is like once it's done (trust me - it's pretty amazing!). Can you imagine the boost of confidence that kind of project could give a shy homeschooled seven year old?
So we sat down to write. We removed a character (one that I had originally created but that we realized didn't serve the story and replaced it with the elf because "We need an elf, Mama. It's a Christmas story!"). We added in the polar bear (her idea) and the penguin (my idea). We talked over plot points, added character names (Sailor was my idea, but she named the penguin after one of her favorite Disney Christmas movie characters, Goofy's son Max), and we polished our story.
I gave it to a Beta reader, then I got Rachel involved with the process of illustrating. We used an illustrator who I had previously worked with on some of my other books, Anastasia Yatsunenko. I showed Rachel how we lay out the story and illustration concepts on a storyboard to help visualize where images should go. She loved being involved in looking at each new image as it came in from our illustrator, and she would even make suggestions for revisions about things that I didn't even think of when looking at the artwork. It was amazing to see her being a real little lady boss!
But the most amazing thing that came out of it was her excitement when she saw her name on Amazon as an author and when she finally held a proof of the print copy in her hands. And as each new review comes in, she dances around and squeals with joy after we read it together.
It's been an amazing experience. When she's a bit older, I'll show her the marketing and advertising aspects of the indie publishing business. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a writer. Authoring a book back then was way less accessible than it is today. I realize how fortunate a time I live in, and if any of my three girls want to follow in my footsteps, I will teach them every thing that I know.
It has been a blessing to see this develop through her eyes. I appreciate all of the support from our family, friends, and book launch team. If you'd like to check out our book, you can find Sailor's Christmas Sweater here.