Getting your break in children’s publishing is a dream come true, at least it was for me. One day at the BYU Writing and Illustration for Young Readers Conference, the illustration teacher, Eric Rohmann (My Friend Rabbit) said, “I like your book. Send it to me and I will show it to my publisher when I see him at the American Library Association Meeting next week.”
I was so excited and it is always nice to get a complement from someone you respect. I sent the book to him, he took it to ALA, showed it to his publisher Simon Boughton, Simon liked it and I had a signed contract in about 6 weeks. I should write a book called Getting Published in 2 Months.
It is a fun story to tell and is a happy place in my memories but, there is more to the story. In my basement I have a set of framed prints from a book called Cowbird. It was finished in 1998 as part of my MFA exhibit at Utah State University. The frames are covered with a sheet and every 3 to 5 years I look at them when my wife wants me to move them deeper into the basement. The images are OK, the story is a bit preachy, the words rhyme, and I have a hand full of rejection letters that you can barely read because they have been photocopied so many times. But it was a break through for me. Just finishing a 32 page picture book is a difficult challenge.
Now let’s go back to 1989 when I was attending Art Center College of Design as a graphic designer. I enjoy graphic design but I really wanted to make images, I wanted to be an illustrator. Then to make it worse, I doodled all the time and my doodles were cute. Cute and art school don’t mix well, at least that was my impression. Cute was not a compliment during critique. So I kept drawing because I liked it but I kept the drawings to myself. It was a challenge but I have come to terms with the “cuteness” of my work.
In 1971 Mrs. Spencer, my Kindergarten teacher, complimented my coloring of brown spots on a giraffe. I wasn’t talented with numbers and letters, but I could color and it felt good.
Many people have dreams of writing and/or illustration books for children and many of them become an overnight success just like me. It just took me 40 years + two months.