I am thrilled to announce the publication of my newest picture book Chelsea’s Crabby Day. I wanted to share with you the journey and future of this project.
My first picture book, Midnight Forest, is available at John Millington’s comic store Jersey’s Gaming Cards & Comics. One day while speaking with John at Jersey’s, he brought up a project idea about creating picture books to raise awareness of the importance of community. He seemed very excited and showed me three characters that had already been created for the purpose. They just needed a writer.
I asked him to email me the characters and spent some time mulling over the project. It seemed like a big task to take on: community is important, but how do you turn that concept into a picture book? Good thing I was working on my MFA in Children’s Literature from Hollins.
The characters John sent me were created by the very talented artist John Ayers, whom I had not yet met. I could only see that Ayers was able to capture a lot of personality and charm in these characters: an otter, a crab, and a heron. This is an excerpt from the email I sent back to John:”Heather Heron is helpful – so you can be a Helpful Heron!
Oscar Otter finds opportunities – so you can be an Opportunistic Otter!
Chelsea Crab rallies her community – so you can be a Community Crab!”
At the time, I was finishing classes for my MFA and let the project fall back into the recesses of my mind. Hollins University puts on a silent auction every year, and in 2017 I was able to be the final bidder for a mentorship with award-winning author Kathi Appelt.
After graduating from Hollins in May 2018, I was ready to jump directly into the mentorship. Having read some of Appelt’s incredibly written picture books such as Oh My Baby Little One and her phenomenal YA novels such as Maybe A Fox, I knew I was going to be given some expert advice. I told her about this project and sent her the characters I was given, expressing my desire to capture the importance of community in a fun way.
As working with Appelt on this book progressed, I sent Ayers a copy of a roughly-final copy of the book and he began working right away. I would see new FaceBook messages pop up from him with one or two illustrations he had worked on, and the thrill of seeing a book come to life made my heart soar.
One day, Ayers and I met up at Jersey’s and filled John in our progress. It was hard to imagine I had been speaking to John about this not that long ago and here we were showing him our work in progress.
You’ve heard the phrase “it takes a village.” It couldn’t be more true for this project. John was able to bring his community together to share his idea and ask people to help. I was able to rely on my own community in Appelt as she used her wisdom and experience to guide my imagination. I also relied on the extremely knowledgeable Jeanne Wilkins, HCS Publishing’s Editor In Chief, to give the book its final edit and blessing for publication. Wilkins has been a fantastic editor and fellow-author for me in my writing career. She has always been able to provide excellent feedback.
Of course, I wouldn’t have had the ability to publish this without HCS Publishing! Which brings me back to the time I timidly talked to Dave Lee about my dream of publishing a picture book with large print, and now here I am a part of the HCS team.
Never before has something I have written rang so true for me. I needed my community to make this happen, and what a wonderful result has come of it!
So what’s next?
Chelsea’s Crabby Day is the first of the Chelsea’s crew series. I am already working on the second book through my mentorship with Appelt. This one will highlight Oscar. As you can guess, the third will highlight Heather. After that, the three will continue to learn how to best be a valuable part of their community.