Several years ago, I decided to publish a story I’d written about a leaf who learns about surrendering to life’s process. I had always admired Elsie Archer’s work, and hoped she would illustrate it for me, but was too afraid to approach her.
One Sunday morning, several months into my dithering, I woke to what Julia Cameron calls ‘marching orders.”
Go to church, said a voice in my head.
Church? I hadn’t been to church in a very long time. After a busy week, it felt much more holy to pause and reflect in the comfort of my own home (and jammies).
Go to church, the voice insisted.
No one in my family was willing to join me, so I set off alone.
I sat through the entire sermon, but there were no thunderbolt directives from the pulpit. I chatted with people at coffee afterwards, but there were no messages hidden in casual conversation. I was preparing to give up and go home, when I looked across the room and saw a young woman I knew.
At that point, alien forces took over my body.
I excused myself and walked across the hall. I smiled and said, Hello, Lyndsay, good to see you, how are you doing? I’m writing a children’s book and wondered if you’d be interested in doing the illustrations.
And then I stopped to pick my jaw off the floor, gobsmacked by the words that had just come out of my mouth.
Lyndsay, in all her youthful enthusiasm, said, Sure. I’d love to have a look at your story, although I’m heading to ACAD in a month and might not have a lot of time to work on it.
I headed home, a titch confused by what had just happened. (Okay, that’s an understatement – I was very confused.) Lyndsay’s art work was great, but not what I had envisioned for Leaf. Her work was more suited to another story I had written.
So send her that story, said The Voice.
Which I did. With much trepidation. It’s a scary thing to share your writing, especially when you have something as audacious as publishing it yourself in mind. Once you say things like that out loud, they tend to take on a life of their own.
I was surprised, and gratified, to hear that Lyndsay loved the story. She already had images dancing in her head and would love the opportunity to illustrate my book. It would be a challenge to fit it in with her school schedule, but she was up for it and would give it her best shot.
Lyndsay’s happy reaction to Down in the Jungle gave me the courage to finally pick up the phone and call Elsie about Leaf. Generous soul that she is, Elsie agreed to read the story and then–miracle of miracles–said she would be willing to do the illustrations.
Within a week, after over a year of deciding whether or not to publish one book, I had two illustrators working on two books. I was worried about how I was going to pay for all this, but The Voice had nothing more to say on the matter.
Elsie went right to work on Leaf.
Lyndsay worked on her illustrations whenever she could which, thankfully, wasn’t very often. Her school schedule was way more intense than she had anticipated and even breaks like Christmas and Easter didn’t afford a lot of time to really sink into the project. Plus there was always homework. Summers saw her juggling work commitments so our original agreement, that she’d have the work done by early 2012, was relaxed.
Several times, especially when I was overwhelmed by the herculean task of getting my book out into the world or despairing that I would never pay off the debt I had incurred to publish it, I considered asking Lyndsay to stop. I’d pay her for the work she had done and cut my losses.
But then I’d feel bad for letting her down and reneging on a deal. I didn’t want to break my own contract! Besides, it was a sweet, little story . . .
Well–as is often the case in clear-eyed retrospect–it all unfolded perfectly.
Leaf’s launch was June of 2011 and Lyndsay completed the illustrations for Down in the Jungle in November of 2013.
Happily, I had made enough money from Leaf sales to pay Lyndsay for her illustrations, but was still waaaaay in debt from the first book project and I was not going to incur more debt until I had Leaf paid off AND had saved enough money ahead to cover the printing costs of Down in the Jungle.
At my current pace, that would take years and, despite the fact that more and more people were asking about my next book, I was fine with that.
Lyndsay, however, now graduating from her four year ACAD program, really, really, really wanted the finished product in her portfolio.
I was sympathetic, but firm:
I’m sorry, Lyndsay. I just can’t do it. Unless you have an investor in your back pocket?
And that’s when she came up with Kickstarter.
Hundreds of potential grassroots investors for creative people with no money.
She is definitely a persistent gal. And tech savvy. Which is a very good thing because there is no way on this planet, in this lifetime, that I would have ever done such a thing on my own.
What? We need to create and send out a newsletter letting people know what we’re doing?
What?! We have to make a cool page for the kickstarter site? Create something that will inspire people to invest in us? Figure out all that techie mumbo jumbo?
What?!! We have to shoot a video? Me? A talking head?
Thankfully, no, we didn’t have to do any of this stuff. Lyndsay did it (well, I did have to get in front of the camera–shudder–but at least she can edit out all the really terrible stuff). I helped out where I could: made up pledge packages, figured out a timeline, wrote my bit for the newsletters. But all the creative, video-y, techie stuff is Lyndsay’s doing.
So . . . (here’s another little bit I can do), if you’re curious, check out the first newsletter. If you’re interested, subscribe to it and, if you don’t mind, spam your friends . . . oops . . . I mean share it with those people in your life who a) like to support artists and/or b) enjoy a good picture book.
And it is a wonderful picture book.
Which is what it’s all about, in the end: getting one of the best kinds of treasure* (a good story with very cool illustrations) out into the world for people to enjoy.
Hope you can help!
And, if you can’t, you can still hop onto the newsletter for the ride.
* this phrase is taken from the very last line of the story – you just got the tiniest smidgeon of a sneak peek!
Here’s another one: