Thursday, August 18, 2011

My First Children's Book: Ball! Ball! Ball!

Our son Jonas was barely a year old when he started saying the word, 'ball' all the time. If he saw berries on a tree, rocks on the ground, a lamppost, a balloon, bubbles, cheerios, etc... he would become really excited and exclaim, "Ball! Ball! Ball!" and point in the direction of what he saw.

Sometimes it was difficult for us to figure out where he was pointing. If it was round, "ball" was his word of choice. Even now at 22 months, he still enthusiastically will point out anything round in his field of vision and yell, "Ball! Ball! Ball!"

My husband was the one who gave me the idea to write and illustrate a children's book. Writing the book wasn't too hard, as Jonas gave me plenty of material. He’s a very happy kid and loves trying to tell me all about the world he sees around him, even if he doesn’t have the words to explain it.

The illustrations are what took me the longest. I decided to use fabric to make the pictures, in a similar way that I had used fabric on my Onesies and Christmas stockings. As it is with a lot of projects, this one took a bit longer than planned. When I began the book, I was pregnant with Lukas. I gave myself the goal of finishing by his birth. Unfortunately, this didn't happen, which meant that I had to finish the book with two children around. Lucky for me, my new boy is a good sleeper.

This week, I finally got all of the pages completely finished and sent off to print. Soon I'll be able to sit down with Jonas at bedtime and read to him a story all about balls. I can't wait.

Here’s the how to:

1. First, I wrote the story and typed it into Microsoft Word. Then I asked my husband for his opinion, changed a couple of things and asked my family to read it. After getting their opinions, I finally had my story written.

2. The storyboard came next. I used my sketchbook and decided how many pages I wanted my book to be (around 20). Then, I marked in my story where I needed pictures and began sketching little ideas for each one. This process takes a long time, because it’s a lot of brainstorming and trying to figure out what kind of pictures you are going to use. You don’t want to start the project, until you know for sure what you are doing. In the end, I decided to show a little boy and his perspective on the world he sees using simple forms and bright colors, mostly primary.

3. After I had my storyboard, I started making 8 x 8 sketches of each page showing things exactly how I wanted them to look on the page.

4. Then, I took some tracing paper (in my house, that’s actually typing paper), and drew over each of the shapes from the picture. I cut out these shapes.

5. I laid the tracing paper shapes onto fabric which had a layer of Wunderunder heat bonding fabric ironed onto the back of it. I traced the designs onto the fabric and cut them out.

6. For the background, I used a piece of cardboard to make a rectangle which would fit two 8 x 8 pages. I covered this rectangle with a piece of cream colored cloth (I just taped it to the back with scotch tape so that I could easily take it on and off). I pealed the Wunderunder off the shapes and placed them onto the material so that they looked just like the sketch and then ironed the pieces in place. Once the material cooled, I took the entire cloth piece off the rectangle, and put a new cloth piece in its place. Now I was ready for the next page.

7. After I finished creating all of the pages, I scanned them into my computer. I hadn’t used Adobe Photoshop since 1997 in school, so I had a lot of catching up to do. I spent quite a few evenings, looking online at tutorials and forums to try to figure out what I was doing. After a bit of practice, I learned how to do all of the layers and tricks I needed for my book. As Photoshop is not easy to explain, especially for me in this type of blog, I will keep it simple here. I basically made sure my pictures were all the proper size, here 8 x 8, and I added text.

8. I figured the easiest way to make a nice book, would be to use Shutterfly, or one of the other online photobook companies. They make it easy to pay relatively little for a hardback book with pictures. If you have never made a photobook before, you should really try it. They make great coffee table books. I chose Shutterfly, because it accepted my 8 x 8 layout and I had used it before. I uploaded all of my pictures, now jpegs, and added them to my photobook as whole page photos.

9. Once again, I shared this book with my husband and some family and made sure I got all of the grammar right and didn’t make any stupid mistakes. Then, I sent the book off to be printed. Voila! My book was ready.

My family has asked me if I want to publish this book. Maybe I will. I’m still not sure yet, as the world of children’s book publishing is very new to me. I’ll need to do some research before I can find out just how feasible it would be (Publishing can get pricey). Nevertheless, I like the idea. If any of you know a good publisher or some tips, please pass them on. Otherwise, if you would like a copy of the book, just let me know.