MY BAGS ARE (almost) PACKED...
I'M CHECKED IN AND READY TO GO!
I am nervous.
I am excited.
I am quite frankly, FLIPPING OUT!
I've never been to Hawaii and I am so excited for this opportunity to meet and write with other authors in a place that I know will be magic. I know that I will feel so connected to the environment. For a little more insight on what I will actually be doing, here is some information on the incredible people I get to work with next week, Ying Compestine and Mark Gottlieb.
Fiction Instructor Ying Compestine is an award-winning author, inspirational speaker, and former food editor for Martha Stewart's Whole Living magazine. Ying is the author of 20 books published by Simon&Schuster, Penguin, Abrams, Henry Holt and Co., including the novels Revolution is Not a Dinner Party, Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier, A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts, and the forthcoming Morning Sun in Wuhan. Many of Ying’s books have won numerous awards globally and are required reading in schools around the world. A few are currently being adapted into TV shows and a feature film. She has also worked as the spokesperson for several international companies such as Nestle Maggi and Celestial Seasoning.
Nonfiction Instructor Mark Gottlieb is a highly ranked literary agent at Trident Media Group both in overall deals and other individual categories. Using that same initiative and insight for identifying talented writers, he is actively building his own client list of authors. Mark is excited to work directly with authors, helping to manage and grow their careers with all of the unique resources that are available at book publishing’s leading literary agency, Trident Media Group. During his time at Trident Media Group, Mark has represented numerous New York Times bestselling authors, as well as award-winning authors, and has optioned and sold books to film and TV production companies. He previously ran the agency’s audiobook department, in addition to working in foreign rights. Mark Gottlieb is actively seeking submissions in all categories and genres and looking forward to bringing new and established authors to the curious minds of their future readers.
Mahalo, y'all! I'll check back from Hawaii... 🤙🏻
This update is to notify customers that Island Girls will be temporarily unavailable to order on retailer websites and through ingram for the next week or two. This is a result of a misprint on the original file uploaded. Unfortunately, it was a mistake on the publishers side.
Please be patient, I'm so sorry about this. It will be back up and ready for ordering before we know it!
In the meantime, if you would like to order signed copies of Island Girls through me,
please fill out the order form here .
Thank you for your continued support! I appreciate it so much!
An ocean of gratitude,
It's been one heck of a crazy month. The launch of Island Girls: Free the Sea of Plastic went better than I could have ever imagined. I am not sure what I was expecting but it was crazy, in a good way!
I was hopeful that I would sell about 150 books (which was incredibly optimistic) during the holidays. I was blown away by the interest and positive reviews people were giving me for the book. I had originally ordered 200 copies from the publisher to sell on my own, realizing that I might have some left over, which would have been fine. But, I found out pretty quickly that I needed to order another 200 books. And then another 200 books. And then another 200 books. I ended up selling about 750 books. 750 books! That is 750+ books that are now in the hands of our youngest activists inspiring them to help our oceans and our under-the-sea friends.
A lot of people have asked me how it feels to have such a successful book? I honestly can only answer that question with a huge sense of relief for the turtles and our under-the-sea friends and motivation that we are doing something to spread awareness about plastic in our oceans. I had plenty of moments in my career as a scuba diving instructor where I would look into the eyes of the turtles, the rays, the barracuda, and the sharks and really feel them talking to me. I told them I would help them and this is my little way of creating awareness about what is happening underneath the sea. I am very proud to have kept my pact with my under-the-sea friends. I am going to share with you all below some of my moments, so that you can understand some perspective... and maybe even a deep calling to help and protect them, too. Seriously, when a turtle or another under-the-sea friend looks you in the eye, it's very powerful. I know they are all rejoicing underwater and THANKING YOU for the support, for teaching our children the importance of caring for our environment and all the love for this book. I do believe that it WILL make a difference!
So, anyway, I am just so happy with how this has all gone. I'm blown away and very humbled. Thank you. The launch of Island Girls has been so much fun and I'm really looking forward to everything that is coming up in the future. I cannot thank everyone enough for their support. Below are some photos of all that transpired over the past 6 weeks. I am thrilled the book sales have hit 800 and counting. I am looking forward to:
The time is finally here. The book is starting to post on websites(!!) I cannot thank you all enough for the excitement. It is contagious and I really feel the love and support from so many family and friends.
A lot of you have asked how you can help me. Here are a few ways:
Writing with Rosie weekend was a huge success!
I just got back from another whirlwind of a weekend in Dallas, Texas. I attended the workshop with the intention of learning more about the children's picture book industry, working on my own manuscripts, having FUN, and connecting with other women in the KidLit community. I did all of that... and so much more!
A quick recap of what the weekend entailed with the wonderful writers who flew in from New Jersey, California, Virginia (me), and a few from Texas:
This year Rosie added Jackie Kruzie to her faculty for the weekend, and she was so valuable! Jackie's experience as an editor brought our manuscripts to the "next level". I am forever grateful to Jackie for leading the edits on Island Girls: Free the Sea of Plastic which is publishing in a few weeks. We took my manuscript down from 523 words to 302, which is just so incredible in the world of picture books!
I am also very thankful to my new critique group, appropriately named "The Gut Fillers", for your willingness to share your work with me, the group, your honest feedback, and your support of all things Island Girls. I cannot wait to meet you all again at another retreat!
Rosie and Jackie, thank you again for everything. I can't wait for the next retreat!
For more photos and updates from our weekend in Dallas, visit Rosie's website online here: https://www.rosiejpova.com/writersretreat2022.html
I want to introduce you to my incredible illustrator, Svitlana Holovchenko!
The publisher I had signed with asked me if there was anyone in particular I wanted to work with on illustrations for my story after the entire clipart debacle. I knew this was my opportunity to find my dream illustrator and send her information to the editor.
I scoured the internet for websites and portfolios over the weekend so that I could submit four illustrators I'd be happy to work with. I spoke in depth with each illustrator about the scope of this project, the timeline, and that they would have to be ok with the author (me) being very involved with the vision. I wanted to leave space for the professional to take over on the creativity front, but as far as the basis of the story, my own children as the characters, the fact that this picture book is based on a true story, it had to be somewhat accurate. After finding four amazing illustrators, it was clear that Svitlana was the one I had fallen in love with her illustrations... and I wouldn't be satisfied with anything else. My daughters, Sadie and Josie, also selected Svitlana as their top choice. It was completely unanimous.
After the publisher told me they didn't want to pay for illustrations (another story for another time), I had my agent get my rights back immediately, and out of the deal, immediately.
I knew I had to work with Svitlana... so I took a leap of faith and hired her, signed her onto the project, and I have never looked back. I have been so incredibly happy working with her.
Even though we do not speak each other's language, we have found a way to use google translator to communicate and share the vision of the project. She and I have bonded over motherhood and our care for the environment, particularly the ocean. She is Ukrainian and has been living in Germany over the past few years. She is one of the most talented illustrators I've ever seen, ever. I am so lucky to have her illustrate this very special story... after all, it is the illustrations that make a book come to life, and trust me, she has made my story come to life.
We are getting close to the finish line... and will have a pre-order link for the book in the next few weeks. Sneak peeks of her illustrations will also be coming soon. In the meantime... here are some of the illustrations that made us completely fall in love with her work...
HUGE shoutout to Svitlana... Thank you for making this dream become a reality for me!
You can follow her on instagram @svitlanaholovchenko and twitter @sholovchenko or find her online: https://hotarudesign.jimdosite.com/art/
That's all for now...
I was asked to speak as a Featured Author at the Palmetto State Literary Association Conference in February in Hilton Head, SC and Plastic Ocean Project is sponsoring me! Wahoo!
I'm so honored that people believe in the power of ISLAND GIRLS, my little picture book that started as a dream. ISLAND GIRLS is really becoming a very real reality. A reality I am so proud of for sticking up for my vision and being strong enough to be patient and publish it the right way. I hope to share a sneak peek of a spread or two in the coming weeks.
So, for all who are asking, what is happening behind the scenes? Here is a small snapshot of what I am working on:
Those are the bigger pieces right now... there are so many little details that I need to include and I am just getting really organized because it's a lot.
If you have any ideas for PR / news outlet leads / book launch signings, contact me please.
Thank you for the continued support and excitement! It's all happening...
Wow, guys. This summer has been WILD. The kids are finally back in school so I have a minute to update the blog on all of the ups and downs of the past few weeks.
MAY: I took my time going back and forth discussing at length the illustration process, how the illustrator would be selected, negotiating that I would get a say in the illustrations. Afterall, this book is about my family and has my own children in it SO I really care about what the illustrations look like!
JUNE: After weeks of back and forth discussion, I signed the deal.
JULY: I waited a little over 3 weeks and I got the first spread from an "illustrator" that was in
fact from FIVERR and computer generated graphics, aka CLIP ART. It was completely unacceptable.
I wanted to throw up. This is awful! The illustration above is of a box turtle on land near a lake and a forest. This book is about plastics in the OCEAN with sea turtles.
My agent and I freaked out and had words back and forth with the publisher. His response:
"Do you have the contact information of an illustrator you would like to work with?"
So we spent hours talking to illustrators over the weekend and came up with a top 4 list to send to the publisher, with one of them being Svitlana... who submitted her turtles below:
YES. THATS A LOT MORE LIKE IT. 100%! Totally magical and what we had envisioned for this project.
The kids and I totally fell in love with her. She is lovely and from Ukraine but living in Germany. She is a mom too and loves the ocean. She was available for immediate hire. I had set the scene and was THRILLED.
I waited for a response from the publisher... hoping and praying one of the four illustrators I submitted would work out.
"Ladies, we have lost our way. Usually author provides the publisher with a complete, edited manuscript complete with illustrations. In this event it is evident that the publisher is to pay for the pictures, an honor I feel necessary to decline."
It goes on and on... but, no, this is not the case at all. Left furious again and unsure of what to do, the one thing I did know is that I did not want to publish my story that is so near and dear to my heart with this publisher who decided they all of a sudden didn't want to pay for the illustrations.
SO I CHANGED GEARS.
I allowed myself time to be mad and time to be sad and time to think. I couldn't get Svitlana out of my head... I knew she had to illustrate my book.
AUGUST: Amidst the chaos of a family reunion in Louisville, Kentucky I decided to go for it and sign Svitlana to the project and INDIE PUBLISH this manuscript. That is a newer term for self publishing. But I'm not doing it all on my own, I've enlisted the help from an amazing team at Gatekeeper Press and the book will be published under my own imprint. Name TBD.
SO, I ditched the publishing house, I did not renew my contract with my agent and I'm feeling great and BACK ON TRACK.
The book will be available for pre-order by Halloween and books will be in hand by Christmas (as long as we don't have any delays). The indie publishing house will help with distribution and a little marketing as well. My illustrator Svitlana is simply amazing and she is working very hard to get the illustrations completed for me by beginning to middle of October. Once we have the complete spreads, we can finalize the interior design and layout for printing and will have a date to publish.
SEPTEMBER: It's been a long journey but I am so proud have found my feet again. I have had a lot of help from critique partners and experts in the industry leading the way for me and I am very thankful to them. I hope to share more frequent updates as we are getting closer and closer to "go time" and I cannot thank you all enough for your continued interest and support on this journey of mine. We currently have 3 complete spreads of the 12. I'm in love with her work.
If there is one thing i've learned from this, never settle and trust your gut!
Blair Northen Williamson’s Island Girls – Turtles in Danger has been acquired.
Blair Northen Williamson’s picture book, Island Girls – Turtles in Danger, is an environmentally conscious story that is pertinent for today’s children and adults. The story introduces to the very young and reminds the adult readers that plastic bags, seen as jellyfish to sea turtles, are eaten, causing harm to the animals who consume them.
Island Girls: Turtles in Danger shows that even kids can be conscious protectors of the ocean and make a big difference through small actions.
She also has several other picture books available for acquisition: Healthy Eating Habits: Queen Braina and the Tastebud Knights, Screen Time Awareness: Mermaid Princesses, Living in Harmony with differences: Parrot's Boat Disaster, Importance of Imaginative Play: Blue, Blue, Where are You?, Be True to Who You Are: Red.
Blair Northen Williamson is from Richmond, Virginia but spent much of her childhood off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina where she developed a passion for life at sea. Her love of nature, the ocean, and relating to others led her to work for Global Expeditions Group for over a decade. Blair has lived and traveled all over the world, following her desire to explore, meet new people, and immerse herself in new cultures. She is a wife, dedicated mother to two daughters, Collegiate Hall of Fame athlete, sailing IYT 200-ton captain, and PADI master scuba diver trainer. Her incredible imagination and love of teaching has brought Blair to realize her dream of writing stories for children inspired by her exciting global adventures.
WHEN A VISION BECOMES A REALITY...
I spent a lot of time at sea and working underwater as a scuba diving instructor. I vividly remember a moment in 2009 when I first learned about how much plastic bags look like jellyfish underwater. And, a jellyfish is a turtles favorite food. I could NOT stop thinking about all the poor turtles that were eating plastic bags (WHAT?) and how much of a problem this was.
It really stuck with me.
Through my travels in the BVI, I saw plastic in the water.
Through my time working on M/Y Peaceful Fish in the Bahamas, I saw plastic in the water.
Through the time I lived and worked on S/Y Yanneke Too in Thailand, I saw plastic in the water.
Then I moved to Florida and plastic bags were all over the beach.
I couldn't stop thinking about the turtles.
Through my time at Figure 8 Island and Wrightsville Beach, plastic would wash ashore.
We traveled to the Dominican Republic and Sadie and Josie witnessed a turtle swimming towards a plastic bag while we were snorkeling. They were 3 and 5 years old. They looked at me with their bright blue eyes with tears in them asking what we can do to save them.
Another moment that really stuck with me.
I had time.
I had to do something about this.
I got creative.
I followed a long time passion of mine to write children's books.
I wrote a children's picture book specifically on this problem with plastic bags in our oceans. (More excitement to come on that, SOON).
People really liked my books.
I got an agent.
I am on submission... and that takes a long time.
I am not someone who can sit around and wait.
I had to get this image out into the world.
So, I worked with Kate Ackerly, my cousin, and Dick Fowlkes, my cousin and god father who owns Peter Blair and we got to work.
A tie for men? A scarf for women? Maybe both. But I wanted to do something for the strong women of the world first. So we designed the scarf.
The result is absolutely beautiful and something I hope women will feel proud wearing. If it had this much of an impact on me, maybe it would impact others as well. Yes, my second home is the ocean, but still, people love turtles and I know no one is intentionally trying to hurt a turtle. I hope maybe just maybe this project will help start the conversation to ban single-use plastic bags. In a polite way. And in some really important places. Awareness is half the battle.
So, the sample for my FREE THE SEA OF PLASTICS scarf arrived yesterday and I'm very excited about how it turned out. I'll have a better "photo shoot" of it later, but you can get the idea of it's beauty :)
Thank you for taking the time to read this message. If you'd like to purchase a scarf to wear around your neck, as a belt, as a tie on your handbag, or to hang in your office or room as a beautiful piece of art, all proceeds will be donated to Plastic Pollution Coalition and Plastic Ocean Project. Message me for details. Taking pre-orders now.
I'm having a lot of fun making little waves of change!
Blair has travelled extensively all over the world. She and her husband enjoy taking their kids on big adventures together. Blair writes children's picture books for all ages! Most of her stories are inspired by life events. They feature kid’s curiosity, love of the environment, laughter, and fantasy.