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 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.