The months of research and writing; illustration and painting; and now book design are all finished for the sequel -- due out January 2017! More updates to come, but I am feeling immensely proud of this book and cannot wait to share it with all of you!
Today is Beatrix Potter's 150th birthday! And what a day it is in England, with celebrations, an auction selling some of her original works and a series of Royal Mail stamps depicting several of her famous characters.
Some of what inspired me to include Beatrix Potter as one of Piratess Tilly's heroes is Potter's dedication to land conservationism. With the money she made from her books, she bought the adjoining lands and farms in the Lake District of England in order to save and protect them — eventually donating 4,000 acres of land and 15 farms to the National Trust.
Beatrix Potter was also passionate about botany and specifically the study of fungi — a scientist in her own right, she developed her own theory on how fungi spores reproduced. Her scientific paper was never properly published, but scientists today still recognize her contribution to mycology.
Potter was also not only a talented artist and writer, but she was a keen businesswoman — creating and licensing the first ever literary character doll and other accompanying accessories. And, as so many know, she published her first book, The Tales of Peter Rabbit, on her own — a self-publisher! I look forward to one day visiting the Lake District and seeing for myself the beauty that inspired such a phenomenal, adventurous woman.
And as The Adventures of Piratess Tilly is a children's picture book, I'd like to take a moment to share two children's picture books that my little one and I enjoy about Beatrix Potter: Beatrix Potter and Her Paint Box by David McPhail and Beatrix Potter by Alexandra Wallner. I have also ordered this newly released book: Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Charlotte Voake. I look forward to adding it to our collection!
Learn more about Beatrix Potter here!
It was both exciting and overwhelming to witness and explore hand-in-hand with my daughter the very same docks, shorelines and boats that I had as a child. It quickly became clear how deeply rooted those formative experiences are in my psyche -- there is no doubt that Piratess Tilly was inspired by my own childhood adventures!
To top off this meaningful trip, I finally got to meet Karen Watson, the extremely talented artist behind the watercolors to Piratess Tilly. It was like meeting an old friend! We both laughed at how incredible it is that we've created two picture books without ever meeting in person or even talking on the phone -- it has been all done through email! I cannot help but feel that it is particularly special and synchronistic that we are both from the Pacific Northwest. There is no doubt, in my mind, that this has greatly influenced our bond and our work together on the Piratess Tilly series.
I feel very fortunate to have shared all of this (plus so much more in Seattle itself!) with my family and to have finally met Karen Watson -- what a remarkable summer this has been!
I first want to say 'wow!' The entire week that the 16th Century Spanish tall ship, El Galeón was here in Newburyport was not just exciting for our city, but it ended up being an incredibly magical experience for me. Through the Custom House Maritime Museum, I had the opportunity to meet with the captain of the ship - the only female captain of a tall ship in the world! I presented Captain Rosario Fernandez Rodriguez with a copy of The Adventures of Piratess Tilly and from that moment, time melted away as we spoke for over two hours. I've written an article about this interview and you can read about it here.
With that experience of meeting Captain Rosario Fernandez Rodriguez coupled with the backdrop of a tall ship in our port, I went into the 3-day event beaming - and I couldn't be more thrilled with how it unfolded! Although the weather was rather finicky, one day being 90 degrees and the next being cold and windy, the overall reception was incredible.
People whole-heartedly loved the entire concept of Piratess Tilly - the haiku, the art, the girl-empowerment, the conservationism. They loved the dolls and the blank greeting cards - all of the add-ons I've created. And lastly, but in no small way, they seemed to love meeting me - the author and publisher. I always offered to sign the book and the look of excitement the children got was not just meaningful - it was magical.
I started prepping for this 3 day event a few weeks before. As it was my first outdoor event, I was starting from scratch. I bought an E-Z UP Envoy Instant Shelter Canopy and it truly was easy to set-up. I scouted Marshalls for baskets to hold the books and plushies, picture frames for prices, industry reviews and awards, and a tray to hold the blank greeting cards I ordered from Moo that featured Karen Watson's artwork from the book.
The second line of business was all of the signage and extra add-ons. I used one of the images from the book to create a tapestry through Society6. The tapestry made a perfect, eye-catching table cloth!
I designed a 2.5'x4' banner through VistaPrint and kept my fingers crossed I'd be able to easily hang it up. ;) I then employed Kendra Shedenhelm to create a coloring poster with her doll and tool illustrations, with the idea that kids would stop and color it on their way to the ship. Inspired by the poster design, I created coloring postcards to hand out to kids who stopped by my table. Although the coloring poster didn't work out, the postcards did! One side featured either Piratess Tilly or Yuki, while the other was a collage of her tools. I ran out of the 100 postcards by the middle of day 2 so started to pass out Piratess Tilly and Yuki stickers instead.
Just a few days before the event, I felt inspired to create a small, double-sided card to enclose with each purchase. One side featured the Australian Koala Foundation, of which a portion of sales go towards, and the other had a condensed definition of a "Piratess." These I printed myself on my laser printer and cut by hand.
I also had information displayed about the other artists and crafters who have helped to create the Piratess Tilly and Yuki plushies and the custom-made Piratess Tilly rag doll by Phoebe&Egg. A special thank you to Gretchen Joy for her work as local seamstress and a big thank you to Kendra Shedenhelm who worked with me for a year to design the plushies!
Thank you to everyone who came out and stopped by the Piratess Tilly tent! It won't be our last event, that is for sure. So please, stay tuned!
How fun was it to receive this photo of The Adventures of Piratess Tilly and the handmade character plushies on display at the Bologna Children's Book Fair! Victoria Sutherland and her crew at Foreword Reviews never cease to amaze me with their hard work, energy and passion. I feel very fortunate, especially as an independent publisher and author, to have met Victoria at the Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE) Annual Conference last year. Little did I know then that I'd not only follow through with Victoria's enthusiasm over my book and entrust its journey in seeking foreign rights with Foreword Reviews, but that I'd join the board of directors for IPNE! It's amazing how one event can lead to a plethora of opportunity.
Here's to hoping The Adventures of Piratess Tilly had a successful trip to Italy! And for anyone interested in reading a bit about how opening day was for this years Bologna Children's Book Fair, I urge you to read an article from Publishers Weekly: Bologna 2016: A Busy First Day as the Fair Opens. Enjoy!
Wow! I am thrilled and honored to announce that The Adventures of Piratess Tilly is a Finalist for the 2016 Eric Hoffer First Horizon Award, which celebrates best first books! "Each year, the Eric Hoffer Award presents the First Horizon Award for superior work by debut authors (i.e the first published book of any type by the author). This is an additional distinction beneath the Eric Hoffer Award umbrella."
How incredibly exciting! Onward and upward!
Review on Amazon:
We LOVE this book! My five year old daughter loves it just as much as my eight year old son. First, I look to read stories with my children that have a strong female lead character. This is an empowering, uplifting and "feel good" story for both girls and boys. Written in Haiku, Tilly and her crew go on exciting adventures together. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful. I can't wait to read further adventures of Tilly and her crew.
I am so excited to announce that the locally handmade Piratess Tilly and Yuki plushies are now available for purchase! I am also looking forward to sharing the process of designing these dolls in a future post, as it was quite the undertaking for someone who doesn't sew. ;) I am very proud of the dolls and love watching my daughter play with Piratess Tilly and Yuki. It really does take the story to a whole new level when a child can interact with dolls based on the characters.
From the shop:
These adorable variations of the characters, Piratess Tilly and Yuki, bring the story to life in an enchanting, cuddly, hands-on way. They help to encourage exploration and imagination. Whether everyone snuggles up to read a book, go on a family vacation or head out on a backyard expedition; these soft toys are bound to inspire story-telling and creative play. Where will Piratess Tilly, Yuki and your little one adventure to today?!
Check them out here. Thank you!
I am so honored and proud to announce that The Adventures of Piratess Tilly is a Finalist for the 2015 Foreword Reviews' INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards (category: children's picture books)! This is absolutely wonderful recognition! Winners will be announced at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June. I am posting Foreword Reviews' press release below. Thank you to everyone for their support. Onward and upward!
Foreword Reviews Announces Finalists for 2015 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards
Traverse City, MI, March 7, 2016—Foreword Reviews, a media company devoted to reviewing books from small, independent publishers and university presses, is pleased to announce the finalists for its 18th annual INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards.
Visit the Foreword Reviews website for a full list of the finalists, searchable by genre.
Each year, Foreword Reviews shines a light on a select group of indie publishers, university presses, and self-published authors whose work stands out from the crowd. In the next three months, a panel of more than 130 volunteer librarians and booksellers will determine the winners in 66 categories based on their experience with readers and patrons.
“The 2015 INDIEFAB finalist selection process is as inspiring as it is rigorous,” said Victoria Sutherland, publisher of Foreword Reviews. “The strength of this list of finalists is further proof that small, independent publishers are taking their rightful place as the new driving force of the entire publishing industry.”
Foreword Reviews will celebrate the winners during a program at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida in June. We will also name the Editor’s Choice Prize 2015 for Fiction, Nonfiction and Foreword Reviews’ 2015 INDIEFAB Publisher of the Year Award during the presentation.
About Foreword: Foreword Magazine, Inc is a media company featuring a Folio:-award-winning quarterly print magazine, Foreword Reviews, and a website devoted to independently published books. In the magazine, they feature reviews of the best 170 new titles from independent publishers, university presses, and noteworthy self-published authors. Their website features daily updates: reviews along with in-depth coverage and analysis of independent publishing from a team of more than 100 reviewers, journalists, and bloggers. The print magazine is available at most Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million newsstands or by subscription. You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. They are headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan, USA.
When did you know you were a writer? I think my personal acknowledgment that I am a writer came from realizing that I tend to communicate better through writing and that my desire to then share those thoughts, stories, characters, and visuals was truly a part of who I am. I have been writing since childhood, often stories inspired by dreams. As I got older, I took to journaling and writing poetry as ways to express myself. My writing abilities became more refined through numerous writing courses in high school and college and just simply with practice. Writing haiku, as how I’ve written the book, came from a need to get back to being creative. At the time I started writing haiku, my daughter was six months old and we were deep in an all-consuming house restoration. There was no real access, time or energy for my usual art — collage and printmaking. I had started a blog and through the Wordpress community I was reconnected with haiku. I researched the traditional forms of haiku, how they are usually about nature and have a surprise twist or ending. From there, I let myself play and experiment.
What does your writing process look like? That really depends on what kind of writing I’m working on, but in general my process includes quieting my mind and not overthinking — just writing. For the haiku in The Adventures of Piratess Tilly, I have found that for the more educational pieces, simple information or visual references are more than enough for me to create the haiku. As for the pieces I’ve created on my own, I simply interweave bits of my own childhood and younger self into the overall story. One of the reasons I feel the haiku works so well for a children’s picture book is because it can be descriptive and yet open ended. It gives the reader and audience a great deal of room for their own imagination even alongside the beautiful artwork. It gives the reader their own sense of involvement and I love that!
Tell us about your book, The Adventures of Piratess Tilly. The Adventures of Piratess Tilly follows a young adventurous and compassionate girl, Tilly, on her sailing quest to document the flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands. Her crew consists of seven orphaned boys from around the world and her best friend Yuki, a koala she rescued in Australia. As budding naturalists they spend their time on the ship reading Charles Darwin, sketching, painting, and documenting their nature finds. Once they arrive, they see the beautiful landscape and spot several animals. They even come upon pirates! And those pirates just happen to be smuggling baby Giant Tortoises. So of course Piratess Tilly, Yuki, and the brothers create a plan to rescue them and return them to their family! The story was greatly inspired by my upbringing: bike riding, boating, and exploring the shorelines of the Pacific Northwest, as well as from studying primatology, and anthropology as a young adult. And once I had a daughter, I realized how much I wanted to create and share a strong, independent, curious, intelligent, and compassionate female lead. I wanted my daughter to grow up reading about a young female captain, who was intelligent and perfectly capable of adventure and leadership. And this is certainly not the last story with Piratess Tilly! I have finished writing the second book and have begun the illustration process with Karen Watson. We have all set sail for Easter Island! So please stay tuned!
Why did you choose to self-publish? I primarily chose to self-publish because I wanted full control over the book. I wanted to find the illustrator myself and work with her closely. I also wanted to build my own publishing company in hopes expanding one day to include publishing other girl-empowering works by women. I suppose I’ve always been someone who never fit the mold and I knew that what I had created was out of the norm, and therefore to me, that much more worthy of publishing it myself.
What roadblocks or obstacles did you face? I think the actual book production was the biggest obstacle. I wanted to print in the U.S.A, but the costs were prohibitive for what I wanted with my book: hardcover with dust-jacket, offset printing, 32 pages, 8 1/2” by 11 size, and a smaller run.
How do you balance being a mom with writing and promoting a book? Honestly, I’m not really sure. I somehow get a lot accomplished in several two minute increments throughout the day! My daughter is now just over three years old so she is attending a morning program, which allows me the focused time I need for promotion, research, writing blog posts, or creating the graphics for postcards and social media posts. I’ve found though, that if I’m in haiku writing mode, I tend to be very distracted for those few days; however meals always need to be made and everyday life still goes by regardless. I allow for those everyday routines to give my mind time to mull over ideas. It all seems to work out in the end and everyone gets what they need!
Other than IPNE, what are some other valuable resources for children's authors and publishers? I became a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators right away when I felt my story was ready and that I was serious about publication. They are a fabulous organization and I highly recommend joining. They have bicoastal and regional conferences as well as meet-ups and online forums. It was through them that I found the illustrator, Karen Watson! I also suggest taking a class on writing for children. It isn’t as easy as people tend to first believe. Having an understanding of those guidelines is definitely helpful. I had taken a course in college on writing for young adults. Although that isn’t the same as picture book writing, it still helped me.
How did you choose the illustrations for your book? How did you structure your working relationship with the illustrator? Working with Karen Watson was absolutely wonderful! I gave her written descriptions of how I wanted each page. She not only executed my ideas perfectly, she also added so much fine detail and on a particular page I was stuck on, she came up with a wonderful setting. As I had never done this before, Karen guided me through her own process. I loved getting an email with several pages worth of initial sketches, then line drawings, and finally the finished painted pages. Her work is both meticulous and whimsical, which is perfect for Piratess Tilly, who is studious and fun-loving!
What advice do you have for other indie publishers? How can we find your book? Don’t give up! If you believe in your book and what you’ve created gives you a sense of pride, then do whatever you can to get it into the hands of readers and supporters. Also, be creative with marketing, think outside of the box. For instance, I donated a few books to the Galapagos Conservancy, where the proceeds will go to benefitting their many programs. Not only does that tie into the book, it supports something important and there is no saying what that relationship will become. Also take chances! No matter how nervous I was, I sent The Adventures of Piratess Tilly for a Kirkus Review and was overwhelmingly relieved they understood and appreciated the book! Because of that I felt confident to send the book to Publishers Weekly and got another good review. I believed in the book and the overall product of what was created! Go for it! You can find The Adventures of Piratess Tilly on the book’s website: http://piratesstilly.com and on Amazon. Feel free to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or the blog for more updates on local stores and more sites.
I donated a few books to the Galapagos Conservancy whose mission is: "... to advance and support the conservation of the unique biodiversity and ecosystems of Galapagos through directed research, informed public policy, and building a sustainable society." With each purchase from their e-gift shop, the proceeds go to "supporting the important marine and terrestrial conservation programs taking place in the Galapagos Islands." Within the first week, 2 of the 3 books were purchased and another week later, the last book was no longer listed! I am so pleased the books sold quickly to benefit the Galapagos Conservancy! Here's a a screen shot of the book listed on their page. Had I realized they would sell so fast, I would have gotten a screen shot of the actual product page as well. :)
Our review from Publishers Weekly is in! Another nod to Charles Darwin and praise for our courageous, eco-conscious heorine, Piratess Tilly.
Tilly—tough, daring, and scientifically minded—is a capable heroine with an enviable life at sea. -Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly Review as seen on 8/10/15:
"Lorayne crafts an environmentally focused adventure told through haikus and punctuated by moments of excitement. Piratess Tilly, a brunette girl in patchwork jeans, travels on the research vessel Foster with a crew of young sailors from around the globe and her fedora-wearing koala, Yuki. Watson depicts Tilly and Yuki’s time aboard the ship in gentle watercolors with light fantasy elements. Tilly and Yuki read Charles Darwin and Beatrix Potter in their cozy cabin, a smiling crescent moon shining through the window, and collect nature specimens to study and sketch: “Many days passing/ Best used for examining/ What would Darwin think?” The plot turns from wildlife examination to conservation when Tilly and the crew discover that nefarious pirates are smuggling baby giant tortoises from the Galápagos Islands. In a perilous—albeit brief—mission, Tilly and her crewmates rescue the tortoises and release them into the sea. While the sequence of haikus can make for a slightly herky-jerky narrative, Tilly—tough, daring, and scientifically minded—is a capable heroine with an enviable life at sea. Ages 4–8. (BookLife) "
View the review here!
Thank you again for all of the support!
I am thrilled to share the glowing Kirkus review for The Adventures of Piratess Tilly. I am so excited, too, that the actual story being told through haiku has been so well accepted! A special thanks to each of you for your support!
A few highlights:
"Lorayne has written a thoughtful take on the pirate genre, with a female-led crew focused on science and discovery. There’s a strong awareness of ecology, though the text also still works as an adventure. The seamlessly incorporated haiku poems also work well, serving as an appreciable introduction to the poetic form for young readers. In addition to being lovely poems, the haiku clearly explain the moment." -Kirkus Reviews
"Tells a thoughtful, eco-conscious story with a strong female lead, ideal for kids interested in poetry and adventure." -Kirkus Reviews
"In this picture book, an adventurous girl and her crew of orphaned boys sail the high seas and intercept a band of pirates kidnapping tortoises.
Told in haiku, Lorayne’s debut picture book, with illustrations by Watson, introduces readers to Tilly, a girl with a courageous spirit and patched jeans who sails around the world on the Foster with her crew of orphaned boys. Together with Yuki, a koala Tilly rescued from Australia, they use a compass and star chart to explore the ocean, all while cataloging, sketching, and studying what they find, including whales, birds, and other sea life. All is calm until they head to the Galapagos Islands and spy pirates kidnapping baby giant tortoises. The crew of the Foster doesn’t hesitate to act and steal onto the pirates’ ship to right the wrong. Lorayne has written a thoughtful take on the pirate genre, with a female-led crew focused on science and discovery. There’s a strong awareness of ecology, though the text also still works as an adventure. The seamlessly incorporated haiku poems also work well, serving as an appreciable introduction to the poetic form for young readers. In addition to being lovely poems, the haiku clearly explain the moment. For instance, “Just off the port side / Magnificence of the sea / Humpback whales surface.” With such little text, Watson’s artwork has ample space on the page to help illustrate what’s happening. The beautiful watercolors feature rich colors and intricate details. Some of the vocabulary and references, such as one to Darwin, could be challenging for young readers, so the story offers plenty of opportunities for further investigation in the classroom or at home.
Tells a thoughtful, eco-conscious story with a strong female lead, ideal for kids interested in poetry and adventure." --Kirkus Reviews
To see the review on Kirkus, visit here!