ETA 10/23/12: Since I first wrote this post, Little Bahalia brought on a new illustrator for TROOP. I’ve updated my comments and the illustrations I’ve shared as a result.
How LONG I have waited to write those words!!
And now I can, because my picture book – A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS will be released as an interactive app for the iPad in December of this year by Little Bahalia Publishing. I cannot express in words how excited I am and how much this means to me. But since I am a writer, I’ll try. 🙂
TROOP was one of the first books I wrote once I decided to try my hand at children’s picture books. My husband proposed the idea after he found a website with a list of some collective nouns for animals. He thought I should write a simple book with just the group names. A group of monkeys is called a TROOP. And so on.
Once I started researching collective nouns, however, I was surprised to see how few of the group names I actually knew. I’d heard of a pack of wolves and a herd of buffalo. But a float of crocodiles? An ostentation of peacocks? I also found that the group names tended to describe either the animal’s appearance or behavior. So I decided to write the story as a concept book (rather than one with a plot), and use rhyming couplets to teach both the collective nouns and a fact about each of the animals.
A couple of years ago, after putting TROOP through a few rounds of critiques, I submitted it to a few editors. I got a couple of “helpful” rejections, but no offers. I shelved it and continued working on other projects.
I never stopped loving it though, and two years later, the world of publishing turned upside down as a result of e-books, e-readers, and apps. I knew TROOP would be a great candidate for an interactive app. I could envision kids pressing on the owls and hearing them hoot, or tapping the peacocks and seeing them shake their tail feathers. I submitted it in a contest with MeeGenius, and although I was ranked #16 in the popular vote (out of 400 entries) I did not win a publishing contract.
Still I persisted. I attended conferences on digital publishing. I wrote a storybook app proposal for TROOP (which I later used to create my Template for Storybook App Proposals). I got great feedback from a well-respected agent at one of those conferences who told me the story was worth pursuing as an app.
Enter Stacey Williams-Ng, Creative Director at Demibooks and the author/illustrator of one of the first interactive apps for the iPad – Astrojammies (which my kids ADORE). I submitted my TROOP proposal to her and we had a consultation at the New Jersey SCBWI conference. She loved the story and the concept, and her energy was infectious. When the bell rang (literally) announcing it was time for us to finish the consultation, we were mid-sentence. We had such a great discussion and shared so many ideas, my head was buzzing afterward (and not just because of the bell and I hadn’t even had a cocktail yet!).
Turns out she was soon to be launching an e-publishing company called Little Bahalia. She wasn’t sure she had room in her production schedule for TROOP immediately, but wanted to keep in touch. And the rest, as they say, is history. When I contacted her for a testimonial on my Template, she not only gave me one, but said she wanted to publish TROOP.
In addition to the fact that I new working with Stacey and Little Bahalia would be a blast, I was also excited and relieved that she had the art direction and app production expertise to bring TROOP to life – skills I most definitely do not have. Stacey selected an AMAZING illustrator who could hardly be more perfect for this project – Pamela Baron. Pamela is an artist with a strong belief that art and sustainability go hand in hand, and she is a master of painting animals in their habitats.
Imagine my glee when I saw the “cover” (first screen) of TROOP! Add to that the Parliament of Owls I’ve included for your enjoyment and you can see for yourself why I am overjoyed.
So I guess the moral of the story is that it really does pay off to hard work, persevere and always believe in yourself and your story.
Stacey Williams-Ng is the founder and Creative Director for Little Bahalia Publishing, a transmedia press based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. An author/illustrator herself, Stacey is the creative force behind “Astrojammies!“, one of the first children’s book apps for the iPad, released in 2010 (later released as a hardcover in 2011). Stacey is a former full-time instructor in multimedia, and began her career in the production of interactive e-learning materials in the mid-1990s. For over 15 years, Stacey has built a career on harnessing digital media to tell stories. She is a part-time Creative Director for Demibooks Inc, and a trusted consultant for McGraw-Hill Education.
Illustrator Kristin Gjerdset is a real nature lover, and an animal expert too. In addition to her work as an Associate Professor of Art at the Wisconsin Lutheran College, she has produced many beautiful artworks for schools, corporations, state parks, and even the U.S. National Park Service. As an artist-in-residence at the U.S. National Parks, Kristin observes animals in their natural habitats alongside park rangers and zoologists to produce murals, paintings and illustrations that help teach kids from all over the world about how animals live. Kristin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with numerous pets, including her very own pandemonium of parrots.Categories: Apps, Authors, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Goals, Picture Books, Poetry, Publishing, Rhyming, SCBWI, Storybook Apps, Writing · Tags: A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, apps, Children's Books, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Goals, Julie Hedlund, Julie Hedlund's Template for Storybook Apps, Kristen Gjerdset, Little Bahalia Publishing, Picture Books, Poetry, Publishing, Rhyming, SCBWI, Stacey Williams-Ng, Storybook Apps, Writer, Writing