My husband used to say, “You have a story in you.” And I’d reply, “I do? What would I write about?” Back in 2011, I had attended a healing weekend at a retreat center in Wisconsin, working on personal issues. I had released a great deal of muck that weekend and was feeling pretty grounded. That following Saturday night, my husband, a neighbor, and I went to a short film festival here in Elgin, IL. I snuck in one of those huge, long bags of kettle corn popcorn, and we proceeded to eat the entire bag. Boy did my stomach hurt going to bed! I awoke in the middle of the night with this story born in my head. I grabbed my laptop and headed to my son’s bedroom, as he was away at college. I started writing and went back to bed near dawn.
The next morning as I filled my teakettle, I saw this roundish, furryish, animal walking in front of my house. I asked my husband what it was, and he said it was a groundhog. I knew right then that it would be the major character in my story. When I looked at my work schedule, I did not have one client scheduled for that week. That has never happened. I knew it meant write, write, write!
I continued writing for the next two years, working with my first editor, but didn’t know what to do next. My husband had taken a marketing class from marketing guru Seth Godin, and showed me Seth’s blog on self-publishing. I read it and learned about Book Sherpas. I researched a few, asked for references and decided on Gail and Penny at “To Press and Beyond”. They call themselves Book Shepherds. I liked that, as I wanted someone to help me self-publish. They were awesome in helping me fine-tune my story, layout the pages and decide a million and one details. As soon as we had the bones of the story in place, I’d run to Kinkos/Fedx and print it out. I’d staple it together like a book so I could hold it in my hands and just get the feel of my baby. I must have done that a dozen times.
I found my illustrator Sue in the local newspaper. She had illustrated a book for her mother-in-law, and I thought I need to contact her. She sent me a few drawings, and a few more, and eventually we began our collaboration. We’d meet once a month at the local Starbucks, and she’d show me what she had drawn, and I’d ask for higher eyebrows, darker jeans, and other details. I’m sure I drove her crazy, but she never let on. She’d come back the next month with exactly what I had asked for! I love the way the illustrations have turned out. Gilbert and the Old Oak Tree are awesome!