Montana’s Memory Day: a nature-themed foster/adoption story was illustrated by Erika Wilson, a 3rd generation Montanan. She used her family farm as inspiration, and her nephew and sister-in-law acted as live models in reference photos for the characters of Montana and New Mom.
Using a hand-carved linocut print-making method, she made Montana’s inner thoughts come alive. Some of the double-page spreads took Erika over 20 hours to carve by hand; not counting the tracing, printing, and watercolor painting time involved. It took her 12 months to complete the illustrations for this picture book.
I wrote Montana’s Memory Day to fulfill a need. I did not grow up as a foster kid, but I married two men who did. That is why I wrote this story—to give voice to foster kids and teens who are underrepresented in the children’s book market today. When I couldn’t find books that highlight the inner struggles of former foster kids in a relatable way, I wrote one.
This story began as a combination of two class assignments in a Special Topics class, taught by associate professor of English, Precious McKenzie, at Rocky Mountain College. The 10-student creative writing class was called “Writing for Children and Young Adults.”
I have revised and re-revised, revamped, and rewritten parts of this book’s manuscript many times over since that class. When I say “many times over” I mean just that: I wrote close to 300 manuscripts of this picture book. It’s only 374 words in length, but it took two and a half years to produce. It was critiqued by my college classmates, SCBWI Montana Billings’ critique group, and several other individuals before I submitted it to my hybrid book publisher, Mascot Books. After every new critique, I revised and rerevised yet again. Then, it was thoroughly edited by Mascot’s senior production editor, Nicole Hall. That was a multi-step process, also.
So, this has been a time-intensive endeavor, but a rewarding one. Because I was doing what I love it felt “right” and I enjoyed the process of bringing a book—my book—to life. Fellow writers, don’t let anyone tell you that writing a picture book is “easy”—it isn’t. It’s satisfying and challenging, yes—but it entails significant time, energy, and downright stick-to-it gumption!
It feels so good to say, “I’m a children’s book author.” I can’t wait to write that in as my “occupation” on my federal income tax forms next year!