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Sweet Dreams Sandcastle, Behind the Scenes

How writing and illustrating my first children's book changed everything

"I'm going to write and illustrate my own children's book." I announced confidently to my husband from across the dinner table while our two children refused to eat the meal I had made. The concept seemed simple enough. I paint all of the time, how hard could it be?

After a sleepless night I spent the morning searching the internet for how to actually make this happen. Whoa, lots of information. I needed to know more than I expected.

In April 2022 I bought books, lots of books. I listened to podcasts, I watched youtube videos. With information overload I sat down to write my first draft of what I called, Beach Book. I e-mailed it to my mom, "What do you think?". She replied, "nice." Sheesh, I needed to do better. I wrote and rewrote. I hired an editor, and then it started to get better. I was able to tell her about the pictures I had in my head and we worked together to adjust the words. I wanted it to be a simple story, something easy for a tired mom to read to her kids at night. She understood me completely.

I painted three illustrations before the final draft of the book was even done, and then...nothing. I was busy, I was going to art festivals, marketing my paintings, working my full time job, taking care of my kids, getting the flu, twice! The book became a dusty old google doc.

In October 2022 I thought my head was going to explode. I was so burnt out from the hustle. I told my husband I was ready to quit my art business. He refused to accept that truth, and together we agreed what I needed was a break. I gave myself a vacation knowing that it could ultimately kill my art business. I decided I would turn down every commission inquiry and wouldn't sign up for any art events for a full year. The only work I did was for my cousin's wedding, low pressure. I trained for and ran a half marathon. And then I painted a little.

Without the pressure of selling, painting became light again. In January 2023 I opened the book document, I made a list. It was time to do this. I promised myself I would only paint when I wanted to, I mostly only worked on rainy days when I couldn't run. The more pages I completed the more I wanted to do. I could see the book in my mind and then, all of the sudden, a fire within me burned. I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself so I promised to take things slow, no deadlines, no limiting beliefs.

beach book, sandcastle book, childrens picture book
Sweet Dreams Sandcastle by Melissa Hood


The story was changing...

In June I was nearly done painting the illustrations. I reached out to a local publishing company and we signed a contract. And although I spent a lot of time traveling, by the end of the summer, I was done painting. My husband spent countless hours scanning and editing all of the artwork and by mid-September everything was submitted to the publisher.

Now I still have much to learn about the publishing, marketing, and selling of this book, but I can't wait to learn more. I feel excited and refreshed. My burnout was cured by rest, changing the story, and my amazingly supportive family and friends. We are only a few short weeks away from releasing the book for sale, so make sure to stay tuned.

beach art, beach book, childrens book, melissa hood, book illustration
Sweet Dreams Sandcastle Back Cover Artwork by Melissa Hood

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