Welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!
Today’s author has some very interesting information to share in terms of illustration as her publisher only accepts illustrated manuscripts. So let’s jump right in!
Welcome, Laura! And congratulations on the publication of your first picture book! 🙂
ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON
written by Laura Roettiger
illustrated by Ariel Boroff
Published by Eifrig Publishing
(Fiction ages 4-8)
Synopsis: Aliana loves observing everything in nature. When she notices how bright the light of the full moon shines into her room, she spends time learning about the moon and experimenting with light.
SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?
LAURA: When I wrote the first draft of the book it included so many elements that have been cut through revision. The ideas that remain, the brightness of the full moon and a creative girl experimenting with light were always there. I started writing this after moving to Colorado. I live in an area with little light pollution and at 8200 ft. I’m in awe of the moon in ways I never was living in Chicago and the suburbs. Aliana’s creativity is inspired by my daughters. Her name is a combination of two first graders who made me smile every day in my last year teaching in Chicago. Their names are Valentina and Ariana and the family is based on the Latinx families of Carlos Fuentes Charter School who I also wanted to honor in my writing.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
LAURA: I began writing in August, 2016. The main revisions took place at the Southampton’s Writers Conference with Emma Walton Hamilton, July 2017. Her feedback focused on things others had said before but I was finally ready to listen. She explained how I was trying to write three books in one and I needed to choose which story I really wanted to tell.
I have described that revision as performing surgery on my child. It was painful and messy. I was worried, but the result is that the patient (my manuscript) not only survived, but was improved in the process.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
LAURA: Actually, I submitted this book before it was ready and I wouldn’t recommend that. I did things backwards and if I could go back in time, I would have joined SCBWI and 12×12 with Julie Hedlund as soon as I began writing seriously.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
LAURA: I submitted to a few agents who all rejected the book even though they liked the character. A few gave me advice which I took to heart, and have worked on my craft in many ways since then. I also had a list of publishers who take unagented work and sent it out to five of them, including Eifrig Publishing, that I thought were a good fit. The Eifrig Publishing website has a mission statement that aligns with my beliefs of environmentalism and empowering children. My query letter explained why I thought we were a good match and I proposed a series with my characters and six different stories I wanted to write. Penny Eifrig emailed back that she was interested. She saw the promise of my writing, even though we needed to go through major revisions at that point.
SUSANNA: What can you tell us about the editorial process?
LAURA: From the original manuscript I sent to Eifrig to the book I now have in my hands, there were more changes than I can count. Eifrig only accepts illustrated work. I don’t mean to brag, but I am famous for drawing stick figures, obese hummingbirds, and the Northside of an elephant facing south. Unfortunately, that didn’t qualify me to illustrate. Fortunately, I had a local artist ask if she could illustrate my book. We talked about vision, she showed me her portfolio, and we agreed on collaborating. After a year that included many writing revisions and the artist creating a dummy and a few full water color illustrations, we were on our way. Sadly, the illustrator ended up backing out due to work constraints from her “real job.”
I didn’t want to hire an illustrator and pay them outright because I wanted a partner in the marketing process and that had always been our vision with the first artist. I reached out to my former colleague and art teacher where I taught in Chicago who connected me to Ariel. I emailed her the text, some art notes from my work with the first artist, and photos of my students at Carlos Fuentes Charter School who I wanted Aliana and Gustavo to look like. We had several conversations (she lives in California) and she started with character sketches and painting backgrounds. She shared her work along the way so I could see it and occasionally give feedback. Her work is amazing and seeing my story come to life through her artwork has been incredible.
In the spring, I was able to meet her in person while visiting a friend who also lives in the Los Angeles area. Like the first illustrator, Ariel has had conflicts with time because she works as a costumer on a TV show (Station 19, a Gray’s Anatomy spinoff set in a firehouse.) The fact that Aliana’s dad is a fireman added to our excitement about collaborating. One of the other books, if this becomes a series, is about forest fires, which is something we both have firsthand experience with. When I was moving to Colorado in July 2016, the day we were packing up the truck in Chicago, I received a reverse 911 call that we were being evacuated from the house I owned but had not yet moved into.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc?
LAURA: So far we haven’t had any industry reviews, but we have two STEM/STEAM professionals write endorsements for our book. The day I read the first one, written by Grace Wolf-Chase, PhD; Astronomer at Adler Planetarium in Chicago I thought my heart would explode. It was gratifying to see that someone who didn’t know me and had a career in the field of Astronomy understood everything I was hoping the book would impart.
“This short children’s book imparts many pearls of wisdom about the qualities of a scientist, while telling an engaging story about a girl’s caring relationship with her younger brother. Using her ingenuity, imagination, and ordinary household materials, Aliana creates a special experience for Gustavo’s 5thbirthday. Aliana Reaches for the Moonencourages all children – and especially girls – to read, explore, experiment, and to take notice of the natural world. There’s even an important message for parents – doing science can be messy!” ~ Grace Wolf-Chase, PhD; Astronomer, Adler Planetarium
We also received a glowing endorsement from Linda Schwab, Flight Director at the Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana. I wasn’t even aware these amazing educational centers existed until now. They provide hands on learning and exploration for children and resources for teachers dedicated to the memory of those who died in the Challenger shuttle tragedy on January 28, 1986. For more information go to
“Curiosity and imagination, paired with research and experimental play, help Aliana bring her unique idea to life. Aliana Reaches for the Moon will inspire readers to use science, imagination, and experimental play to create their own innovations.” ~Linda Schwab, Flight Director, Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
LAURA: The time between when I started writing and when I received the contract was exactly two years. Again, our situation is different from most because the publisher had already shown interest in early 2017 when I sent her the series proposal and the dummy and 2 illustrations from the first artist. From contract to proof/hard copy was about 10 weeks and then another two and a half months to our release date.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
LAURA: Penny is wonderful, but Eifrig is a small house and I knew from the beginning that much of the marketing and promotion would be my responsibility. She has sent the book to professional reviewers and is working to have it carried in museums and planetariums. She’s also supported my goal of participating in author events at CCIRC and The Children’s Festival of Stories to make sure the book will be available.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
LAURA: Ariel has made coloring pages and designed a bookmark. We have a mini 20 second teaser trailer and a longer one that runs about a minute. I hired a former student who is now finishing a degree in animation. I plan to use the trailers and swag as part of my school visit presentations.
Laura, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today and share your experience, expertise, and book journey to publication! We all so appreciate it!
Readers, if you have questions for Laura, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Laura’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:
– purchasing their books
– recommending their books to friends and family
– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians
– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores
– sharing their books on social media
Thank you all for stopping by to read today! Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday! Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂
Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts? Check them out!