Jo Robinson lives and works in South Africa.
I worked there repeatedly in earlier years. (I even bought this favourite tablecloth in Johannesburg.) But I live in Canada.
Jo and I have never met in person.
Well-respected in the independent publishing world, Jo is an author, editor, book designer and illustrator. I follow her blog so I’d seen this small photo of her there.
In early January I told my husband: “I’m sending Myrtle to Chris Graham as a guest post for his blog.”
The printed story of Myrtle the Purple Turtle had been in my desk drawer for 27 years, surviving our family’s house moves.
Hamlin shook his head. “I’m telling you — it should be a book.”
I sent it to Chris in the UK anyway.
Chris replied quickly: “I think your husband is right – you should get an illustrator to help you get this made into a children’s picture book.”
“Trust you men to support each other!” I told Hamlin, hiding a grin.
On Chris’ recommendation, I sent the story to Jo Robinson.
Jo quickly replied: “I love your story and would love to have the opportunity to illustrate it!”
Within days, she sent a few sketches, including this one:
And our family knew: this was Myrtle.
I had difficulty describing the images I wanted. So back I went to Hamlin, pouring on emotional blackmail: “Since you and Chris are the ones who got me into this trouble, can you help? Pleeease?”
Hamlin runs a busy company, but he knows photography. Studied it, worked in it and now is my blog photographer. He understands images. So, next thing you know, Jo was working with Hamlin and me both… entirely by email.
Our daughters and sons-in-law also have an eye for these things. So when Jo sent us sketches, I asked their opinions too.
Poor Jo! She was now working with a whole family! (Except for the pets.)
In August, Jo sent us several versions of the book cover. The picture of Myrtle was the same, but titles and fonts can make a cover look very different.
We narrowed it down to two then chose one.
I dashed off an email to Jo.
Minutes later, my friend Jean called.
“I have a vanload of kids here,” she said, sounding breathless — as you’d expect from a woman surrounded by 7 grandkids on a very hot day. “Did you decide on your book cover yet? Would you like me to ask which they like?”
Seven kids, ages 3 to 7. Girls and boys.
Sounded like a focus group from my target readership!
“I’ll ask them individually, so they don’t influence each other,” Jean said.
I sent her two covers, almost sure which they’d like.
Are you ready for this?
Every child chose the one the adults had rejected!
Back to Jo I went.
“The kids have spoken!” I said.
“Fabulous!” she replied.
It was the first version she’d created.
Daughter Lauren, an expert in digital marketing strategy, took over next.
She and Jo devised banners for my social media platforms, finalized the text and illustrations — and other stuff that I don’t really understand.
It meant that Jo was now working with the person for whom this book was written 27 years earlier. Wow.
Big thanks to Jo!
And to Chris, Hamlin, Lauren, Dan, Nikisha, Tim and Jean for your contributions.