A Good Home, Author Cynthia Reyes, Children's Books, Children's Story, Illustrations by Jo Robinson

Behind the Scenes of A Picture Book

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. 

Blog Photo - Dining table with tulips
Photo by Hamlin Grange

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.

Blog Photo - Jo Robinson

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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:

Blog Photo - Myrtle1

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?”

Blog Photo - Garden White Lilac Flowers in Vase
Photo by Hamlin Grange

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.) 

Blog Photo - Jerome sitting.jpg
Photo by Tim McCarthy

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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.

Hooray!

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.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle Cover

~~

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.

Blog Photo - Lauren profile picture

It meant that Jo was now working with the person for whom this book was written 27 years earlier.  Wow. 

laurenreyesgrange_cynthiareyes_blackdoll
Photo Credit: Toronto Star Newspaper

Big thanks to Jo!

And to Chris, Hamlin, Lauren, Dan, Nikisha, Tim and Jean for your contributions. 

 

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A Good Home, Children's Books, Myrtle The Purple Turtle, New Books, Self Accetpance

#LoveYourShell

 

Blog Photo - Myrtle Love your shell

From my first day in front of the cameras at CBC TV (Canada’s public broadcaster) to now as an author, I have often squirmed at pictures of myself.

Blog Photo - Cynthia
Photo by Arna Sloan

So, of course, I agonised about posting a new profile photo on Facebook recently. What could I choose that represents who I am? 

Unlike my  more sophisticated author photo, the photo below is me without the fixin’s — unvarnished, no makeup.

“Look at my weird eyebrows!” I wailed to myself. “And my eyes look so tired and wrinkly!”

Then my inner “Myrtle” took over. 

I overcame my fears about looking not quite good enough — and published  the photo because it felt like me.

Photo - Cynthia without makeup
Photo by Hamlin Grange

My friends loved it. Even my hairdresser Lorna replied — for the first time ever — to my Facebook page.

My daughter Lauren says it’s a reminder to “Love Your Shell”.  Love what makes you different; love what makes you you!

Meanwhile, Myrtle the Purple Turtle will be published on October 9 — that’s just days away. The responses from previewers and blogger friends have been wonderful. I’ve never had this happen before a book was published.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle Cover

The print version of Myrtle will be officially on sale on October 9. Here’s the preorder link for the Kindle listing.

As we get closer to the big day, Lauren and I had this thought:

We invite you to share a photo or story about what makes you YOU, using the hashtag #loveyourshell. Whether it’s you in the garden in your sweatpants, in the kitchen, hanging out with family, curled up reading a book, walking the dog – if it’s you being you, please share it! I believe when you #loveyourshell you give others the courage to love themselves, too. We can all use a little self-love. 

Thank you and — Love your shell!