I am a sucker for dreaming big and dwelling in possibility. Our lives are so short! I have pushed myself to dream big (and be plenty scared and insecure) many times while taking a year-long sabbatical to travel by myself, planning a $2,000 wedding when everyone thought it was tacky, publishing a book about our tacky wedding, self-publishing another book with some awesome gals, building a house, starting a school.
So when I got an e-mail from one of my internet friends with an opportunity to interview another woman who dreams big, I jumped at the chance.
Everyone, meet Gena! Gena had the audacity to publish her own children's book, and I invited her here to share her story with us. Enjoy!
1. Gena, what was your inspiration when creating The Rainbow’s Journey?
- I’ve been obsessed with rainbows since a very young age, so creating a rainbow themed book felt like a really natural concept to me. One of my earliest memories is being awoken from a preschool nap so that I could get up and see a rainbow outside. My parents printed my birth announcement on rainbow stationery, and don’t get me started on Rainbow Brite!
2. When did you begin to assemble the images and poetry that make up the book?
- A few years ago I took a break from my job as an art teacher. My husband (then boyfriend), Brad, and I traveled throughout Asia for a year. About half-way through the trip we were on an ayurvedic retreat in India. I was sitting down sifting through my photographs when I realized they were almost all monochromatic. Seen as a collection, the images were a rainbow. We spent the rest of that day organizing images by color and Brad began writing the poetry to accompany them immediately. It’s been a lifelong dream to create a children’s book, but we definitely didn’t set out to do that while we were in Asia. Making this book wasn’t a conscious decision; it had momentum of its own. Inspiration hit and in under two weeks the rough draft was done!
3. It’s quite a journey to leave your secure job and then create a children’s book. What inspired you?
- I decided to leave the stability of my job and my life in the Bay Area because I was craving challenge and the personal growth that comes from that. We had just lost a close family member at a very young age and we suddenly knew we needed to embrace our lives and live them to the fullest. Traveling in Asia definitely felt like a daring opportunity, and anyone who has traveled there for a year will tell you it’s not a vacation! There was food poisoning and language barriers and a lot of missing home. Facing the obstacles of getting the book published felt like a natural continuation of the journey we embarked on in Asia. Some people thought it was crazy to leave stable jobs to travel for a year, and the same people thought it was crazy to try to publish a book. Most people would say I’m a pretty normal person, but every once and awhile, I like to do crazy!
4. What were the most challenging aspects of completing The Rainbow’s Journey?
- The most challenging part of the creative process began when we returned to the U.S. and realized how difficult it is to get a children’s book published! Especially one that strays so far from the typical layout and content of most children’s books. Our story relies on photography, not illustration. The accompanying poems are complex and rich in detail and often incorporate the many languages we encountered on our trip. We talk about colors like chartreuse and saffron, and rhyme with words like the Indonesian “batik.” A book agent I spoke with told me “If Barnes and Noble doesn’t immediately know what shelf to stock it on, they won’t buy it.” Essentially the book was too niche to appeal to large publishers and no one would touch it. I considered taking the advice of many “experts” and re-working the entire layout and format to make it more marketable, but in the end, we decided to stay true to our vision and find a more authentic way to share it with the world.
5. How did you publish the book?
- Ultimately, we chose to self-publish and raised the money through a crowd-funding campaign. Kickstarter had just established itself as a successful crowd-funding platform and it was serendipitous timing. The ability to self-publish The Rainbow’s Journey with this amazing resource was a game-changer. I am so grateful to all our friends and family who supported us through the process.
6. What new skills did you learn completing this project?
- One important skill was learning to let go of some creative control to collaborate with other trusted artists. I had initially planned to do all the graphic design and typography on my own. I also had to figure out how to take this finished product and get it out in the world.
7. What advice do you have for others with audacious goals?
- If you don’t believe in your goal wholeheartedly, there will probably come a time when it’s not worth the effort and energy to continue trying to accomplish it. Find the people in your life who are bold risk-takers and lean on them. Embrace the discomfort of trying something new. At the time, publishing this book was the most bold and intimidating thing I’d ever done (second now to having a child). The strength and determination I cultivated to succeed in that effort have propelled me into many more adventures since!