Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
I hope you’re all doing well as the springtime settles in. It’s my favorite time of year, and as we all hear about spring showers bringing May flowers, I’m excited to chat with Sarah LuAnn Perkins about Sarah’s debut author-illustrated picture book, On A Rainy Day.
Description of book from the publisher Viking Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House:
When rain interrupts their outdoor play, a girl and her father retreat indoors to wait out the storm. As lightning cracks and thunder booms, they each have their own ideas of things they can do together on a rainy day.
Told through spare text and bold sound effects, Sarah LuAnn Perkins’ unique linocut-like textured illustrations create a fun read-aloud experience for both reader and listener.
Kaitlyn: Hi, Sarah, it’s so nice to have you here today!
Sarah: Thanks for hosting me, Kaitlyn! I’m excited to be here.
Kaitlyn: It’s my pleasure! Let’s dive in! Can you start by sharing how this book came to be?
Sarah: This book took over five years from idea to publication with lots of ups and downs along the way, so I’ll try to keep this brief while touching on the important points:
I initially got the idea for this book in Jaunary of 2017. I was participating in Storystorm that year, which is a challenge held each January where participants try to think of one picture book idea for each day of the month. I was on the lookout for ideas, when I heard a noise outside my window and I thought–what if I told a story through noises? What if every word in the book was an onomatopoeia? I was so excited about the idea that I jotted down the first draft that night. I thought a rainy day would be a perfect source of noises, so I told a fairly simple and familiar story that many of us have experienced of having to go inside on a rainy day–but did it with a focus on the sounds the characters hear.
It went through many critique groups and rounds of revision over the following years. I became pregnant with my second child shortly after writing that first draft, so that and other big life changes forced me to take it slowly. I believed in the story and was getting really positive feedback, so I kept moving forward in the bits of time I could find to work.
I started querying with the completed dummy in early 2019, and after a few months of getting rejections I got an offer from Adria Goetz. She helped me edit the dummy, which I then took to the Rutgers One-on-one conference that fall. It was at that conference that I met Kate Renner, an art director at Viking Childrens Books, who loved the story and illustrations. When Adria and I were ready to start submitting the manuscript a few weeks later, we made sure Viking was in the first round of submissions.
We heard back from Viking fairly quickly–but it wasn’t with an offer. They asked for a couple more rounds of revisions after that, which took me some time to apply (including adding some words that were not onomatopoeia to round out the story), so it was months later when we finally received an offer from Meriam Metoui at Viking–it was only later that I learned that it was her very first acquisition! From there, it was a pretty straightforward process to finish up the book to get it ready for print.
Kaitlyn: Thank you for sharing your beautiful story; I know it will inspire my blog readers. I also love that your debut picture book was Meriam’s debut acquisition, too, especially since you’re both such kind people – what a great match! Can you talk a bit about the art style you used for this book and why you chose that style and like that style?
Sarah: Style can be a touchy subject for illustrators 😅. We’re told from the moment we say we’re interested in illustration that we need to pick a consistent style and stick with it or we will NEVER GET HIRED.
But creative people like to experiment! And that's how my style started and continues to evolve. Ever since I was first introduced to the program, I loved creating using Adobe Illustrator to create vector-based digital artwork. As a student, I did so many style experiments in this program! And honestly, most of them didn’t really look that good. I was still learning and trying things. One of my most successful experiments was one where I tried to imitate the look of a linocut print–I loved how that set of images turned out!
… and then I moved on to other style experiments. A couple years later when I was first trying to put together a REAL portfolio focused on children's books, I remembered how much fun I’d had with doing those linocut-inspired images so I decided to try it again. I had a lot of fun and I liked how it turned out, so I decided to do it again. And then I did it again. And then I did it again.
I came to love the subtractive approach to creating an image and looked forward to getting to that point in the process every time I created a new illustration–so I knew I’d found a style I liked! I also loved the texture and line quality that resulted from that process. So, a few months later I had an entire portfolio of linocut-inspired digital illustrations.
So when it came time to illustrate my dummy, I continued with that same linocut-inspired style. Since weather and lighting were important to the storytelling, I added many more colors than would normally be in a handmade print–I was working digitally and could do whatever I wanted!
But my style continues to evolve. Since completing the illustrations for ON A RAINY DAY I’ve found myself leaning further into more limited palettes and simplified lighting, so my next project is probably going to look a bit different.
Not only that, but I’m starting to make more traditional work as well. All this time I’d been pretending to make linocuts digitally–until just a few months ago I was gifted a press by an extremely kind local artist, and I’ve been making them by hand ever since! Nobody is surprised by how much I love doing the process traditionally, I’m just surprised it took me this many years to get started!
Kaitlyn: Wow, what an amazing process, and I LOVE that you’re an advocate for continuing to learn and grow! You have some awesome onomatopoeia that flow and move in this book. Was it difficult or fun to come up with all of these fun, representative words? And what was the process like giving them just the right flow and placement?
Sarah: As I mentioned earlier, the original idea for this book was to tell a story entirely through sounds–so the first draft was mostly just onomatopoeia, as many as I could think of! As I began to edit, I had a decision to make–was I going to make the book entirely ABOUT the sounds, or was I going to focus on the CHARACTERS and their experience with the sounds? Either approach could have ended up as a good book. But as a reader who tends to gravitate toward character-driven books, there was no question for me of what direction I would go. So, many of the sounds I had thought of in the original draft got cut, and then more were cut, and then more.
When it came time to actually place the words in my sketches, I wanted them to be part of the scene in a similar way to how sound effects are written in comics, so I wrote them in by hand. The editor and art director liked how that worked, so I ended up creating all the sound lettering by hand for the final book. I’m not really trained in hand lettering and there were a LOT of words to write out, so you can bet I was cursing myself for a while as the deadline approached–but I’m happy with how it turned out in the final book!
Kaitlyn: Haha, cursing yourself is never fun, but I love how organically the hand lettering happened and it looks wonderful! Now, if you had to pick, what is your favorite scene of this book?
Sarah: Definitely the spread where they’re laying on their backs by the checkers board, not really playing anymore, just lying there listening. There are moments sometimes in parenthood and other relationships where a game or activity or just a conversation turns into a special bonding moment where you are both fully present with each other, which is what I feel in that scene–and that, to me, is the heart of the book.
Kaitlyn: Yes, yes, yes! Those moments are so special; it’s phenomenal that you were able to capture that feeling so well in your book. Speaking of checkers, you created a fun checkers activity to go with the book, right? Can you share a bit about that?
Sarah: I did! I created a printable 3D checkers set to go with the game. I wanted to make an activity simple enough for a parent and child to make together, so I kept the cutting-out and assembly as simple as possible. The pieces are 3D so they’re easy to grab and lift to play the game. I tested the cutting, assembly, and game play with my 5 year old and we had a blast! You can download the free PDF here: SarahLuAnn.com/checkers
Kaitlyn: So much fun; I can’t wait to try it out with my daughter! She just mastered Slap Jack and War on cards and we just started checkers, so we’re almost ready for chess now. Can you share who your editor for this book was and why you enjoyed working with this editor?
Sarah: The editor of ON A RAINY DAY is Meriam Metoui, and I’m so grateful that she loved this book enough to take the plunge and acquire it! It was her very first acquisition, and I’m so honored to have that distinction. She was on board for my vision and decisions for this book (even when I was a little bit stubborn about a couple things), and all her suggestions were thoughtful, helpful, and respected my ownership of the story.
Kaitlyn: It sounds like you and Adria found the perfect editor and in fact, house for this book since the art director really liked it, too. Can’t get better than that! Can you share a bit about your agent, and why you like working with this agent so much?
Sarah: My agent is Adria Goetz, and she helped make my dummy book into something that was polished and ready to be acquired! She gave me thorough and helpful notes on what could be changed or improved on my original dummy in order to prepare it for submission. She was very patient with my worried emails about whether I was doing too much or too little with the art. She believed in this story even though it was different from anything she’d taken on submission before, and rolled with it when the feedback wasn’t always encouraging, and didn’t let me get discouraged about it either.
Kaitlyn: Adria is such a wonderful agent, and I’m so glad you two found each other. I can’t wait to see what you do together next! On that note, can you share with us what you’re working on now?
Sarah: I have a Graphic Novel idea I’m working on a proposal for! Its a new medium for me so its a bit of a learning curve, but I’m enjoying the process so far. I’ve loved reading graphic novels for years and it feels like the storytelling medium that makes the most sense to my image-focused brain. But for better or worse, the gift of a printing press had me thoroughly distracted for a few months as I dove into figuring out the medium I’d been pretending to do for years, so for a while my other creative work came to a screeching halt. I’m starting to come back to it and find some balance! Carving is always a temptation though. 😆
Kaitlyn: Wow! I’m so glad you’re finding balance, but we you get a gift, it’s only respectful to use it, right? HAHA. I’m pretty sure you and I met through one of wonderful online Kidlit art community events that you are so involved with. Can you talk a bit about what you do and why and maybe share some advice for up-and-coming author-illustrators like yourself?
Sarah: I love the Kidlitart chats! I’ll be honest, it was the only reason I ever became active on twitter and it's the only reason I keep coming back. The friends I’ve made through kidlitart have become some of my best cheerleaders and critique partners, and this publishing journey would have been so much more lonely without them.
(#Kidlitart chats take place on Thursday evenings from 9-10pm ET on Twitter, just use the hashtag #Kidlitart to participate!)
My advice for up-and-coming authors and/or illustrators is to focus as much or more on looking for career PEERS as you do looking for mentors. By “career peers” I mean someone who is in a similar place in their publishing journey to you–for example, someone querying their first project at about the same time you are would be your career peer (regardless of your ages). Don’t get me wrong, an experienced mentor can give you a lot of great help and advice. However, someone who is dealing with the same frustrations as you and can cheer you on from that angle is irreplaceable. Whether you’re critique partners, accountability partners, or people you can just “talk shop” with, they will be an invaluable source of support and advice when you need it.
Kaitlyn: So well said! We always talk about great critique partners, but I don’t think people often specify having partners that are in a similar place in their journey – that can be so helpful! Finally, if you could meet your favorite author, illustrator, or author-illustrator, would you chat by a fireside or go on an adventure?
Sarah: A fireside chat with my favorite creators would be a dream come true! I tend to prefer to keep my adventures between the covers of a book.
Kaitlyn: That sounds wonderful, and I’m so glad so many readers now get to have adventures through your books. Thank you so much for stopping by to share about this wonderful book!
Author-Illustrator Bio and link
Sarah LuAnn Perkins is an illustrator-author of whimsical stories for the children’s publishing market. For years she imitated the look of linocut prints in her digital artwork, and recently started making actual linocut prints of her own. Steampunk, folk, and fairy tales are common sources of inspiration, though any good story will do. She enjoys creating work full of wit, wonder, and whimsy. http://www.sarahluann.com/about.html
Kaitlyn’s Review the book
ON A RAINY DAY is such a sweet book that will bring families together as there’s such a beautiful relationship with this adorable father-daughter duo. Not just a book for families, though, this story has so many fun sounds and in such beautiful way shares deeper life meanings via these sounds, too. Perfect for a fun and heartfelt discussion starter for home, school, and libraries!
Giveaway- Worldwide giveaway of ON A RAINY DAY via Book Depository
To enter the random drawing, do any/all of the following options, then come back and write all of the things you did in ONE blog comment. (If you forget something, feel free to reply to your first comment ;))
- Share that you added ON A RAINY DAY to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
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Thank you all as always for supporting such wonderful creators. I hope you share this inspirational post with your author, illustrator, and author-illustrator friends, and I can’t wait to share our winners for the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest, which should hopefully happen by the end of this week! Thank you for your patience and for your wonderful support of each other; I can’t wait to hear about all your successes on your own writing journey.
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez