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Barbara’s Blog: The Sound Stories journey takes shape

Barbara Murray - Monday, September 30, 2019

After the disappointment with the first illustrator [read earlier blog here], a couple of months went by before the urge to publish the Sound Stories picture books starting niggling at me again. Barbara's blog continues ...

Then out of nowhere, I somehow found Little Steps Publishing. I looked at the books they produced for other authors and decided they were just right for me.

As well as putting books together and arranging printing for self-publishers, Little Steps also provides a list of illustrators with their portfolios. From this I contacted Sarah Hardy who was very enthusiastic about Sound Stories and was prepared to commit herself to my work on a daily basis until it was completed.

Sarah and I shared similar visions to marry her illustrations with my stories and from the finished books this is very much in evidence. Contracts were signed and we got to work.

Because the stories are quite short, Sarah had to fill in the gaps with her illustrations. At the beginning of the book, I include tips for parents and teachers on how to get the most out of the stories. The first step suggests that the students 'gaze' at the illustrations in silence.

After doing this, I recommend lots of discussion amongst the students about what they see, followed by encouraging them to create their own storylines for the illustrations.

A search for characters and items in the artwork with names containing the focus sound follows. The actual text is not read until last. Discussion on the author's ideas about what is happening in the illustrations follows and the lesson finishes with oral identification of words containing the focus sound in the text.

To get started, I sent the manuscript for the stories for the first book, The Bolton Boys' Balloon Adventure and other stories to Sarah. She began by sketching her ideas in pencil and sending them to Abby, our editor at Little Steps, and to me.

Together we pooled our ideas and then Sarah did another rough draft. It was important to ensure that the illustrations worked in unison with the text. Abby was very good, providing great comments for Sarah about placement, perspective etc. for the artwork which was just as well as that area is not my forté.

We all met at Little Steps to talk about the project, and while this wasn't necessary, it gave us a chance to get to know one another, which I think was valuable in creating a cohesive working team.

The process for the first story was repeated for each of the 12 stories in the book. Sarah then submitted her final, very precious artwork to Angel at Little Steps who put it all together and sent it back to us for more consideration.

Then we decided on the front cover. The back cover shows the covers of the remaining three books so at that point Sarah worked on the first story for each of these three books from which the covers were produced. Angel then produced the back cover for the first book.

I also had a lot of author work to do, providing the contents page, the pages with information at the front of the books for parents and teachers and the text on the front and back covers of all four books.

There was a lot of emailing covers and stories with artwork back and forth until we were all happy. Angel, a graphic designer of note, completed her side of things and the artwork went off to the printer in China. Three months later one thousand copies of the books arrived. How exciting!!



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