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AOEU writer Sarah Krajewski published her first book, Exactly You! The Shape of Your Feelings, on World Mental Health Day on October 10th. Today, she is on the episode to talk about her book, social and emotional awareness, and tell the story of exactly how an art teacher gets into the publishing world. Full Episode Transcript Below.
Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by the Art of Education University, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.
Today, my friend Sarah Krajewski is returning to the show. You may also know her as the Art Room Glitter Fairy, and she has been on the show a couple of times, talking about a variety of topics, including the importance of mental health for both teachers and students, and how she uses a classroom mantra and how that works into the idea of mindfulness in the art room. She has a lot of really interesting things to say on those topics. But today she is here to talk about her brand new book called Exactly You: The Shape of Your Feelings. She is the author and the illustrator of Exactly You and it is a beautiful book. At first, I thought it was a children’s book and it is, don’t get me wrong. But when I learned a little bit more, I realized that it’s a book that can help anyone any age, understand and accept and normalize their feelings.
And I think that’s something that a lot of us need right now. And on top of that, I also want to talk to Sarah about just the process of publishing a book. I know that that’s maybe something that a lot of art teachers kind of daydream about, like publishing their own book, but I feel like a lot of us don’t know about how it happens or what is required or what goes on behind the scenes. So I’m hoping that she can elaborate on the process for us as well, because I think that’ll be a really interesting perspective, but she is here. She is ready to chat. So let’s go ahead and bring her on.
All right, Sarah Krajewski is joining me now. Sarah, welcome back to the show. How are you?
Sarah: Great. I am happy to be here, a whole day teaching my little kid I was from art on a cart and feeling energetic somehow.
Tim: That’s amazing. I’m very impressed.
Sarah: Thank you.
Tim: Hey, you know what? Just one day at a time, every day that you make it through is a good day.
Tim: So we’ll do that. So the reason I wanted to have you on is you have published or are about to publish a brand new book. Congratulations on that first of all. And secondly, can you tell us a little bit about the book?
Sarah: Yeah. Thank you. I am very, very excited about it. It’s been a dream of mine for a while to write and illustrate a children’s book and finally having done it, it feels really like quite the accomplishment. So it’s not officially out yet, but it will be released on 10/10/20, which is World Mental Health Day. Mostly because the book is basically designed to talk about big feelings. So the book is called Exactly You: The Shape of Your Feelings, and it’s a book to kind of start the discussion about normalizing big feelings like anxiety, self-esteem, depression, kindness, confidence, and kind of starting those conversations about those character traits in our students and in ourselves. And I can tell you a little bit more about the origin too of that, but to keep it simple, it is a beautifully illustrated, at least I think so because obviously I did the art for it, collage book with my abstract art, keeping our colors really cheerful and happy. And then just being able to kind of talk and guide students through this really positive self-affirming book. So that’s the synopsis a little bit.
Tim: I don’t know if this next question is the origin necessarily, but I did want to ask you about the beginning of the process. If you can like take me back to that. Like where did you find the inspiration to write the book? And then once you had that idea and that vision, whatever you want to call it, like how did you get started with writing it?
Sarah: Yeah, that’s a great question. I know it looks different for each author and illustrator and I know there’s so many people out there that may have ever thought about writing a book. There’s a lot of friends that I’ve talked to that are like, well, I actually want to do that too. So it’s fun to hear what the process looks like for everyone. And I have sort of an interesting story. So a little bit that I get asked usually is how did I find my publisher or telling me sort of a little bit about that publishing process, which I’ll tell you about in a little bit, but I wanted to share kind of the history of how that worked. So I had an idea for a book and I had been working with my publisher for the past, maybe two years or so. And the idea involved more complicated printing processes. So it was just taking me a little bit longer to sort of nail down how it was going to work and it was a little bit more complex.
So when the pandemic sort of hit and we were in quarantine, my publisher reached out to me again and said, “Hey Sarah, how do you feel about just, let’s simplify it and just like write a book. Why don’t you just write what’s kind of like how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, sort of maybe like scrap the idea initially from beforehand and keep it really simple instead of going so complex?” Which is interesting because there’s actually sort of like a writing theory called kill your darlings, which is something you’re really connected to. And you have to sort of like put that to the side and get rid of a piece of something you’re really emotionally connected to just to make the story work or to make a play work or music or something.
So that’s kind of what happened initially. It’s just like put a little stopper on it for a moment and then maybe I’ll revisit that later. So I started essentially over again and my process was a few steps. First, one day I was sitting out on my porch, it was a beautiful day out. I had my sketchbook outside and I essentially storyboarded the entire book. So I started by listing personality traits, characteristics, feelings that I wanted to address in a book, especially feelings that I was having. And that I was thinking maybe a lot of other people were having, specifically feelings like anxiety and depression that aren’t often talked about but I think are good for students and adults to recognize in themselves. So I wanted to address that to some extent, and once I had everything listed, then I quickly sketched it out, with sort of these scribbly abstract designs and tried to get a good composition of what I felt like my pages might look like.
And then I used my iPad and did some Procreate drawings to sort of play with what the color and composition might look like along with the text and where that might live within the page. And then I actually had to go back a little bit because I was like, okay, cool. I have my designs down. I can just start illustrating, but my designs weren’t exact. I’m the kind of artist that’s pretty free and I kind of experiment as I create. But realized quickly that I needed my digital drawing to be basically exactly what it should be in its final form. Because I had done like one or two collages and was sort of like generally keeping it close to the theme and realized there were too many decisions that I had to make in the paper form that couldn’t be edited as easily. So I went back and did a second set of digital drawings that were more final and that really helped because then I was essentially following a map.
So when I had my digital drawings done, I’m like, cool, I’m working on spread four and five. And I’m just going to create that collage paper and make it come to life.
Tim: So you were taking like your digital drawings as original ideas and then making them as collages, like hands on actual work?
Sarah: Right. My publisher and a couple friends asked and said, “Hey, the digital drawings are really cool. Should we just print these?” And it was really important to me that I modeled my artistic behavior in the making of the book. And since I am kind of a painter and I like … Well I shouldn’t say kind of a painter. I am a painter who likes using interior house paint and spray paint and all these different materials. I wanted to actually physically create the artwork and then put the text on top of it. So the digital drawing was essentially like my sketch. And then I did the collage work and had finished all of the spreads for my collage, then my great friend, Emily [Ballsly 00:08:58], who is a local illustrator to me, worked together with me to scan my originals into digital form. So we did all the scanning for my pages and then I wanted my own personal handwriting to be in the book.
So instead of using a pre-made text, I hand drew all of the font or all the text within the book using Procreate and kind of inserted that on top of the digital collage scans. So then once all that was done, I submitted it to my awesome team at Orange Hat Publishing. They are based out of Waukesha and we can chat a little bit about them too. They laid out the entire book for me. We had to check a couple things initially to make sure it looked the way that I wanted it. And then basically the last step of that is to start printing. They usually do. I believe it’s called a gallery copy where they [crosstalk 00:09:55] one book of each style, both paperback and hardcover to check over before they get all the rest of the books printed. So that’s kind of the whole process in a quick description of how the book was made.
Tim: Yeah, that’s really cool. And I wanted to ask a little bit more about that too. Just kind of talking about how things are made. I know you did both the writing and the illustrations for this, so I know this is specific to you, but what comes first for you when you’re going through that writing process? Do you tell the story first? Do you do the artwork first? Like what does it look like for you?
Sarah: Yeah, that’s a really good question too. And for me personally, the storyline was definitely first. Speaking back to that initial kind of origin story like I was telling you about, I actually had written and still do have written an entirely different book that’s not illustrated. But I found that that book I wasn’t feeling as excited or passionate to illustrate. So I think it kind of has to come hand in hand as that as you start illustrating, if you decide to do both things, being excited about it is more indicative of like, is this story something that I’m really passionate about? So I had definitely storyboarded the idea first, but kind of drew it at the same time too. So it was sort of a combined process for me that I was really excited about using my passion for abstract art making in my story. And that’s why it was a little bit easier for me to storyboard this idea in essentially like a day.
Because I knew I wanted to keep that abstraction alive and then also felt like I could more clearly see what kind of story or text I would be using in my book. So it was really sort of both at the same time and speaking to the fact that I maybe wasn’t as excited or feeling as confident with my initial idea, and then finally found my groove and I’m like, oh yeah, this is what I should be. This feels way better to me than kind of what I was initially thinking.
Tim: Okay. That’s cool. Now I also want to ask, you’ve mentioned a couple of times about your publisher. I think that’s something that a lot of people are curious about, all those people who are like, “Oh, I want to do a children’s books sometime.” So how did you find your publisher? And I guess related to that, did you have the book already done? Do you go to them with a finished product? A general idea? Can you just talk about how that whole process worked for you?
Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I knew personally that I find myself getting too busy and caught up in other things to try to figure out how to self publish. I know that is something that not a lot of people can do, but all of that sort of investigating, and it just felt like too much to me. So I knew I wanted to go with someone that would be there to help me so that I can work on the things that I’m passionate about, like the art making and the writing and the creative decisions and work together with a team. So I was lucky enough that Orange Hat Publishing and I actually connected through Instagram. So they had followed my Art and Glitter Fairy account because they’re local, we’re only a few cities away from each other. And they reached out to me essentially at this point a few years ago and asked if I wanted a few books from them and we just started chatting a little bit and I said, “Hey, I actually would like to write a book. So what does that look like?”
So they had been really awesome and started chatting about kind of contracts and ideas and stuff with me. So at that time it was really just an idea and it was that first idea that I had. So they’ve seen the whole process of me start from something very different and end with a completely different product and sort of take it from there. So they are specifically a local, family owned, indie publisher, and they’re based out of Waukesha, Wisconsin. So they’re very close to me, which means I can drive to them if there’s any in person decisions that need to be made when those things, obviously were safe to go to person meetings. And they have a bunch of authors too, that are nationwide and they have all sorts of contracts. So they kind of worked with me to figure out what would work best for me as an educator to provide me with the help that I needed, but also give me the freedom as a writer and illustrator for my book.
So there’s lots of different kinds of contracts that you can do with a publisher. And I know that’s really going to depend on who you choose or how you go through your publishing. What I personally would suggest is if you’re genuinely interested in writing a book and know you want to work with a publisher, first just search to see if there’s anyone local to you, because knowing you’re working with a family owned team, they have a team of like less than 10 people at Orange Hat and they’re so passionate about what they do. It feels really good to know that that team is there just for me, instead of like a big publishing company. Not to say there’s anything wrong with that, but that was what worked really well for me. And then kind of connecting with them to say, what’s going to work for you? What do you want the goal of your book to be and how can they support you?
So to answer your initial question of first of all, how did I find my publisher, but then also what was done in the book? I definitely did not have the book done or even close to done when I went to them. The initial one was like, “Hey, I have an idea. How can we maybe start this conversation?” And that’s when we started chatting about what that looked like. Now, of course you can go to them with a basically completed book, but I find that a little tricky, just because so many decisions are made that impact the publisher’s ability to work with you in the sense that at the beginning, it was a lot of questions like what size do you want the book? Do you want to offer it in hardcover and paperback? What kind of print quality? How do you plan to sell it? Do you want digital?
I mean, there’s so many little behind the scene questions that you’re maybe not necessarily thinking about that the publisher will help you through. So I intentionally didn’t start illustrating my book yet, because if I had designed this book in a size that wasn’t really going to fit, or maybe it wouldn’t fit our budget, then I would sort of be stuck in a box a little bit. So I think if you’re looking to write a book, you might want to have kind of a general idea, certainly writing and drafting some things up is a great place to start. That way, your publisher knows what kind of idea you have and then work together as a team to figure out what you really envision your book to look like, knowing that they are, of course, there to support you with answering those little questions. Like what exactly is the book going to look like? And how can you make that happen?
Tim: Yeah, that’s cool. I guess my next question for you, I was thinking about a timeline or the timeframe of doing things like this, just kind of came to me as you were talking about everything that goes into publishing this, like how long did the process take for you when you’re publishing a book like this from beginning to end? Like what did that look like? And were there any like big obstacles for you that may be delayed progress a little bit?
Sarah: Yeah. I mean, honestly, the timeframe is pretty flexible depending on again, what you envision for your book, how you’re going to write and or illustrate it. Certainly as artists, maybe you’ll work with someone else and then you’ll kind of need to, if you’re not planning to do both components, writing and illustrating, you might be the illustrator and you have a friend that’s going to help write it. So you kind of need to work together with that team. I definitely pushed my timeline, which I hope my publishers still love me … No. They work together with me really awesome, but kind of a funny story, because we were trying to decide on the release date and they had a few options and they’ve released many, many books, so they know kind of the background of what goes into it. And I was chatting with, and I said, “I think it would be so great to have out at the beginning of the year because everyone will be focusing on that social and emotional learning. It’d be a great tool for teachers and students.” And I was like, “I can have it done.”
And they were like, “Yeah, it’s going to be pushing it, but you’re convincing us, we’re drinking the Kool-Aid Sarah.” So I was like, okay so we pushed it for sure. And I really appreciate that they were supportive of me because I was just really passionate that I wanted to get the book out to people as fast as I could. So my whole timeline honestly, was essentially like seven months. So it was beginning of quarantine, I started that storyboard and then was basically illustrating and doing my collage, every little moment that I had, I would just chip away at it and scan and do my digital text and keep going. And then once we sort of had everything done, making those final decisions and then went from there.
So there’s some other authors and illustrators out there. Like, again, my friend, Emily, she’s done many books and she knows too that like it’s usually years. Like she has experience with writing something and then not seeing it in publication for a few years, even. So I’m pretty thankful that Orange Hat was able to push this through. I think as far as obstacles go, a lot of it is for me personally, just sort of that time crunch that I was pushing, which was really just my own insanity a little bit or my own excitement about the book, I should say. And then, just it felt like there was a lot of little decisions that I was making at the end that I wasn’t necessarily thinking about like picture the spine of a book, you have to design that. Picture like how does the wrap of the hard cover go? Like where does the wrap end? And all these things that that I necessarily wasn’t thinking about and deciding near the end, that was probably the, I wouldn’t even say obstacles. Just something that tended to take a little bit longer than I had initially expected.
Tim: Yeah. Fair enough. So can we turn this to art teaching really quickly? I guess I wanted to ask you, how do you think you’re going to be using your book in the art room? And bigger picture, like how do you think other teachers can possibly use the book with their students?
Sarah: Yeah, that is kind of my main hope is of course, literally just reading it to your students is going to hopefully start some really great conversations. And something that I really felt pretty affirmed about was that as I read it, I read it to a handful of close friends to sort of check for flow and check for my idea and really kind of talk with those people that I felt closest to about the book to feel confident about it. And many of them often said, “This isn’t just a children’s book. Like I want this book, I want to hear this book.” And it’s like an adult book, it’s like an everyone book, but in children’s book form. So my hope is that the book is designed in a way that it feels like it’s positive and beautiful to look at, but also is kind of able to open those doors a little bit, to be more of a conversation starter.
So one thing I’m really excited about, which is actually the back of the book. At the end, I have a double spread that has a few special little things in it. So I, as an art teacher, obviously want to try to give as much content to specifically our educators, but also parents and teachers and family members that are looking for things to do with the book once you’re done reading it. So it’s not like you read it, you close it up and you’re done. But at the end I have three art project ideas and a whole list of guided questions for conversation starters, sort of like an informational spread at the back of the book. So I’m really proud of that as well.
And then I think it’s really fun just to be able to model art careers for my students as well. So that’s how I plan to use it in the art room too, showing them that you can be an art teacher, you can be an artist, you can be an illustrator, kind of talking about all those different kinds of art careers that are possible and being able to model that to them feels like something I’m really proud of.
And then lastly, just trying to open those doors to talk about mental health with my students and advocate for therapy or really pursuing how you can have those safe conversations with people that you love. And ironically, I actually read my book to my therapist on one of our video calls and I was like, “Okay, tell me what you think?” It’s important to me that she feels like it’s appropriate and that it makes sense. So I feel a special connection to that because I want to make sure that it’s something that feels attainable for people, but also that we’re kind of picking away a little bit at some of those bigger conversations. So definitely going to be reading it to my students, just kind of starting there and then doing some fun art projects inspired by it and really keeping our focus on that abstract art. And keeping it sort of loose and fun and free and not keeping it quite so regimented, but giving them that space to explore and try to connect that therapeutic art education with the book and those feelings.
Tim: Nice. All right. Now finally, before we go, can you just tell us how people can order your book or how they can find your book if they are interested?
Sarah: Absolutely. So the easiest way is probably just to go to my website, which is artroomglitterfairy.com. And on my website, I have a bunch of tabs of places that you can follow me or find different information. So the first link on there, the first tab just says, order my book, Exactly You: The Shape of Your Feelings. And there will take you to the Orange Hat Publishing website, and they have an online bookstore that you can order the hard cover or the paper back there. So if you are able to pre-order, we’ve been doing like stickers and signed copies and stuff. So hopefully we’ll be able to do that for a while. Otherwise, of course, after the pre-order time is technically done, the book will still be available and still be beautiful.
Tim: You just don’t get the cool stickers with it.
Sarah: You just don’t get the cool stickers. But maybe I’ll do some giveaways on my Instagram or something. We’ll make sure we we get those out there. and then on my website too. Like I said, it will take you just to the Orange Hat Publishing site, which is a great way to help support them as well. But the book is also available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well. So if you just search Sarah Krajewski there, it’s spelled K-R-A-J-E-W-S-K-I. You should be able to find my book there. Otherwise you’re always welcome to just message me on my Instagram at art room glitter fairy, or again, just check out the website artroomglitterfairy.com and you can find pretty much anything you need there.
Tim: All right. Perfect. Sarah, thank you so much for coming on, telling us about your entire publishing journey and congratulations again.
Sarah: Thanks, Tim. I really appreciate it.
Tim: Thank you to Sarah. It was interesting to hear her talk about everything that goes into publishing a book. Sarah will also be on the Everyday Art Room Podcast soon, and I think she and Nic will talk a little bit more about how this book can be used in the art room and a little bit more about the importance of social and emotional learning. So if those topics are of interest to you, and if you want to hear a little bit more on that, look out for that coming either this week or next week on Everyday Art Room. And before we go, I want to recommend that you check out a little bit more from Sarah on the AOEU site. If you like hearing from her, she has a plethora of articles that are all worth reading. And as I said, she’s been on the podcast before and she also has four different pro packs if you are a pro member.
One is on black light art, one on mindfulness in the art room and a couple on elementary art hacks and elementary art clubs. A lot of great stuff, and you can check it all out at theartofeducation.edu.
Thank you again to Sarah for giving us her time and some of her insight into what it takes to write and to publish a book. It was fascinating to hear. And if you want to order Exactly You: The Shape of Your Feelings, we will link to her publisher as well as Sarah’s website and you can check out the show notes to get there. I think it is a book you will really enjoy.
Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you for listening and we will talk to you next week.
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.