Why Animalfish? It all started about eight years ago. My youngest son was four, and that year he became obsessed with sharks. Together we learned about almost all the 440 different species of sharks in the world: hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, lanternhead sharks, cookie cutter sharks, nurse sharks, and guitar sharks. Well, the writer in me loves and collects names; over the years I've kept mental lists of fruits, flowers, herbs, seasons, and cities that can pass for reasonable people-names. So it didn't take long for me to wonder - could I come up with a whole alphabet of sharks named after other things? Fortunately this is the digital age, and after I dropped the boy off at preschool I'd spend an hour or two on the FishBase, a database aimed at research scientists but perfect for oddly-minded writers like myself. Eventually my list of sharks became just fish in general, and then just those fish named after animals. I thought it would make a great alphabet picture book, and sat down to write it. Then I set out to sell it.
The rejection letters I got back then from publishers were fantastic - seriously! Not a form letter among them; each editor had something positive to say about my manuscript, only for one reason or another the timing just wasn't quite right. So I tucked the whole packet away in a file cabinet, kept writing, went back to college to finish my B. A., started my own business, and kept writing.
Last year my oldest son took a marine biology class during his senior year of high school, and one of his textbooks was Thomas Niesen's The Marine Biology Coloring Book. I hadn't thought about the Animalfish Alphabet manuscript for a few years, but it seems obvious to me now - I could make it a coloring book! My business could publish it! The only drawback was my lack of images, and here my oldest son came through again. He told me he had a friend who was a talented artist and suggested I get in touch with her. I met Sara Birns for the first time at my house, where I gave her the manuscript, showed her styles of picture book illustrations I was drawn to, and asked her to make it whimsical. If you buy the book you'll see what she came up with - a marvelous, fabulous, amazing collection of drawings that really do bring the fish to life. I predict a successful future for her in the art world!
I'm extraordinarily proud that this home-grown effort has finally come to life, and can honestly say it's because of my two boys. Why animalfish? Why not? Let me know what you think.