CREATING HAPPY FEET, HEALTHY FOOD
This is the first of a series. Some of the other author-illustrator sections have not been created yet. Please read this page and then check back for more! I hope to have this whole section completed by the end of August.
Happy Feet, Healthy Food, Your Child's First Journal of Exercise and Healthy Eating|
by Carol Goodrow
MY BOOK ADVANCE
The graphic on the left was created when I was half-way through with Happy Feet, Healthy Food. The little brown pouncing puppy was modeled after my own pup "Midnight" who was an amazingly high JUMPER. Midnight was purchased with my book advance (not a 6-figure one, but one great enough to buy a 4-pawed wonder dog). The book advance arrived by postal mail.
I knew what to do with the money. I would buy a puppy for my husband. The time I put into my book project had pulled me away from friends and family alike and so besides almost being "without a wife" my husband was truly without a dog. His last German Shepherd Dog, Shadow, had passed away a couple of years back.
This "pounce picture" has always been one of my simplest but favorite illustrations. I have a HUGE print of it framed in my house - my 100-year-old house in a small Massachusetts town.
MY WORKING SPACE
I work at a computer in my tiny living room - my all-purpose room. When I'm at my computer, I'm so close to the love seat, bookshelf, chair, and file-cabinet that I can reach out and touch them. The width of the room is just about 5 not-so-long strides. I can almost touch the sliding door that takes me to the back yard from my computer. The length of this room is about 8 strides. If I took that many steps I'd run smack into the wood stove.
My dog uses the love seat as a couch. When he thinks I've worked too long, he paws me on the shoulder as if to say, "That's enough. Get up. Come out and play or GET ME SOMETHING TO EAT." The chair, I use it to fling my robe or middle-of-the-night sweater on. Across the room there's a couch that my husband sometimes sits on to watch TV or I sleep on till breakfast time, the days I've been up working all night. In front of that is a book-covered coffee table: books that I am reading or will read soon, also crossword puzzles from the daily or Sunday paper, pens, my eyeglasses, and a dog toy or two. At the far side of the room stands a black cast-iron pine-tree embossed tall wood stove that has held no wood, only an errant squirrel. My husband gallantly captured that lost squirrel and set her free.
Midnight, as a pup, actually pounced upon that wood stove and sat staring at me like a rooster on a perch - a proud prince on his throne until I made him get OFF. Now the stove is covered with dog toys, from softballs to flying disks.
There's another cluttered bookshelf filled with books I can't part with, but never look at. In the far corner of this room sits a huge dog crate that replaced the small one we had when I was writing Happy Feet. Pushed in between the crate and the wall is a bicycle.
This computer desk that I work at holds too many things to list. It's a computer desk in which a bird and bat (at different times) have hidden to terrorize me. Again, my husband has no fear and is ingenious in capturing these creatures. Only the bat got swatted with a tennis racket, but survived the blow. Many of my old Kids Running supplies are here: ribbons, bookmarks, envelopes, PIN cards, a clock, phone, camera and papers.
Pileated Woodpeckers love my country-like town. This one was pecking away at a tree about 6 houses up my road. My road starts off Main Street in the town, but by the time you've counted 20 houses, it looks like you're in the country. The houses become sprinkled, more lightly as you go. It's unusual to see a big woodpecker like the pileated so close to Main Street. I see these birds more often at the state park, or in the very wooded area on my run. It's one of my greatest reasons to go out every day. I just might see a special bird.
The floor is an old hardwood floor in need of repair but so much better than the UGLY red rug that was hiding it when we moved in.
The walls are now covered with pretty yellow-flowered wallpaper - a decoration I was able to purchase after the sale of some of my books. When writing the book, it had mismatched sheets of blue printed wallpaper. I had papered the room myself - using paper left over from a bathroom project and a mud room as well - total cost CHEAP. The yellow professional job was a splurge, but one that cheered up the room.
A few prints from Happy Feet hang on the walls: the garden scene, the snow shoe trail, the duathlon, and of course the POUNCE picture. I have 3 framed newspaper articles. One with a happy picture of me in front of a school bulletin board holding a rose, the first week of school. It announced my first book contract, another with a color picture publicizing a book signing in Manchester, CT, and the last a full-color newspaper article from Taiwan in Chinese showing my schoolchildren with running journals and the Happy Feet book, along with kids' art from early years when I was creating kidsrunning.com. A nice young man from the Wok Inn restaurant, translated the article for me.
There's an eyesore of a fan standing in my room (my husband's choice - men are hot, women are cold in my house). You can view the kitchen through a large cut-out area in the middle of the room behind the couch. There is a doorless doorway, with a keep-the-dog-out gate for emergencies. This old room - now a little more decorated, still dim without much lighting, was where I wrote and illustrated every inch of the book. Having a photographer come to my house for an interview sends me into a tail spin with hours of tidying and cleaning.
Whereas, I created AND typset my book sitting at my computer, the content was gathered from the activities I had participated in throughout the years: hopscotch, catching fireflies - from my childhood, running the Boston Marathon and doing a duathlon, from my adulthood, the canoeing, and bike riding have been lifelong activities although I couldn't ride a bike until upper elementary school. A few activities like soccer belonged only to my children.
The art was done in line drawings using Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is a vector graphics program. I'm self-taught and I suppose it shows, but the more I used this program the more skilled I became. Using vector graphics has its challenges. Notice the mittens on the children? For this first book, I didn't have the skill to make hands on the characters. That came later. See the soft round plump nearly-shapeless black Mary Jane type shoes in the pounce graphic? Until Garth Battista, my publisher, complained about these and called them "bunny slippers", I didn't make the effort to draw more realistic running shoes. The "bunny slippers" remained until I designed the cover. See the ice skates? They took me an afternoon - at least.
THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE
I was comfortable with creating a running/fitness/healthy eating journal for kids. The topic was just right for me. I had spent years working in this area. On the Web, I started with Way Cool Running. I had developed and named that old site (no longer in existence as I created it). Before that, I built a complete running/learning classroom curriculum. I ran and journaled with my kids every day. We made connections and aligned all activities with the curriculum. While I was writing Happy Feet, I was the acting as the Editor of KidsRunning.Com. That site, too, was my creation, although I am no longer affiliated with it or with Runner's World. Day in and day out, I created articles and activities, answered questions, and researched healthy habits. From all of these experiences I had enough knowledge stored in my head to easily manipulate it and create a book.
But it was the format. Over and over, I tried to get a consistent format. It was October when I decided to scrap the format that I had changed UMPTEEN times, but had been working on for a good 5 months. It was a Saturday morning at the school Cider Mill 5K where it occurred to me what I had to do. I don't know exactly how the idea popped in my head - just where. I had an e-mail conversation with Amby Burfoot the night before and he mentioned something to me about consistency.
The details are gone, but unexpectedly that Saturday morning while I was at a race, the format idea emerged. I KNEW exactly what to do with every bit of the format. It was on my mind and it was exciting. So exciting - that the race turned into something that I just wanted to finish to GET OUT OF THE WAY. I wanted to get home and work on my book and put my final format to work!!! But then again that meant I would go home and START MY BOOK and all of the many many pages OVER. However, once I got this down, except for the recipes (which I HAD to invent, or try) it was just cranking out page after page. I had found my way.
It's not easy to name a book. Not for me anyway. I had many ideas. Some good. Some frivolous and it was hard to find a fit. Finally I came up with Fun Feet, Fit Food and Amby suggested Happy Feet, Healthy Food and so the book had a title. It's a great name, loved by the kids and over the years it became the name of my after-school club, but there's a little problem. When I do school assemblies the kids see HAPPY FEET and think that my book is about a dancing penguin. I learned to start my PowerPoint presentations with a blank screen so I can break it to them gently. In retrospect, maybe I should have stayed with Fun Feet, Fit Food.
To complicate things a little, I have to tell you that I am and was a full-time teacher while writing each and every one of my books. This means that time is limited. So writing a book changed my life. My weekends were never free. My after-school times weren't either. To meet my deadline I had to schedule working time EVERY day. That includes Sundays and middle-of-the-nights. Social life? NO! Free time? Nada!
Many Sunday mornings, my husband would take me to Wells State Park. He'd walk his own flat path with the dog, and I'd run the steep asphalt hilly road that wound through the thick forest. This page was inspired by my run at Wells - my heaven on earth place. Going up the first hill, I'd see the tall trees and imagine I wasn't running alone.
To write and illustrate a book quickly takes a toll on one's emotional and social life. Still, I received joy from creating this book. Each completed page was thrilling in its simplicity. I teach children - young children, dyslexic and reluctant readers, so I purposely kept the sentences simple, short and to the point. I imagined children reading. And I varied the sections so that they would appeal to a variety of ages. The "Reasons to" sections have sophisticated concepts. The "Fun Feet" sections are uncomplicated. The "Nutrition facts" (GOOD STUFF) are to the point. And the log, since it involves writing is open ended. Bring what you can to it at any level.
Amby Burfoot told me that I would love working with Garth Battista as my publisher and he was right. Garth gave me the freedom I needed. I wanted to illustrate and he let me. Amby, at one point, had told me I'd probably have to give up my illustrating and get a better illustrator, but that's not what was in my heart. I express myself as well through my easy plain illustrations as through words - at least that's how I see it. I didn't want another illustrator and Garth let me have my way. I also was working without a budget. I didn't have an external hard drive and Garth let me send him each file over and over with change after change through the email. What a pain I must have been! And he never complained.
The book would have a positive attitude. I made sure of that. Negativity is one of my pet peeves. I don't like to be negative with people to a fault. In school, I believe in nurturing. I was made with an extra dose of empathy. Too much. But I wanted this reflected in my book. There would be NO telling kids what NOT to do. Just all positive messages. There would be NO telling kids what not to eat. Junk food is NOT mentioned. The only negativity would be in what I would NOT put into my book.
THINGS I'M PROUD OF
I like the little TIME TRACKER. I wanted to encourage kids' daily exercise to equal an hour so I made 6 little 10-minute blocks for each day, 10, 20,30, 40, 50, 60 minutes. Kids would "X" them in. If they exercised an hour on a particular day the WHOLE row of squares would be filled in. It's a neat goal, easy, and clear.
I like that I illustrated my book and worked very independently on this project. When free to create, the ideas flow. I'm happy that it has done so well and that so many children have used it.
"LOVE" If a child takes a book to heart it may change that child's life. This book is dedicated to all children who love physical activity and healthy eating, including my many schoolchildren for the past 7 years. It's also dedicated to the many children who have yet to discover the joys of exercise and nutritious food in hopes that this book will inspire and enrich their lives.
Happy Feet, Healthy Food |
The Treasure of Health and Happiness | Kids Running: Have Fun, Get Faster & Go Farther
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Happy Feet, Healthy Food, Your Child's First Journal of Exercise & Healthy Eating
The Treasure of Health and Happiness
Kids Running: Have Fun, Get Faster & Go Farther