Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I'm An Illustrator But...

. . . another illustrator is illustrating my book. Although I never imagined this would happen to me, it turns out to be a common occurrence in children’s publishing. 

Since my last contribution on the Kidlit Artist blog, I’ve been painting, drawing and exploring fun and different styles of illustration. I’ve also devoted more time to writing and discovered that I enjoy creating lyrical and poetic stories.  It turns out that humor tends to come out in my writing — more so than in my art, which turned out to be a  challenge with my funny, new story.   This post is about how I came to embrace the idea of another artist illustrating my humorous story.

Here’s what happened.

At an SCBWI writers’ retreat in Iowa, I Am Goose!, caught the attention of editor and agent Laura Biagi, who offered representation. After many revisions, back and forth with Laura, tweaking the nuances of the story, finding the style of the art, she submitted it to several publishers.

Soon after, Laura called to let me know that we had two offers for my story. I was elated! But, that excitement quickly turned to disappointment as I learned neither publisher thought the illustration style worked with the story. 

Needless to say, it was a bitter pill to swallow. I have always perceived myself as an illustrator first and writer second. Not to mention, I had been working on for this book for quite a long time. In fact, I created a story bible for this manuscript. Here is a link to a previous post: http://kidlitartists.blogspot.com/2015/05/character-bibles-discover-your-story.html

At this point I was still determined to illustrate the story. I thought if I knew exactly what the editor and art director wanted, that I could do it. They agreed to give me another shot at finding the right style. They described the style that they felt would enhance the manuscript. I got to work. I came up with a completely different look — more modern and stylized. When I sent it to my agent, I told her, “That’s all I’ve got. If this isn’t right, then I will step aside and let another artist envision my characters.”

A few days later while I was walking on the prairie, Laura called. It still wasn’t right. At that point, I felt a sense of relief. Possibly the fresh air or birds singing helped me to feel at peace with this decision. I had worked on this story for so long, and I needed to move on. Thank goodness I had many other manuscripts and dummy books waiting for me to finish. 

Laura suggested I continue writing humorous stories, with an understanding that other artists would be a better fit, while also writing lyrical stories that fit my own style of art. After this long walk and talk with Laura, I knew this was the right decision for me and my manuscript. 

I was thrilled when the editor, Dinah Stevenson at Clarion chose the talented Vanya Nastanlieva to illustrate “our” story. I came to see that the book no longer belonged to me, but to each person who had a role in its publication.  

I Am Goose! will be released in 2019. I can’t wait to see the illustrations and read it to the Head Start children who inspired this story. 

I hope this post will help illustrators who might be in this situation some day. 

Happy writing and illustrating,



Dorothia Rohner enjoys illustrating and writing stories for children
 that combine nature, humor and the magic of imagination.

Author: I Am Goose! (Clarion, 2019)
Twitter: @dorothiar
Instagram: @dorothiar

Debut Authors 2019:


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Dorothia. It is good to know that this does happen sometimes and I am glad you are pleased with the other illustrator's work. I have been working hard on my picture book writing and illustrating but I know that while my writing skill maybe at querying level my illustration skill will not be there for perhaps years. I have been wondering whether an author illustrator might start as an author first and later begin in illustration but I had never heard of that happening to anyone.

    1. Thank you Connie for your reply. Yes, I was surprised to know it is more common that I had thought also. Good luck with your writing and illustration

  2. Dorothia, I've been in this same boat. My first several books were illustrated by someone else. It's a tough river to paddle but I have now illustrated 4 of my latest books. I applaud your work and spirit and can't wait to see what else you do!

    1. Hi Leslie, Thanks for all of your input during this time. You are an inspiration.