Ben Romano (left) is a Jewish musician living in Washington DC with his wife, Rabbi Bailey Romano and his cat, Motzi Lechem. His works are inspired by his passion for multi-arts collaboration and creativity in education.
Emma Adams (right) is an illustration artist living in Minnesota. Using gouache paint to create whimsical little worlds, she fully believes that creating art inspires happiness and human connection, and loves being able to share that with people.
The I Have a Choice Journey
The Long and the Short of it
Imagine, you're sitting in a nursery school classroom waiting for your students to arrive. They should be here any minute. Behind you is a shelf of books. Out of curiosity, you pull a book off the shelf entitled "What do you do with an idea?" by Kobi Yamada. In the book, you discover a young child's experience of carrying around an idea and being made fun of because of the idea. You read of the transformative power of an idea and how an idea has the power to grow beyond what you could imagine. From being somewhere to being everywhere!
That was me
On that day, I began wondering, how is it possible that a children's book could have so many implications for life? To at once, both teach the listener and remind the reader about a powerful lived experience. I wanted a taste of that kind of creation for myself. It's kind of meta if you think about it. The book about ideas inspired an idea for a new book.
So I wondered, what would be the timeless lessons I'd like to teach, and I settled on two concepts
CHOICE and MISTAKE
And I set to writing a book called "I Discovered a Choice" and "I Discovered a Mistake" When the books were nearly complete, I reached out to the creators of the "What do you do with" series, to share of my work, with the hopes that they might pick up the concept of these books. Not only did they push me aside, but they told me I better be careful not to plagiarize their idea otherwise I could be in serious trouble.
So I put the books aside for a time, wondering where I had gone wrong. Wasn't I doing what the original book inspired me to do?
I didn't give up hope. After a few months of searching for illustrators, and realizing I hadn't the money to pay an actual illustrator, I found free source images. I began sharing the books where I could with friends and family.
One day, as I was endlessly scrolling through Tik Tok, I discovered an artist, and I really resonated with her work. Emma Adams, not only created clever videos on Tik Tok, but she had an incredible shop on Etsy with the artist tag Fox and Fables. I loved her vibe! So I sent her a message and asked her if she illustrated children's books.
I told her my story and shared about the books and she was quite interested, but I still didn't have the money to pay her. This is when I realized, I needed some more help. I reached out to my facebook network and got connected with a publisher at Harper Collins, Bonnie Honeycutt. She gave me excellent advice and among her suggestions was that I could start a fundraising campaign for self-publishing. Perhaps I could raise the funds needed to illustrate the book. While I did this, I could build energy around it by getting folks invested.
Another suggestion she gave was to reach out to trusted friends and receive their feedback. One particular suggestion busted the whole thing open! Judy Caplan Ginsburgh, a successful musician and entrepreneur suggested I turn the book from prose into poetry. The next day, in the wee hours of the morning, sitting with my cat, I did just that. That day, I copyrighted the book, and a few hours later, I developed the gofundme page for the book newly entitled "I Have a Choice."
I told Emma I'd pay for the cover of the book gratis as a chance to start the ball rolling, and within a week of making of the cover, I developed the promo video, which raised enough money to fund illustrations in 2 weeks.
But then something unexpected happened. Word was leaked about the potential for Roe v Wade to be overturned and now I had a book about Choice. Emma and I met and discussed some of the implications of this potentially heartbreaking news and decided that we would focus our book on a family of girls, but we did not know how this might play out.
When the final decision came out, I was devastated. So many of us were asking ourselves, how could this be?
Weeks passed and I laid low while Emma worked tirelessly on illustrations. Eventually, I decided to get back to work on PR, so I asked a friend of mine if I could invite their child to read the book. As I was completing this video, I got an email from the Washington Post. They wanted to see how my book was related to the recent decision to overturn Roe v Wade. I told them about the book and told them this story and they decided to publish a column only a few short weeks later.
With the videos out, and the column published, it's only a few weeks before the book actually hits the market. It's been on a long journey, but I'm excited that I chose to stick with it.
Oh and if you're wondering about that book about mistakes looks like it still needs some work, but who knows, you might be hearing about it soon!
Best, Ben Romano