It’s been a long process over this past year of finally getting to the point where my first book, of the Gender Rainbow series, is nearly ready to be released. There is something magical about producing my first book. It started out as a birthday present for my niece about overcoming obstacles and dreaming big. And then later I came back to the story and decided it needed part 2. I asked myself the question, “Why doesn’t the ant want to try something new?” And that’s when the transgender theme appeared. And in a sudden burst of inspiration before the first round of editing, I transformed the cast of characters into all different colors of the rainbow, representing 7 different gender identities, including non-binary ones. The series Gender Rainbow was officially born.

Andrea Torrey Balsara is a writer and illustrator that I know from childhood church connections. She shared how Friesen Press had helped her to publish a children’s book. I was working on other things at the time and set the project aside. Yet, shortly after I was aware of the company, my parents brought me a book written by our former neighbor, Diane Puckett. When I looked at the back cover I discovered it was also published by Friesen Press. It seemed that the universe kept nudging me onward.

In January of this year, I was a little stuck with what my next direction should be for work and I got hit on the head and suffered a concussion. I decided that since I would have to rest a lot, now was a good time to take my book and try to figure out publishing it. (I figured it would be more work for everyone else for editing and illustrating, but I didn’t realize how involved I would actually be all along the way.)

Originally, it was just something I was going to publish to say that I did and to share with the children around me. But, the more I have listened to people’s stories and seen the increasing news of transgender oppression, the more I got passionate about this book and a series to help spread love and acceptance. This year has taught me that I really love reading and creating children’s stories. And I love writing and playing with rhyme. I think my music background makes this a fun challenge for me. I also love the idea of educating through books. So, here I am, with a fully produced first book and several rough drafts for the projects to come. All in one year.

I would like to thank the Freisen Press team that started off my project. Marianna Ciccia was my point of contact for helping to get the manuscript and illustrations finalized and collected, while Olivia Zendo was my first editor, helping to shape the details and order of the story. I also appreciate the editing feedback and general book advice I got from Lee Nolan-Lönn. Many later proofreading details were shaped by my mother, Janet Irby (with the over-the-shoulder guidance of my dad, David Irby). Thanks for all your cheering me on through this whole project, it was much appreciated!

I met the illustrator, Jessica Gamboa, through Fiverr. We have never talked, only messaged each other – with the help of google translate between Spanish and English- and were able to work together to get illustrations that really help to paint the story. I loved her style in drawing other colorful animals and thought this would work well with my rainbow of animal characters. This lovely group of characters now inspires me toward wanting to write more stories. I so much appreciate Jessica’s work on this project, the characters really do come to life on the page.

I really want to thank Gail Nicolaysen-Shurtleff, LMFT for all the random conversations about how the characters should look and which crown is really fit for non-binary royalty. And to Maria Buyondo for giving opinions on artwork and layout ideas and general encouragement for the process. Thanks to Jackie Burt for another set of eyes on the layout stage of the process. I’m so grateful to have met you because of this book. Thanks to Skyler Dormier for reading early versions of the story and giving feedback, helping me improve, and getting to the heart of what is important. Thanks also to Jenn Odell and Genesis Ellis for sharing their stories and helping me shape my letter to readers. Thanks to Michael Wright for a brilliant edit of my author bio. And to Stephanie Dupuis for generally believing in me and cheering me on.

In the Friesen Press design process, thanks to Gillian Hebert for the overall coordination of the production team and Kenn Enns for coordinating the book trailer. For Kiana Karimkhani, thank you for your work on the cute and lovable book trailer with the waving & dancing turtle. Thanks to Alyssa Doucet for a fabulous layout design. You really made the words JUMP off the page!

Blue turtle next to the red and purple ant. The ant is imagining themselves jumping and the turtle is thinking of a conversation with the grasshopper about asking the question "How?" instead of "Why?"

Links for purchase:

Canada – Friesen Press

US- Amazon

US – Barnes & Noble

Sweden – Adlibris

If you are one of my creative friends/fans who is also interested in self-publishing a book with Friesen Press, Use my referral code FPA44851RP to get 10% off your first book project.