Author Cliff narrates the story of his creating The Boy Who Grew Too Small . . .
One night I dreamed about a boy who started shrinking because he began smoking. Why such a dream, you ask? I had just learned that the Florida legislature had won a case against the tobacco companies and was awarded millions to encourage kids not to use tobacco.
My dream materialized probably because I hoped legislators would consider using this imagined book and my multi-media show “Choices” I was already presenting in schools. When I reached out to them later, they declined. However, a closed door wasn’t going to stop my dream from becoming a reality.
Still in pajamas, I grabbed a pen and a yellow sticky pad on my nightstand and started sketching dozens of images I had seen in my Technicolor dream. “I could see the images but had no idea who all the characters were or what the text would say.” Yet I was determined these images would be transformed into a book one day.
Unfortunately, I had limited time to work on the book because each year I was doing hundreds of multimedia shows in my business, American Art Assemblies. Nevertheless, I began redrawing the scribbly sketches, refining them. The sketches turned into a storyboard on my computer with 10-year-old Jeremy emerging as the main character.
Long before the book was published, a PTA member in a Jacksonville, Florida school contacted me to do a story time. Later on, in these storytelling engagements I used colorful digitized artwork magnified with a school’s LED projector.
Over the next several years I added text to the storyboard using a layout program called Canvas. Work on my book was slow-going because I had time only at the end of my workday after the physically demanding shows.
Alas, My Book Was Still Not Done . . .
I continued many more text revisions, but my book was still not publishable. However, I began the marketing process anyway. So, I designed and sold tee shirts depicting the main character Jeremy sitting under a tree with clothes that nearly swallowed him up.
Meanwhile, I trudged on “through the wearisome trenches of editing and revision.” For a few more years, I had former professors, administrators, teachers and school children read my drafts and give suggestions to polish the manuscript.
Finally, a Hoorah!
I used the Adobe InDesign application to create my final story with artwork, which then went directly to press: a 52-page children’s book with 36 full-color illustrations that I could hold in my hand.
Soon I was signing books at Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Borders, and some independent bookstores. As I continued with my live performances, some schools incorporated book signings along with assembly programs.
Since publishing The Boy Who Grew Too Small, I have illustrated two other children’s books, a mythical story The Fisherman, a hardcover book by Joe Andrews and Where Do We Go? by James Weinsier, a story about loss with a gentle touch.
This year Marian and I are collaborating on another book called A Tall Tale, bringing to life one of her blog posts about family roots.
This past weekend (February 2018), Cliff sold books at the Amelia Island Book Festival. Authors in various genres participated, including famed cookbook author Jacques Pépin, world-acclaimed authors David Baldacci and Lee Child of the Jack Reacher thrillers.