Heather Miller wrote a children’s story for a school assignment during her grad school days at Rhode Island College.
“I had kept the assignment in a folder,” Miller said. “I was reading it to a friend. ‘Why don’t you put it in a book?’ “
The friend, artist and gallery owner Jeff Homchick, started making sketches immediately. Miller took the plunge — entering the realm of authorship for her first children’s book.
“The Adventures of Frizzy and Lizzy” — about two birds who travel the world looking for a home, came to fruition 20 years later, launched this year.
“I love how it turned out,” said Miller, a special education teacher and yoga instructor in Sun Valley, Idaho. “I couldn’t be happier with the layout, the colors. The illustrations are amazing.”
“I am happy it’s been so supported in my community,” she said. She’s given public readings and the local newspaper published a story.
Miller works at Lululemon athletic store, Zenergy Health Club and Spa in Sun Valley, and is a special education teacher. She is also a runner and loves the area for its emphasis for outdoor sports.
“It’s actually the first place that ever had a chair lift. The first place for skiing in the country,” she said. “It’s where all Olympians and Europeans come. Ernest Hemingway lived here, died here.”
Miller taught high school special education in Lansing for 10 years, before moving to Idaho eight years ago.
Miller sent her friend’s sketches to C. Pierson DeCesare, who ultimately made the illustrations for the book.
“My sister’s an author,” Miller said. “She had met some people at a book conference in New York. She connected me to (DeCesare).”
Miller’s sister, Alison L. Miller, a teacher in Goshen, has written several romance novels under the pen name Alison Boniface.
Heather Miller worked with DeCesare via email, passing sketches and revisions back and forth.
The rhyming book will appeal to children under 8, thanks to its illustrations. But kids ages 2 and 3 will especially like it, Miller said. “The illustrations capture all ages,” she said.
As the two birds, Frizzy and Lizzy, travel the world looking for a place to live, they hit several continents and explore its animals, climate and habitat. They visit Antarctica, Africa, New Zealand, Australia and South America. The last page has a map, allowing the reader to trace the travels.
The challenge was writing a story that would capture the audience’s attention — “To be able to have it be engaging, whether by words or pictures,” Miller said. “Children’s attention spans these days are shorter.”
Publishing was a challenge, too. “I didn’t think I would do this. It was very hard,” Miller said. “I didn’t know anything about the publishing industry. I started and stopped.”
But Homchick and her sister encouraged her all the way.
Jennifer Jones of Homer, a children’s author and former book store co-owner, said she too has sat on stories for years. That was the case for her first book, “Dear Mrs. Ryan, You are Ruining My Life.”
“Once I started writing, it became a novel,” she said.
Still, publishing a book is very difficult, she said, either by traditional publishers or the self-publishing route. There is no single answer to what makes a children’s book successful, Jones said.
“One of the things that makes a successful picture book — it has to appeal to young and old alike, to the child and an adult,” she said.
An adult is going to choose the book for the child, after all, she noted. And these days, especially, picture books must be concise, she said.
In Miller’s case, the project took almost a year after she picked it up again. She thought she’d have the book done before that.
“It’s not a money maker,” she said. “It’s just to have an accomplishment. I am actually working on another one. People want the next one.”