There is an exception to every rule. Some of you may be aware that my review policy states: “I do not accept requests for self-published books.” Yet this weekend I am featuring Eva Keefe’s self-published books. Eva did not actually approach me; my dad told me about the recognition she had received in our province for her books. When considering options for regional books to review while visiting my family in Newfoundland, hers came to my mind. Over the past couple of months, Eva Keefe and I have talked by email and most recently in-person. Having heard her inspiring story, I am delighted to share it here. What follows is a compilation of our conversations about her books.
Allison: When did you start writing? Did you illustrate your own books?
Eva: In 2006. I illustrated my own books and that’s when I started drawing on my own.
Allison: Why did you decide to create an alphabet book?
Eva started writing in 2006. She wrote her first book, an alphabet book called A “2” Z Just “4” Me, because she had a ten-year-old visiting boy in her Sunday School class who could not read. He panicked when asked to read. Upon her encouragement, he agreed to read but he knew only three words in the paragraphs he read: “I”, “it”, and “a”. Eva was not employed at the time and so, after finding out what elementary school the boy attended, she offered to help him to learn to read. The principal allowed her to help him each morning for four days a week. He wanted Eva to keep track of what books the boy read, but otherwise she was free to teach him however she felt best. With the more difficult books, she encouraged him to just read a line at a time. By the end of the school year, the boy had read over two hundred and seventy books. Two of those were chapter books on his grade level.
Allison: Why did you self-publish your first book?
Eva: My attitude is if I want something done, do it myself. My hard work will pay off.
Allison: How long did it take to publish your first book?
For Eva, the writing itself did not take long. The pictures however took two years, because Eva redrew some of them several times in trying to learn to draw. When she found a printer for her book, she spent three weeks redoing all of her artwork. From start to finish, producing the book took three years.
Allison: Your second book is based on a childhood memory. Why did you pick that memory?
After its publication, to improve her skills, Eva took a creative writing course from the Institute of Children’s Literature. For it, she wrote a lot of true stories. Her instructor recommended that Eva turn one of them into a children’s story. And so she did!
Allison: How long did it take to publish your second book?
Eva’s writing course lasted two years. It took her another year to complete the artwork. During this time, she worked full-time as an aid to children with special needs. After her job was done for the day, she would come home and draw until 3:00 in the morning.
Allison: Did you receive feedback on your books before you self-published them?
Eva: I selected four people with different vocations to read my manuscript and give me constructive criticism.
Allison: Have you ever tried to find a publisher for your books?
Eva approached a publisher for her second book, but was told she would need to wait four years for its publication. Not wanting to wait, she decided to self-publish again.
Allison: Why did you illustrate your own books?
Although she did not consider herself an artist, Eva drew her own pictures for both books. After writing the second, she inquired about the services of an artist. When learning it would cost $30 an hour, Eva decided to invest the money instead into art lessons. Her art instructor gave her advice and support on her illustrations for A Girl with a Dream.
Allison: What kind of recognition have your books received?
Eva: I haven’t received any recognition from book clubs, but I have gotten many phone calls from people I don’t even know. Children have come up to me and said, “I have your book and I love it.” One parent told me that her six-year-old daughter read my second book and looked up at her mom and said, “Anything is possible, isn’t it mom?” Another parent told me that her son read A ”2” Z Just “4” Me and looked up at his mom and said: “She made a good book.” A friend told me that the child she babysat would not settle for any other book.
Allison: How have you promoted your books?
For both of her books, Eva held a book launch. Promotion was not without stumbling blocks. The first run of A ”2” Z Just “4” Me contained several errors on the part of the printer. Eva ran an apology letter in the local newspaper at her cost as well as replaced the copies her customers had bought.
A friend of hers in WISE (Women Interested in Successful Employment) bought a copy of her book to read to the group. Eva was invited to speak about her publishing start.
Several local stores agreed to sell copies of her books. Most did not ask her for any money from the sales, but she still told them to take %15 of the profits. She also placed books in the provincial libraries and information centers.
Eva also goes door-to-door to sell her books. Now she is also accepting requests by email for her books. You can contact her by email.
Allison: What are some of your other positive experiences as an author?
Teachers often want to read Eva to read her books. They appreciate that she can show students how a book is published. They are excited to meet a local author! Students will see her in the mall and tell their parents: “She’s an author!”
Allison: What are the most important lessons you have learned about the writing craft?
Eva: When you’re writing for children, you need to write positive and teach a lesson. Also, it takes a tremendous amount of time, commitment, and hard work to write. It doesn’t come over night.
Allison: What are you future writing plans?
Eva: I plan to write my life story. The title will be Horrors of Childhood or something of that nature. It will need to be catchy! The book will be the absolute truth as I remember it.
Allison: Will you write more books for young people?
Eva: I have a twelve-chapter outline of a book for boys.
If you wish to purchase Eva Keefe’s two picture books, you can contact Eva Keefe directly. Also, I am offering a copy of each of her books as a giveaway. To be entered into a draw to win her books, add a comment to this review or my interview with her.
Américas Award for Children’s & Young Adult Literature
CLASP founded the Américas Award in 1993 to encourage and commend authors, illustrators and publishers who produce quality children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States.
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. It was established by in 1936, in memory of the great Scottish-born philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.
The Christy Awards are awarded each year to recognize novels of excellence written from a Christian worldview.
Coretta Scott King Award
The Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples. It is given to African American authors and illustrator.
children and young adult blogger literacy awards
Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award
The Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award was initiated in 2000 to recognize authors, illustrators, and publishers of high quality fictional and biographical children, intermediate, and young adult books that appropriately portray individuals with deve
Hans Christian Anderson Award
The Hans Christian Andersen Awards is given to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature. The award is the highest international recognition an author can receive.
Kate Greenaway Medal
The Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955, for distinguished illustration in a book for children. It is named after the popular nineteenth century artist known for her fine children’s illustrations and designs.
Middle East Book Award
The Middle East Book Award recognizes quality books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East and its component societies and cultures.
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award
Honors fantasy books for younger readers, in the tradition of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia
Newbery Medal Award
The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
Pura Belpré Award
The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. It is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino experience.
Red House Book Award
The Red House Children’s Book Award is a series of literary prizes for works of children’s literature published during the previous year in England.
Sydney Taylor Award
The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.