By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Most people who have known JoAnn Dickinson on the mountain have known her as a real estate agent.
But underneath that business persona was a creative person, yearning to write a children’s book.
That dream came true when Dickinson wrote her first book – I Love To Go Camping – in 2016. That book was inspired by her own love of camping and that of her grandson, John, who is now 10.
That first book was followed in 2018 by Lulu’s New Best Friend, inspired by her granddaughter, Amelia, now 8.
“I was watching John a couple of days a week,” Dickinson said. “They started going camping and he was so excited. His face lit up when he told mee about catching his first fish. They went hiking and saw a squirrel. I wanted to document it somehow.”
That first book has turned into a series, with John’s Camping Adventures, soon to be followed by John’s Camping Adventures at Crab Run Beach.
“I also enjoy camping,” Dickinson said, adding that she and her husband bought an RV in 2001 during the pandemic. “We had always worked fulltime and were so busy. We felt as though we had never seen our own U.S. We didn’t want to fly because of COVID. We drove to Texas and bought our RV there.”
Last year Dickinson met an author coach. “She coached me through self publishing,” she said. Her first book went through a publishing company. But now she has established her own company, Two Sweet Peas Publishing, through which she releases her books.
While Dickinson writes the books, she turns to established artists to illustrate them. So far she has worked with four: Keith Mitchell, Daria Shamolina, Lauren Sparks and Debi Schroth.
There are, she said Facebook and Instagram pages where authors can connect with illustrators. “As you write, you think about the style you want for your characters. I don’t like the typical animated characters. I try to find something very different.
Mitchell, who is an art director, was available to illustrate Dickinson’s first book but was too busy for the second. Robin Lyles, owner of The Lake House, where Dickinson’s books are sold, suggested Schroth as a good fit. She later connected with Shamolina and Sparks.
“The illustrations really sell the book,” Dickinson agreed. “They bring the story to life.”
The author coach Dickinson spoke with told her that, if she wanted to make it fulltime as an author, she needed for write and launch more books.
“I wrote four new stories last year,” Dickinson said.
She has a “kickstarter” planned for her next book – Lou’s Zoo and Winston Too – that is set to be released in 2023. The purpose of the kickstarter – during which readers can purchase the book prior to its release – is to give the author funding for the printing. The launch day for Lou’s Zoo and Winston Too will be Feb. 13; early bird discounts will be offered during the first 48 hours of the launch.
“The storyboard for this book has been finalized,” Dickinson said. “The illustrations are currently being painted and should be completed by Jan. 30.”
Dickinson said she usually has a story idea from something she has seen. For her book What’s New at Lou’s Zoo, she said she wanted to write a book about opposites. “I started naming the characters and ended up writing a different book from what I had thought.”
Dickinson just had the opportunity to attend an authors’ summit in Las Vegas where self-published authors got together. “I am so excited to meet people I have only Zoomed or texted with,” she said prior to the summit.
On Facebook, following the summit, Dickinson wrote, “I attended my first author summit yesterday and what a fantastic event it was! It was packed with so much information about school distribution, publicity, branding and so much more. The speakers were experts in our industry. I was so grateful to have the opportunity to learn from the best of the best.”
Dickinson’s books are available both on Amazon and her website, www.joanndickinsonauthor.com.