Interview with Stephanie Wykoff

Friends, I’m thrilled to have a special guest on the blog today! Stephanie Wykoff is a designer, illustrator and picture book creator whose debut picture book, Now I Know My Avocados, offers a fresh spin on alphabet books. She kindly agreed to stop by Raincity Librarian and answer a few questions for us! Welcome, Stephanie!

Please introduce yourself to our readers!

Hi there, I’m Stephanie, a designer, creative director, illustrator, mom, and wife, living and creating on the seacoast of New Hampshire. During business hours I am passionately creating an app for Veterans that educates and practices positive psychology in every day life. On the side, I am illustrating and promoting my first self-published children’s book that was inspired by my son. 

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Tell us about your new book, Now I Know my Avocados!

Now I Know My Avocados is a whimsical scavenger hunt for explorers both young and mature. This adventure encourages readers to seek-and-find common objects that are scattered among vibrant alphabet-themed landscapes. It is an artful and unique book that challenges inquisitive minds on every page. The illustrated objects and scenes have been known to spark endless conversations, storytelling, and interaction among children and families. 

What inspired you to create an alphabet book as your first picture book?

Now I Know My Avocados has been a labor of love for a little over three years. I started illustrating child-friendly objects when I was pregnant with my son and on bedrest. Initially, I used the illustrations to keep my mind and creativity busy while my body was resting. Soon the illustrations began to take the shape of a children’s book. 

As a child I adored “Where’s Waldo” and seek-and-find books. The more illustrations I created, the more I envisioned them morphing into a children’s book with a seek-and-find theme. The alphabet seemed to be a fitting concept that children would relate to and that my illustrations could be categorized into. I was inspired to create an interactive book that could grow with my son, from learning his first words, to using his imagination for storytelling, and now practicing his alphabet and vocabulary. 

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Can you tell us about the process behind creating the book? How long did it take to create, from start to finish? Where there any bumps along the road?

After a quick labor, somewhat slow recovery, and a blissful maternity leave, I picked back up on the illustrations when I could, between being a new mom and working full-time. While the creation process for the book was slow, it was a nice change of pace from my other work. I spent 2.5 years illustrating the book in my limited spare time and was determined to publish the book for my son’s third birthday. While the slow pace was enjoyable in some regards, it also came with its limitations.The biggest struggle during the creation process was not being able to focus my undivided attention on the creation and completion of the book. The publishing process also proved to be challenging. Originally I hoped to self-publish the book as a durable board Book. However, I quickly realized that board book options for independent authors are limited and costly. While Amazon’s Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing are helpful for newbies like me, their tools and resources leave certain things to be desired. 

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How does your background in design influence you as a children’s book creator?

As I’ve matured as a designer, I’ve found peace in minimal, clean, and simple designs and experiences. I find that limiting my designs to certain parameters helps to guide visual consistency along with my personal productivity. When I began creating the very first illustrations while on bedrest, I limited myself to an 8 color palette and was determined to use a flat and simplistic illustration style. I feel that the simplistic and minimal style works well for children along with the relatively busy and illustration-packed pages of the book. 

As an independently-published author, what are some tips or tricks you’ve learned when it comes to promoting your work?

  1. Check any self-consciousness at the door.
    First and foremost, I needed to be in the right mindset to start the self promotion process. I’m not an extremely public person on social media and showing my artwork to the world felt very sacred and personal. Self promotion meant me opening my work up to the public for it to be subjectively interpreted and critiqued by others. I’ve only been promoting the book for two short months, but so far checking my self consciousness at the door has been extremely exciting and rewarding thanks to everyone’s support and enthusiasm. 
  2. Trial and error.
    I am continuing to learn and understand the landscape of marketing and social media. Reading articles written by other independent authors has been extremely helpful. I continue to try new avenues and outlets for promotion in order to find what will be most successful for my unique and personal scenario. 
  3. Network and make friends. 
    Asking for help and feedback from others in the kids literature, book reviewers, parents, bloggers, librarians, book retailers, and independent authors communities has been invaluable. By reaching out and asking others for feedback and support, I have made some wonderful connections and friends. I am also finding joy in lending my support and advice to others. Being a part of these inspiring and supportive communities has been such a humbling experience. 
  4. Have fun! 
    The most rewarding part of this journey so far has been allowing myself to continue creating on a regular basis. I am currently creating mini alphabet visuals for social media posts and I am in the midst of finalizing a website design for the book. Creativity and community make this journey extremely enjoyable. 

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Are you hoping to create more books in the future? 

I would love to create another book, especially after hearing the wonderful feedback and supportive comments from the community. I have several ideas for different Book themes, but I am all ears if your readers have suggestions! I am hopeful that my next book creation will be just as enjoyable and maybe a tad more focused. 

A big, big thank you to Stephanie for stopping by Raincity Librarian – be sure to check out her book, Now I Know My Avocados for some stylish alphabet fun!

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