Team Building – Why I’m Proud To Be Part Of This Team

I recently started working with a young artist called Johanna Roberts and I can honestly say that not only have I learned a great deal but I am so proud of what Johanna Roberts has achieved. She took on the challenge of getting involved in a challenging left-field writing project and came up with the exact images I have imagined fitting my story – all this whilst studying full time. It is a wonderful feeling to see a young person grow and develop in their field and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of that for Johanna.

How Did It All Start?

A couple of years ago I came up with the concept to write a children’s picture book. In fact I had the whole story already in my head. It just came to me and I knew what I wanted to say and exactly how the story should “look”. I wanted to create a children’s picture book that would help young siblings of eating disorder sufferers understand what the disease was and how they might be empowered to help in their older sibling’s recovery.

The question was should I try to illustrate the story myself or should I contract someone. With the book being my first attempt at publishing and the topic of the book being so close to my heart through dealing with my own daughter’s eating disorder I knew it was vital to get the message across “right”. I waited and wondered what to do. Then at an HSC art show at my daughter’s school I saw the art works of a young artist that simply blew me away. Massive pencil sketches of such detail and such emotion that to look at them was to feel the anguish and pain that were in subject’s expressions. There was no doubt about it this was the artist I needed. This was also my daughter’s best friend.

The Next Steps

Time passed and I contemplated how would my own daughter react? What would she think of this partnership? We talked and she was amazingly supportive –  now well on the way to full recovery, her thoughts were more reflective and full of wanting to help others who were suffering like she had. She could not have been more behind the idea of a book and wanted to tell others – “it’ll be ok  – you can do this too”.

This being cleared I now needed  to think how to broach the topic of “will you draw for me?” to an already overloaded HSC student but after a few consultations with her mother I approached Johanna herself and talked about whether she’d consider getting involved. Not only was the subject matter fairly unique (an eating disorder story for young children) but as Johanna had been so close to the story during the time of my daughter’s ill health but I was mindful that her emotions and her perspective had to be taken into careful consideration. She may not want to be involved. She may have had enough to do with such a topic.

However she was interested and agreed to think about it, Over the next few months we kept in touch and once all the HSC exams were done we spent the summer discussing the “look” of the book and trying out different “styles” before a firm commitment to go ahead. Quickly we realised that Johanna had a pretty good handle on the style required and the pictures started to flow. As the year wore on the pictures nearer completion we started to send these off to an off-shore design company to help us with the layout. Johanna drew like she was born to and whilst she had the time worked hard to finish her part of the project.

The Results

As the book itself came to a finished state and received the “final draft layouts” we were blown away with how dramatic Johanna’s images appeared “in virtual print”. We worked smartly as a team, meeting every couple of months and more frequently towards the end and in between used email and text to communicate when need be. It was only once the book was published and we had hard copies in our hands did we full appreciate the journey we’d gone on and the magnitude of what this meant. The story was REALLY out there, its message so clear and simply portrayed through beautiful images and the chance to do some good by sharing an important message with those that needed support or answers was possible. We had done it! Together! It felt good.


Looking back I can see that it was a big journey. I have learned a great deal. What I hadn’t anticipated was the feel good factor of helping Johanna achieve something quite extraordinary for someone at her stage; to have published her first set of illustrations in book form. For Johanna, she is still getting used to people congratulating her on the achievement and is busying again with her university studies. What’s more we are back together as a team putting together another children’s picture book, due out this August. This time the story and the illustrations are quite different – but that’s another story!