Alicia Smith, of Colo, always had the dream of authoring books for children. At age 50, and through her faith in God and her creative observances of trees, Smith is realizing that dream.
Her children’s book, “What Do You See in This Tree?” is now available to purchase.
“I have to say I believe I had help with the idea,” she said, and she’s speaking of Divine help.
“We go camping a lot, and I spend a lot of time hiking, and when I hike, I also pray to God. As I had many times before, I would pray to be an author and asked God to show me the way,” she said. “One time on a hike, I noticed a tree that looked like a giraffe. I thought that was pretty cool, but I didn’t think too much more about it. On another hike, I sat down by a creek, again asking God for his guidance, and when I looked across the water on the shore line I saw a tree that looked like an elephant. My eyes were opened, and I thought ‘I think God is giving me my answer.’ From that time on, I began seeing lots of trees with hidden images, and I began taking pictures,” she said.
For Smith, whose main occupation is providing day care for children in her home, her book has been a work in progress for the past seven years. During that time she has been busy finding trees and drawing illustrations. (Yes, she’s also the illustrator of her book, along with a little help from her daughter, who did one of the book’s illustrations.)
“Drawing the illustrations took time, especially when I could sometimes only draw for five or 10 minutes…,” she said.
And looking for trees while walking, she admitted, probably got tiring for her family.
“I would tell them ‘watch out for trees’ and of course when they looked back, and I was way behind them on the trail, they knew I had to be taking yet another picture to add to my tree file,” she said.
“My husband has been so patient and doesn’t even ask questions when we are out site-seeing. He knows when I holler, ‘Wait!,’ he pulls over and backs up so I can take yet another picture.”
Her book, “What Do You See in This Tree?” contains pictures of trees that Smith saw hidden images in. “In my book, the first page is the photograph of the tree with the hidden image, along with the text saying, ‘What do you see in this tree?’ The following page is the illustration that I have drawn of what I saw in the tree. For instance, I saw an elephant in one tree, so the page with my illustration has the text that says, ‘I see an elephant spraying water at me.’ It’s a game for kids to guess what they think the tree is showing. When I see an elephant, the kids may see a long-necked dinosaur. That’s the great thing (about the book), there is no wrong answer; it’s so much fun to see kids using their imaginations.”
Smith worked with Page Publishing out of New York to get her book published.
“I had my own consultant, Katelyn Powers, who was great to work with. She took me through each step of the process of getting the book published,” she said.
Smith admits she had sent her manuscript to several publishers and received several form letter rejections.
“Although, I did receive a couple of handwritten rejections saying even though they couldn’t use my book at this time, they highly recommended that I keep sending my story to other publishers. Those letters did give me hope in continuing on,” she said.
Another inspiration, she noted, was the knowledge Dr. Seuss was rejected by 27 publishers before he was finally accepted by Vanguard Press.
In a children’s book writing course she took at DMACC, Smith said the instructor told the class, “Even if you line your walls with rejection slips, keep trying because you never know who or when someone may say, ‘yes we want to publish your book.”’
Smith is excited that her perseverance paid off. Now she hopes her book can bring joy and thought to others.
“I love to see what the kids see in the trees of my book, and even adults. They look at the photograph and try to figure out what it is. Once they turn the page and see the illustration, they then flip back to the photograph and say, ‘Oh … now I see it.’”
Her goal for this book is to get kids back outside.
“By using my book as an example, they can take walks and look for trees and they can use their imaginations to find their own hidden images. The best thing is, there are trees everywhere. They are at the park, schools and campgrounds, even alongside roads. There is never a shortage of trees here in Iowa — the game can last forever,” she said.
She hopes the local libraries will want to add her book to their shelves, but her biggest wish, she said, is to get the book into the gift shops of state parks nationwide.
“All of the trees in my book have come from hiking in state and county parks, all in Iowa” she said. “Several of the trees have even been around Colo.
“I would also like my book to be used for programs with kids in schools, libraries and county parks. After reading the book, kids could do their own drawings of what they see in the trees, then take a hike and see what might be hidden in the trees around them.”
She’s full of ideas and hopes for how her book will be received and used, and also about future books she’d like to write.
“I do have several other books I’m working on and hope to continue on getting more published” she said. “If I’ve learned anything through this process of book publishing, it’s that you definitely need patience because it all takes time. And the most important thing to remember is never give up. So many times I would wish to be an author … I would tell myself, ‘It can’t come true by leaving the story you have written sitting in a file on your computer.’ You have to take a chance and have faith knowing that if it’s meant to be, then it will come true.”
About Alicia Smith:
Lives in: Colo
Occupation: Day care provider in her home
Other writing: Smith has contributed writing pieces and photos for the Nevada Journal and for “Our Iowa” magazine
Husband: Tom works for Martin Marietta and also rides dirt bikes and loves fishing and camping
Children: Daughter, Malia will be turning 16 this year. She is very artistic and is drawing all of the time. She keeps improving every day, her mom said. She illustrated one of pictures in the book.
Son Gavin is turning 12. He is into riding dirt bikes and BMX bikes. He also is a very good artist and enjoys drawing.
Her book: “What Do You See in This Tree” is available through Amazon and Barnes and Nobles websites. It will be available digitally in about four months.