Behind the scenes of a mother & daughter's 
 humorous journey in creating new characters, writing, illustrating,
and publishing a children's book. 

Puppies and Ponytails

February 13, 2017

The idea of creating a new character became a much quieter voice in my head. Replacing it came freelancing, two children, a husband, designing luxury dollhouses and rose gardens.

 

                                                                        

 

 

                                                Kelly, age 2, watching Sesame Street.

 

                                    

                                                                 

                        

                               

 

Then one day, the voice became louder. Now newly single, it was time to get back in touch with my inventor self. I decided to engineer a baby doll that grew. At Toys R Us, I bought a slew of dolls and began tearing them apart. However, missing were the final spring components, and I finally located them at a vacuum cleaner store. Bad mistake. After explaining my goals to the owner, he winked at me. I didn't want to imagine what he was thinking.


I felt a tad like Dr. Frankenstein but my invention did work. Almost.  So that was that. It was time to return to what I knew best: creating a new girl character. But where to start? 

 

"If At first, you don't succeed, then skydiving definitely isn't for you."

~Steven Wright

 

I drove to a fabric store and asked for outdated children's pattern books. The illustrations gave direction: should my character be a red head? A blonde or a brunette? I chose brunette. Now, what does she wear? Did I want her in a fancy dress, old fashioned pinafore, skirt, or jeans? Next, I loaded up with children's books, both new and classic, for further inspiration. Would my character have freckles? Brown eyes or blue? Long or short hair? I decided on ponytails.

 

Little did I know that much later, this character would be the inspiration for one of the Birthday Triplets~Coco Birthday. 

 

​Our little neighbor, Katie, became my model. She endured endless poses as I designed a card line around the character. Katie posed as a ballet dancer, skier, piano player, beauty pageant winner and more. Her only demands~strawberry milkshakes and french fries. 

 

Of course, my new character would not be complete without a pet. I collected quite a bit of reference materials but wanted the real thing- a basset hound.  Thankfully, the local pet store had hired an irresponsible teenager who let me borrow a basset for the afternoon. 

 

Years later, this dog became the The Birthday Triplets' pup, Chocolate Pudding. 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                           

 

I expected that American Greetings would welcome me with open arms. Wrong. Due to legalities, it became challenging for a non-employee to present a new concept to American Greetings. When I finally mustered up the courage to call the owner, Irving Stone, I quickly got my meeting. 


It was a disaster. 

 

My former successful card line for AG, Little Miss Moppets, featured a series of girls not connected to each other. But when it came to creating one character, I learned things were different. I needed to invent an environment around the character, trademark the name, and more. Most importantly, in corporate vernacular, where was the "hook" to attract a following? Cute wasn't enough. 

 

Back to the drawing board. 

 

Irrelevant Quote of the Day: "When you cook with wine, sometimes even add it to the food." W.C. Fields

 

Coming Up: Do Blond Dolls Really Have More Fun? 

 

 

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Author, Kelly Tooman with illustrator, Lynn-Tooman Cser

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