The story of Ailithir O. McGill’s first book project shows how a community of artists can make dreams come true. After years of supporting others to persevere and create, Nickel Plate Arts’ own executive director decided it was her time. What started as one illustration blossomed into a children’s book featuring her illustrations. In April, McGill was waiting for her shipment of “The Owl and the Pussycat Went to Sea” to be delivered. The following was adapted from a story by McGill that first appeared on the NPArts blog.

“After two years of work, four all-nighters between Christmas and mid- January, a lot of stress on my relationships, and two months of back and forth with the printer, my children’s book is finally a reality!

“The only problem is that it is currently somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

“My book is coming to the United States from Global PSD, a full-service printer in Hong Kong. The 1,200 copies were supposed to have been loaded onto a freighter on March 26, due to arrive sometime in April. There is no way for me to track the boat, so the most likely scenario is that sometime soon, I will get a phone call from a mysterious number telling me that a semi full of books is headed to my house.

“I am on pins and needles as I wait.

His preferred medium is boldly colored acrylics. When possible, he enjoys blending subtle tones to create an interesting expression that includes architectural elements, trees, and flowers. Dierdorf draws inspiration from several painters including Robert Indiana, Monet, Miro, Kandinsky, and Pollock.

“I do, at least, know what the book is going to look and feel like. In working with Global PSD, I received proofs of each stage of the process. I pored over ozalids — a type of print made using a photographic process — to ensure that the films made from my art files were accurate. I reviewed proofs on paper similar to the stock of my book to make sure colors were precise. Then, the company sent large folios with four images on each sheet to check that the page order would be correct. They even sent dummies (blank-page books) so I could confirm that the binding techniques were of the quality and style that I wanted.

“The delivery of each one of these proofs was like Christmas: I strained to hear the squeal of the FedEx truck’s wheels outside my door each morning, and if the truck didn’t arrive before it was time for me to go to work, I left notes for the delivery man, asking him to please leave these precious packages on my porch. I didn’t quite go as far as leaving milk and cookies, but I certainly thought about it.

“All these bits and pieces were exciting and made me pretty confident that I knew what the finished version would look like. And then, I received the most exciting package of all: a big, heavy box appeared on my porch filled with 20 precious advanced copies of the finished book! My fiancé was there to record the momentous occasion. My hands shook as I carefully opened the box and the layers of packaging and I couldn’t hold back a child-like squeal as I caught a glimpse of the glossy cover.

“My heart raced and tears welled in my eyes. This was it! All the time, all the stress, all the worry … the moment my hand touched that book, I knew it was all worth it. I held in my hand the physical  manifestation of a dream I had had since I was toddler watching Reading Rainbow. And it turns out that the real book is better than anything I had imagined. It’s gorgeous and I am so happy to be able to share it with the Nickel Plate Arts community. Now all I have to do is wait for the rest of the books to get here so that the REAL fun can begin: sharing this book with all of the kids (and kids-at-heart) that I know!”

Learn more on her website.