Everything Twins Hiking Twin Life

Writing and Self-Publishing A Children’s Book Using Kindle Direct Publishing

(This section written by Kristen)

Katie and I have always played around with the idea of creating children’s books. Both of us (and our mom too!) have our own stories written out and even have some illustrations drawn up for different book ideas, but we decided now was the time to actually finish a started project after discovering Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). The reason we held off on finishing something for so long is the time it takes to write and illustrate a book and the looming question of how we could get it published. Through KDP, we only needed to invest the time it took to create a book and this was the push we needed to finish a started project.

As a new mama myself, I have loved having an excuse to grow my library for my son. We have books pouring out of his bookshelves, baskets, dresser drawers, and all around the house. Reading all these children’s books just had me itching to finish my own. But, with the demands of motherhood and working full time, this task seemed like a beast to take on. Katie also works full-time (and then some!) and has a new home she has been remodeling and a farm to care for. But they say two is better than one, and we have always found this to be true. I had the idea for the story pop in my head and I wrote it up very loosely and texted it to Katie. Not even an hour later she had texted me back six sketches for the illustrations. She was drawing exactly what I saw in my head (twin superpowers right there). From there, things just took off. 

The Story Behind the Story

Our book is based on twins taking a hike through the woods with a sweet destination at the end, finding their grandma’s house (and some cookies too). The book goes through the sisters experiencing their five senses on their walk. This story was loosely based upon a trail we walked nearly every day as kids. Our grandparents really did have a home on the other end of the trail, but Grandma wasn’t really the baking type (more on that later).

Our actual print book, while minimal in words, has much more sentimental value to us surrounding the trail itself, discovering our five senses through nature and our grandma.

The Trail

I was reminiscing on the days where, as children, we used to walk on this particular trail that led us to our grandparent’s house while missing my grandma. To give you an idea of where we grew up, our childhood home (my parents still live there) is tucked away at the end of a gravel driveway. Our house is situated on 5 acres of land, a large portion of this wooded. Our 5 acres are one of eight 5-acre-lots, totaling to a 40-acre chunk of land that our various extended family lived(s) on. Our grandparent’s house was on one of these 5 acre lots. You could get to their house by driving on the road, but there was a trail that connected our houses that was shorter in distance, and safe for us as kids to navigate on our own.

The trail was right off of our driveway and if I had to guess, it was only a third to half a mile long to get to our grandparent’s house.  

In my head, I remember it as a tunnel of dense trees.  

I remember exactly where certain tree roots were and where mushrooms would grow.

I remember a small swamp if you walked off the trail to the left just a bit.  

I remember seeing the rhododendron bushes blossom during their time of year and the huckleberry bushes we would snack on along the way. 

I remember the clearing that was about the halfway mark to our grandparent’s house and how this felt like a checkpoint on our progress to making it to our destination. 

I remember hearing this particular owl that hung out in a tree that was super close to her house. 

I remember smelling clean laundry as we got close because Grandma still would hang some of her linens on the line to dry.

I remember when coming back home, running through the last section of trees, because it was much darker there and I would sometimes get scared. 

I also remember sometimes how Grandma would walk us home and I wouldn’t be scared then.

Nature

The Adventure Twins Take a Hike was written around twin sisters and their excitement and passion for the great outdoors. We are indeed twin sisters who live in the Pacific Northwest and have experienced all the things that The Adventure Twins experience in the book, at some point growing up.

My brother, sister, and I were always outside growing up. We were early 90’s babies and a computer didn’t enter our home until we were in the fourth grade, but even still, we barely used it. We didn’t have cable tv growing up either. Saturday mornings we would watch cartoons, but mostly, we would play outside. We had countless forts all around our property. We had a treehouse that we and our neighbors built together, forts where the tree stumps were our thrones, and even a giant underground fort (we dug a deep pit and covered it with plywood and dirt…kind of sketchy looking back on that one). The woods were home for us and our black labrador, named Maggie, was always at our sides and an excellent guard dog.

We dug through ALL of our family photo albums and sadly didn’t have any pictures of our beloved trail (mind you, this was before cell phone cameras). BUT…we did find this picture of us on our driveway walking to the trail entrance. From left to right – Katie, Kristen, Michael (big bro), and Maggie.

Our brother has always been into walking in the woods and hiking growing up, but Katie and I didn’t get into it until just a few years ago in our mid-twenties. After our first long (and kind of treacherous hike, you can read about our inexperience HERE), we were hooked! We were getting out to the mountains any chance we could to hike new trails and experience new things. We roped our mom into it and she loved it too! This is not at all surprising seeing as our dad is an avid outdoorsman who hunts and fishes any chance he gets. This leads back to our grandma, who was a nature lover. She loved everything about nature and truly cared for and respected our earth. Our family is rooted in our love for the outdoors.

Nature is also the perfect setting to discover one’s five senses: sight, taste, smell, touch, and hearing. Our characters in our book experience all of these senses on their walk through the woods, feeling squishy mushrooms, hearing an owl, tasting huckleberries, and so on.  

Our Grandma

From left to right – Katie, Kristen, Grandma Judy, Michael (big bro)

In our book, we had Grandma’s house smelling like cookies, which isn’t entirely accurate to her character. From what I remember of our grandma, she was better with savory foods versus sweets. On a special playdate with her when we were kids, we were going to make and pull taffy together. My sister and I were so excited. I don’t remember actually making the taffy (she may have cooked the candy in advance), but do remember pulling it in the kitchen with Grandma. It was much more work than any of us had bargained for. And when it came down to tasting our hard-earned treat, we realized that Grandma had forgotten the sugar! So our salt-water taffy was more like a salt-lick. All that work for nothing, but it created a much funnier and notable memory in my brain.

My memory as a child and imagination were more vivid and much stronger than my now adult brain. The last time we walked that trail to see my grandma had to have been as teenagers, as she passed away from pancreatic cancer, in 2010, when Katie and I were 17 years old. I honestly can’t tell you if my memories are accurate or true of the trail, as that land has since been logged and cleared. But, our book hopefully captures the magic we felt every time we walked that path and the anticipation of seeing our grandma at the end of it. Our hope is that those who read our book can relate in some fashion to adventuring as a young child and all of the small thrills that may come along the way as discoveries are made, and ultimately finding a priceless treasure in the end.

Two authors, two illustrators, & two styles becoming one

(Written by Katie)

Kristen and I have toyed around with publishing a children’s book for quite a while. The tricky part is, where were we going to find time? I am still working on a book I started 4 years ago because writing and illustrating a book by yourself is a huge time commitment. Kristen has also drafted a book or two that are still chilling in Google Drive. Kristen is a new mom who works a full-time job, and I also work a full-time job and live on a small 5-acre farm that keeps me on my toes.

SO, after creating our blog (which we launched November 2020) and loving working on it together as a fun creative outlet (because we weren’t busy enough), we decided to throw in a children’s book, because, why not??

This time we were determined. We would do it TOGETHER to keep ourselves motivated. We have always worked extremely well together, and although we can’t read each other’s mind’s (even though we get asked that often), we do have some sort of crazy twintuition where we think a lot alike and know exactly what the other twin is thinking or trying to portray.

Kristen texted me casually one Saturday morning and said “I wrote a book. Let’s work on it.” or something along those lines. I hopped on my computer and read her story, grabbed a pencil, and started sketching. I quickly sketched out 6 pages if I remember correctly, and texted them to her. They were exactly what she was thinking! And so the process began.

Thank goodness for modern-day technology. Even though we only live about 20 minutes away from each other, it is hard to get together sometimes. Countless texts, Facebook messages, and pictures were exchanged discussing tweaks to the story and ideas for how we wanted the pages to look. One thing we were very conscious about, was making it so it didn’t look like two people had created the book. We wanted it to be cohesive. 

Our illustrating styles are pretty different contrary to what one might think because we are twins.  I have a more defined style of drawing where Kristen has a more free-spirit to her drawings. I will spend a lot of time trying to make each line perfect (to me). I enjoy crisp lines and a nice smooth black outline.  When Kristen draws, her pictures are more free and whimsical. Not every line has to be “perfect” which gives the graphics a fun, interesting look to them.

Knowing this, we decided to initially split the pages we were working on illustrating. I took all of the pages that had characters on them to make sure all of the characters in the book looked the same. Kristen took the pages without characters which were mostly pictures of nature. Most pages included characters and nature. For these pages, once one of us had completed their portion we would swap the physical pages. We had a few roadside-page-swaps where we would meet halfway between our houses to exchange papers so the other twin could draw their portion.

Once all of the pages had been drawn then outlined, it was time to start coloring! For this we got together a handful of times. The first “coloring” party we had was on the Friday evening after Taylor Swift released her new album, Evermore, (this may seem irrelevant, but we are huge Swifties and it made for a fun night). We spent 5 or 6 hours that first night listening to Evermore on repeat, testing out color schemes, methods, and colored pencils figuring out what we liked best. We busted through 4 spreads that night before calling it quits.  

At that point, we were in a spot where we could divide the pages to work on separately at home.  I went to Michael’s to pick up the same water-colored pencils that Kristen owned so we could color separately, but unfortunately, Michael’s stopped selling the exact pencils that Kristen owned. So that is when we would swap colored pencils! There were a handful of roadside-colored-pencils-swaps once again. These pencils were gold to us and thank goodness we didn’t lose any of them after their miles of travel going back and forth between our houses. We got together rotating which house we worked at a few more times (at this point we were on our 2 week Christmas break from our jobs so we could be more flexible).

I couldn’t tell you how many hours we spent on each page making sure it was to our liking, but eventually, we did finish! So now that our hard copies were complete, Kristen was able to scan all of our images onto the computer using a program to clean up each page. Once everything had been scanned and touched up, we started putting the book together in Canva (yes, we know this is not the most high-tech option to create a book, but it is what we know and are good at). We spent another good 20 plus hours editing our book in Canva and bouncing ideas off each other until we were satisfied. Once we had completed editing everything in Canva, we had made it to the home stretch. All that was left was to figure out how to actually publish the book on Amazon, which is a whole different story (coming soon).

Honestly, the last couple of months working on our book were a blur between the texts, messages, cell phone pics, page swaps, coloring, colored-pencil swaps, phone calls, get-togethers, and editing. In a way, it feels like we became one person working on it, which is exactly what we wanted! 

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