LAKE STEVENS — Albert wasn’t like the other frogs. He didn’t just want to jump the highest. He wanted to fly. And through hard work and determination, Albert’s dream came true. That’s the story Doug Warren told his eldest daughter right before bedtime.
In March 2020, Warren, a production artist from Lake Stevens, was laid off as COVID-19 began to sweep across the nation. So he decided to use his newly found free time to achieve his long-time goal of becoming a published author.
He wrote down his story of a frog who dreamed of flight and teamed up with graphic artist Keegan Williams to bring it to life. “Albert: A Frog and His Dream” was published by Belle Isle Books on Jan. 31. The 32-page book is aimed at kids ages 4 to 8. Paperbacks sell for $12.95 and hardcover $22.95.
The milestone couldn’t have come at a better time for Warren.
“I was trying to just keep my head above water, because basically everything was going down the tubes with COVID,” Warren, 59, said. “So I feel like I got lucky, and that’s really all it takes sometimes.”
Warren always wanted to write a book for kids as he believed he could inspire them. He originally made up the story of Albert to help his older daughter feel less self-conscious about her athletic ability at school. He thought the tale of a frog reaching for the sky, in spite of what his friends thought, would teach a good lesson.
“The book’s main message really is that the world is full of people who will tell you that you can’t, or that it will be too difficult to achieve,” Warren said. “But believing in yourself is what matters the most.”
Warren initially planned for the book to be a lot shorter. However, he was able to go bigger after raising $2,475 on GoFundMe. The money went toward hiring Williams, 42, of Lake Stevens, who currently does graphic design for Wizards of the Coast, the Renton-based makers of “Dungeons & Dragons” and “Magic: The Gathering.”
Warren hooked up with Williams through his girlfriend, who is Williams’ cousin. Unfamiliar with Williams’ experience, Warren asked him to draw Albert as a test. That image was later used as the book’s front cover.
“He captured everything perfectly,” Warren said. “So right away, I knew l had found my illustrator.”
Williams said he agreed to create the book’s art because work was slow at his regular job at the time, and he thought Warren’s book would be a fun side project. It turned out to be the largest freelance project he’s worked on to date. Williams said he enjoyed drawing frogs and other woodland creatures, but found it time-consuming.
“Creativity is not really an efficient process,” Williams said. “It was tough, but it was a good kind of tough. I learned a lot of what to do and what not to do.”
Williams began work in summer 2020 and finished around October that same year. The book has spot illustrations, the kind of art typically found in children’s books where it’s just a character with no background, and sequential art, seen in newspaper comic strip.
“I like the simplicity of it,” Williams said of the book’s art. “I mean, that’s what you should aim for in a children’s book in general, and taking a weird, unusual circumstance and making something good out of it.”
Some drawings took Williams up to 12 hours to finish. Over time he did learn how to work faster and more efficiently, but ended up going out of his way to make a map depicting the burrow where Albert and his friends live. The two-page spread tacked on another 20 hours of work.
“I spent way too long on that,” Williams said. “I bit off more than I could chew. That’s cautionary for me next time.”
With art and writing mostly complete, Warren moved on to the next step: finding a publisher. He submitted the book to about 15 publishers. Warren said he planned to self-publish if need be, but after three months of waiting he got lucky and found a taker. Now seeing his printed story in hand is a dream come true.
“The most amazing thing about writing a book is that you have an idea that begins in your head, and then it blossoms into something else, becomes its own thing,” Warren said.
At the moment Warren, who remains unemployed, said he’s in “marketing mode” and is trying to promote the book however he can. He wants to get the book into local stores, libraries and schools. He also plans to have them for sale at some of his gigs. Warren plays guitar in a music duo called Dry Goods, and plays bass in another group that performs at corporate events called Free Rain.
Warren said if he lands enough sales, his publisher will pick him up for a sequel. Warren’s second book will have Albert learn to help a friend with special needs live a better life. Warren said the story is inspired by his younger daughter, who has special needs. But whether his career as a children’s book author continues, he’s taken much from the experience already.
“I’ve learned that I’m a lot more resilient than I thought I actually was,” Warren said. “I learned that you’re not defined by your job. And that even when things seem bad, really good things can actually happen.”
Eric Schucht: 425-339-3477; email@example.com; Twitter: @EricSchucht.
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