I work with writers and artists who live around the globe, making contributions to Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks. The internet has made this possible since I first began this job in 2005, but technology has changed so much that today, we almost get the sense of working together in person.
There are always challenges when you collaborate between time zones and languages. I have had some really funny experiences due to missed translations, especially with artists. This animal rescue worker arrived in her bathing suit on first draft. Another time an artist from Spain drew Kokopelli dancing on a table because, thinking of the American Southwest, I asked for him on a “mesa.” (Mesa is the Spanish word for table.)
Chooseco moved to remote work on March 10 due to concerns about the coronavirus, and all around us, people were making changes to their lives and work. As I set my computer up at home, I wondered what the future would hold. I video-chatted with coworkers I was used to seeing in person every day and drove printouts around town because so few of us had home printers!
I also found myself really connecting with the writers and artists I work with who do all of their work remotely. With this new window into their normal work life, I valued my conversations with them even more. We were writing each other longer letters and having deep and interesting conversations. One of our writers told me that as we discussed the multiple plots of his upcoming Choose Your Own Adventure gamebook, his wife, now working at home, overheard all of his ideas and started laughing hysterically.
Usually when new artwork comes in that I am excited about, I call everyone at work in to see it on my computer the second it arrives. But this time I could not. As the artwork for our new Choose Your Own Adventure baby books, based on the first three classics in our series, began to arrive, I looked at each piece by myself. Rather than feeling lonely, I wrote long letters to the artist about each piece she sent. She speaks French as a first language and I speak no French, but we still managed very lively conversations about the artwork.
Should aliens have tomatoes for heads? How does a plant “look like it smells bad”? What do fish’s eyes do when they smile? What kind of tongue should a baby dinosaur have?
Kalon Sardin’s beautiful art filled my heart with joy and my head with ideas. When we finished our three books together, we were both sad. The project meant so much to her as well. She wrote to me:
I wanted to thank you so much for this wonderful ‘adventure’ I just lived, working with you and your team.
I learned a lot, I discovered aspects of my work that I didn't even know existed. This experience made me grow up and I just wanted to thank you very much for all the trust you've put in me.
It meant a lot to me.
Last night when I realized everything was over, it brought tears to my eyes.
I was really happy to work on this fabulous project with you.
As you may have guessed, it was my first ever big project and I don’t have the words to express my gratitude to you for taking a chance on me.
I was surprised by Kalon Sardin’s letter as I actually did not know this was her first big project. She was imaginative, courteous, and kind. But I do like to think that her “first big project” will now become many children’s first book—or at least, their first Choose Your Own Adventure book. With many more to come!
Melissa Bounty is the Associate Publisher at Chooseco.