Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 14, 2019

Author and Editor Collaboration

An Author and Editor Collaborate

Vanessa Keel and Dr. Mira Reisberg


Vanessa: Hi. I’m Vanessa Keel, debut Author of Boomer At Your Service

Mira: And I’m Dr. Mira Reisberg, Director of the Children’s Book Academy and Editor and Art Director at Clear Fork/Spork Children’s Books. I first met Vanessa in our Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books course where it was clear she was very talented and a real go-getter, which I loved. She also participated and helped others, which made me love her even more.

Vanessa: I loved every moment of Mira’s Craft and Business of Writing Picture Book course and learned a tremendous amount about the industry, the craft, and tips for getting published. I actually worked on a different manuscript throughout the class but about midway through I leveraged what I had learned and wrote a whole new story in one sitting. That was Boomer At Your Service. It flowed easily because of the new techniques I had learned in class.

Mira: While I really liked Vanessa first story, it was the second one that really spoke to me, partly because I see disability as a civil rights issue and because Boomer was such a delightful character. I also really liked Boomer’s name, which reminded me of a Boomerang that keeps coming back and persevering, just like Boomer in the story. I also liked the pun of “Boomer At Your Service” as he wants to be a service dog. And then there’s my publisher, Callie Metler-Smith’s passion for publishing social justice and disability books, so it was a win, win, win for all of us.

Vanessa: When I hopped on a phone call with Mira, I was in shock. I was expecting to do a critique but she surprised me with incredible news instead. She told me she and Callie Metler-Smith wanted to acquire Boomer At Your Service and I just about jumped out of my chair! What an amazing opportunity to publish my debut with the woman who is known as the Picture Book Whisperer. Lucky me!

Mira: The first thing we needed to do was get the word count down so the illustrator would have plenty of space for her art. Having a lower word count also inspires tired parents, reading the book at night, to pull it off the book shelf because they know it will be a wonderful read that won’t take too long. Together, we edited it down from 550 to 483 words.

Next up for me was finding the perfect Illustrator. We needed someone who would be really good at drawing dogs and action because there is a lot of action in this book. So, I went through a list of former Children’s Book Academy illustration students and narrowed the list down before deciding on Adriana Hernández Bergstrom. I also really liked that Adriana was a Latina and we could make the little girl in the story Latina, further deepening the story and adding another layer. She also needed to be able to draw a wheelchair and bring visual humor into the story, so I asked her to do some character sketches and a couple of mini layouts to see how she would handle it, which I forwarded to both Callie and Vanessa before we agreed Adriana would be perfect, which she was!

Vanessa: I was absolutely thrilled to see Boomer brought to life for the first time. Adriana’s illustrations exceeded all my expectations. It was such an amazing feeling to see the character your pour your heart into writing come alive on the page. My background in marketing and advertising has always put me in the driver seat before, detailing out storyboards and my vision for a project. But, when authoring a picture book, you have to be able to let some of that control go and put your trust in your Editor, Art Director, and Illustrator. That was a hard step for me but I am so happy with the end result. Having an Editor and Art director like Mira, who takes the time to listen and understand your vision, is invaluable. I know I am one of the lucky ones.

Mira: Once Adriana was on board, it was easy to further edit the manuscript down as we saw the images evolve. Now, Vanessa and I worked on bringing the language to life with more onomatopoeia and alliteration and other little tweaks.

Vanessa already had the idea to include back matter information about the do’s and don’ts of interacting with service dogs and connecting with a service dog organization. But she became so enamored by the organization that her back matter word count got a little out of control. This was pretty much the only conflict we had during our author/editor collaboration process, which is a little disappointing because conflict is the essence of a good story or blog post where the characters argue and arm-wrestle over stuff before coming to a compromise. But Vanessa edited it way down so anyone interested would hopefully connect with Merlin’s KIDS, the organization that she is donating her pre-order sales money to.

Vanessa: Haha. It’s true, I can be a bit long-winded but Mira’s right…it’s because I’m really passionate about this cause. I have been a dog-lover all my life and when I started to learn about Merlin’s KID’s mission to rescue shelter dogs to turn them into service dogs for special needs children, I just knew I needed to do more. Like Boomer, I wanted my book to serve a special purpose and Mira believed in both Boomer and me.

Mira: I am incredibly proud and honored to be a part of this book that will do so much good in normalizing disability, educating kids on disability and therapy dogs and how to handle them if they meet any dogs who are not their own. I also love that this book also brings laughter and joy into the world.

Vanessa: This whole process was truly educational for me. Being able to see my book come to life at each step and having the chance to provide feedback was a major bonus as a debut Author. My writing has improved and my editor’s eye has sharpened as a direct result of working with Mira and Clear Fork/Spork Children’s Books. I can now better understand how to write text with the intention of leaving room for the Illustrator to add their magic.

Taking the Craft and Business of Writing Picture Book course with the Children’s Book Academy was life changing. I worked hard, set a goal, and achieved it but I know it wouldn’t have been possible had I not met the incomparable, Dr. Mira Reisberg. Thank you for everything. Next up…finding an agent.

Mira: Oh gosh Vanessa. Thank you. This really is my life’s work, helping bring meaningful, beautiful, and/or joy-filled children’s books into the world.

Author Bio: Boomer At Your Service is Vanessa Keel’s debut picture book. With over fifteen years of creative advertising experience, Vanessa writes with commercial possibilities in mind. She’s an active SCBWI member, Children’s Book Academy graduate, and co-founder of the debut author group, #OntheScenein19. She lives in New Jersey with her British husband and boisterous baby boy. To learn more, please visit  Facebook: @vanessakeelbooks  Instagram: @vform  Twitter: @keelbooks

Editor bio: Dr. Mira Reisberg is an award-winning children’s book creator, the Director of the Children’s Book Academy and an Editor and Art Director at Clearfork Publishing’s children’s imprint Spork. She has also worked as a university professor as well as a children’s literary agent among other things. Mira is very excited to be co-teaching a highly interactive children’s picture book writing course with Sterling editor Rachael Stein starting August 26th right here

Find Mira at:


Twitter: @ChildrensBookAc

Below are just some of the over 360 books published or contracted by her former students.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Kathy, thank you so much for featuring our collaboration today!


  2. Fantastic! it’s great to see the creation of a book from the inside.


  3. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and the evolution of this amazing book! I’ve preordered from Clear Fork/Spork!! ❤


  4. Loved reading about the journey of “Boomer At Your Service.” I pre-ordered my copy and cannot wait to have it! Congratulations to all!


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