Celebrating the One-Year Book Birthday of “It’ll be Irie!” – Cardinal Rule Press
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Celebrating the One-Year Book Birthday of “It’ll be Irie!”

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since the debut of picture book, “It’ll be Irie”! And what a year it’s been! 

I continue to feel immense gratitude towards Cardinal Rule Press Editor-in-Chief, Maria Dismondy and the awesome CRP team, family, friends and kid lit colleagues for their unwavering support and encouragement in the twelve months since the book’s initial launch in July of ’23. I’m grateful to all those who purchased my book and shared or promoted it with family and friends verbally or via social media, including all the wonderful kid lit book reviewers. 

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when I received my first check from Cardinal Rule Press from book sales in the first quarter of its release. Not only did enough book get sold to pay back my advance, but there’s actual profit? Woohoo! Maybe I can’t quit my day job just yet, but let me tell you, it felt so good being paid for my art!

One amazing thing that has manifested within this year is “It’ll be Irie: The Musical!” All thanks to Maria who knew I was a musician and put me in touch with Shawn Forster, another kid lit author who’d written a children’s musical based on his book and was now also working with a licensing company. 

After speaking with Shawn, I was incredibly inspired and began writing my musical, using my picture book as a launching pad for a more expanded story, including additional characters. A year later, I have a full libretto (the text of the show) and twelve recorded song demos. 

I truly enjoyed losing myself in the creation process as I worked to write and record the music, lyrics and dialogue that was being downloaded into my brain (at least, that’s what the experience is like for me!).

I was blessed to receive the help of several colleagues in the acting industry who lent their talent to a staged reading of my musical. I also invited friends and kid lit colleagues to offer their valuable feedback. The reading was marvelous, with all actors doing an amazing job bringing the characters to life. Afterwards, we all enjoyed some delicious hibiscus tea with mint and yummy Jamaican Christmas cake. I can’t tell you how great it felt to hear audience members singing or clapping along to some of the songs! I can already imagine children loving the show and doing the same.

I hired an arranger to write out the sheet music for the songs. Though I do have a show web site and a Go Fund Me campaign where people can help out, it’s otherwise coming out of my own pocket, so it’s a long, slow process. 

I’m also searching for and applying to grants and any contests or programs offered by theater companies. Before my show can be acquired by a licensing company, it will need to have had a workshop production as well as have had song tracks professionally recorded. Doing all of that isn’t cheap, but a long-term vision is definitely required when attempting a project of this scope.  With continued inspiration, determination and faith, I know I’ll get there! 

Here’s another great thing that has manifested this year: a 50-minute program I developed based on my picture book called “Just Be You” that I utilized for two Author Visits to two elementary schools!

The program, geared towards students from third through fifth grade, includes a slide show presentation where I share my personal story of how I became an author and review the step-by-step process of writing and publishing. I introduce students to the concept of exploring sources of inspiration to fuel their imagination as well as having curiosity about their world. 

Then, I conduct an interactive reading of “It’ll be Irie” where I to ask students questions about the illustrations and/or story. This is followed by a Q and A session, three rounds of various story-building games and signing of pre-purchased books.

I was able to share my program this year with two schools in Florida, largely thanks to a supportive family friend who volunteers at both schools and had first recommended my program to school administration. 

I had such a fun time and so did the students! When I do my assemblies, which are usually several back-to-back, my energy level goes through the roof as I constantly move through the room, engaging the students. I truly love sharing what I’ve learned and love seeing how inspired the students become. And yet again, it felt great to be financially compensated as an artist. I can’t wait until the next one!

I also developed a half hour program for students from Kindergarten through second grade based on my self-published picture book, “You’re Everything Everywhere All the Time” which I’d also shared during my Author Visits to the two Florida schools. Instead of playing story-building games as the last activity, the younger students instead enjoyed a sing-along with a recorded song version of my book. Hearing kids sing the chorus of the song as they exited the library at the end of the Author Visit? Priceless.

I look forward to the following year as I continue this exciting, creative journey. Onwards and upwards! 

My Author Visit page on my web site: https://donnswaby.wixsite.com/donnwrites

It’ll be Irie” The Musical! Web site:

https://donnswaby.wixsite.com/irie-the-musical

My Go Fund Me campaign:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/join-donn-swaby-in-bringing-itll-be-irie-to-life

Donn Swaby is a native of Queens, New York and a multi-genre artist with credits as a professional stage, film and television actor, musician, and writer of picture books, middle grade novels, stage plays, screenplays, television drama series, feature length articles, interviews, restaurant and music reviews, published in huffingtonpost.com, meltmagazineforwomen.com and entertainementvoice.com. A passionate lover of Nature, Donn lives in Los Angeles, California and loves hiking wherever there are trails and mountains.

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