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The Story Behind the Story of Old to Joy


Old to Joy - Written and Illustrated by Anita Crawford Clark

Gnome Road Books, 2023


OLD TO JOY is an intergenerational story about appreciating the beauty in ourselves, the beauty in others, and the beauty all around us. What is especially intriguing about this story and the illustrations, is that while it may at first glance seem germane to Black culture, it is representative of the human qualities of any cultures – love, fear, heartbreak, loss, grief, joy, hope, faith, etc. I first realized this the day I posted a pastel drawing on Facebook and was blown away by the response from people of all ages and backgrounds. I was blown away by how it resonated with and touched so many people. I was blown away and blessed beyond measure by how much joy it brought to people.

The story Old to Joy began in my childhood home on Albion Way in Sacramento, California. As I often did, I drew all kinds of pictures for my little sister to color. But on one occasion, I kept drawing and added words. When I was finished, I stapled the pages together and created my first book. I was eight years old. I went on to make exact copies of that book by hand. The next morning, I invited the younger neighborhood kids to the makeshift school I had set up in my garage. I handed out the books I had created to my eager, wide-eyed students and taught them. Is it any wonder I grew up to be a teacher and author-illustrator?

It would not be until 1998 when I first penned the words as they now appear on the opening spread of Old to Joy, “Grandmama lived in an old house, on an old street, with old trees, and all kinds of old things.” I still have several rejection letters I received in the mail from potential publishers back then – snail mail of course. I did not pick up the story again until the spring of 2020. I dusted it off and revised it during several writing courses with Children’s Book Academy (CBA) and Storyteller Academy.


I could not have done it without the insight from my fabulous critique partners. Valarie Bolling invited me to join her critique group even though they are all back east and I’m in California. Since they were now meeting online, I was able to join them virtually. They were instrumental in helping me make Old to Joy shine. I connect with Valerie through our involvement with Black Creators in Kidlit (now Black Creators HQ). I responded to a tweet by Antwan Eady and was connected with this group which he helped launch.


I did not plan to illustrate this book at first. Even though I am an artist, the idea of having to create sixteen spreads for a thirty-two page picture book was overwhelming. As fate would have it, I connected with Larissa Morant on twitter early in 2020 and was awarded a scholarship to one her drawing classes. Larissa’s skill, love, and passion to see artist reach their potential and realize their dreams is one the reasons I’m holding this beautiful book in my hands today. My learning curve going from traditional media (mostly pastels) to digital was steep. Nevertheless, armed with my new iPad and the Procreate software, I commenced learning. Additional classes with Larissa and CBA gave me the confidence to create a book dummy and take on illustrating Old to Joy. That’s where my publisher, Gnome Road Publishing and I met. At the intersection of CBA and courage.

My fabulous editor, Sandra Sutter, and I began working on my book in 2021. Sandra believed in this story from early on and worked tirelessly to help bring it to life. Other publishers and agents had requested the see the manuscript through #DVPit during their Twitter pitch event, and there were more rejections in the fall of 2020. Like many others have stated, I only needed one publisher who believed in the potential of the story. I am absolutely thrilled that my debut picture book was acquired by Gnome Road Publishing.

My family’s constant encouragement, support and prayers, and their belief in me and the journey to publication kept me going whenever a spread was not coming together. They kept me going when the nights were long. They kept me going when the days seemed to run together. For them, I am immensely grateful. And I am grateful to the incredible writing community.

Twitter: @anitalclark

Instagram: anitasfavpics

Giveaway: Thank you, Anita for your generous prize of a signed copy of book + book swag or 30 minute AMA! Winner to be chosen on October 10, 2023.


Bio: Anita Crawford Clark is a writer and illustrator of fiction and nonfiction books for children. Anita grew up chasing butterflies and fishing crawdads from a nearby creek during scorching Sacramento summers. Her stories and illustrations often reflect those memorable childhood years. Anita is an inaugural recipient of the SCBWI OMA (Out from the Margins) Award for her manuscript of debut picture book, OLD TO JOY , which releases on September 5, 2023. A veteran K-12 teacher, Anita especially enjoys directing musical theatre productions. The athlete in Anita enjoys shooting hoops. The musician in her enjoys playing the drums, piano, and banjo. Anita draws inspiration from her faith, nature, music, history, and everyday life. You can connect with Anita on Twitter (@AnitaLClark), Instagram (@AnitasFavPics) or visit her website at AnitaCrawfordClark.com.

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Anita Crawford Clark, MS, MFA Children's Book Author-Illustrator / Educator ORDER: OLD TO JOY (Releasing September 5, 2023 by Gnome Road Publishing) Visit my Website: acrawfordclark.com Twitter: twitter.com/AnitaLClark Instagram: instagram.com/anitasfavpics Facebook: www.facebook.com/AnitaCrawfordClark

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