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The Story Behind the Story of Reaching for the Stars + Cover Reveal!

By Roxanne Troup

I’m thrilled to announce my second picture book, REACHING FOR THE STARS: A MISSION TO SPACE, will be blasting into stores later this year! 


I first drafted this story in late 2019, shortly after learning about NASA’s new Artemis program. I thought it would be fun to celebrate all we’ve learned about space, commemorate a woman landing on the moon, and “countdown” along with NASA’s launch. I set out trying to tie space facts to a countdown structure. My first draft was all of 165 words—not enough for a picture book, yet too much for a board book. So I set it aside.


A couple months later I revisited the story to hone in on my main character’s feelings while waiting for liftoff. I also added nonfiction sidebars. But something still felt off, like the story was missing a vital piece of itself. Finally, a year later, as I was drifting off to sleep, the first line came back to me—in rhyme! I hopped up and scribbled the first several stanzas before returning to bed with the meter and rhyme pattern set. Over the next couple weeks, I worked through the rest of the manuscript writing new stanzas, checking the meter, and revising my word choice until everything felt right. I turned my sidebars into a glossary and added an author’s note about Artemis, the story’s inspiration, then sent it off.


A short while later, I received a note that my story was heading for acquisitions at Schiffer Kids! (Schiffer is an established, independent press in New England that specializes in image-driven nonfiction—especially titles that appeal to museums and gift shops. They expanded into children’s books in 2006, publishing SEL and STEAM titles.) Then in summer 2022, illustrator extraordinaire, Amanda Lenz, signed on to the project and it was “Mission: Go!”


From the beginning, Schiffer encouraged Amanda and I to talk through our visions of the book. We landed on an idea to incorporate NASA photos with whimsical illustrations to echo the combination of fiction/nonfiction text and provide a fun look-and-find element for kids. Amanda turned in her amazing illustrations in early 2023, but, unbeknownst to us, our editor had left the company. COUNTDOWN TO SPACE (which the story was then titled) languished. We didn’t know when or if it would get picked back up. 

Later that year another editor was assigned to shepherd our book through release, and Amanda and I took a collective breath…until we got an email asking for sweeping changes to the book’s structure and storyline. 

Neither of us knew what to do. We tried brainstorming solutions, but everything felt impossible. Amanda was heading into maternity leave. She couldn’t illustrate a new storyline in the timeframe given. And I wasn’t comfortable whipping out new rhyming verse to go with the existing art. We agreed to try the new editor’s suggestions knowing that if we couldn’t get the manuscript into a place we were both proud of we’d simply say “Sorry, we can’t do that.”


I spent a couple weeks reworking the story from a text perspective. I dropped the countdown element to age-up the story and broaden its market, but without that built-in structure, I struggled to hold it all together. I needed a different perspective. So I printed out the story spreads and covered all the text. 


By working backwards, I discovered that I could move stanzas around to create a more linear storyline. All I needed was a new beginning and ending (and fresh eyes from an author-pal adept at rhyme). After some team-brainstorming, we had a new title and our story was back on track for a 2024 launch!


Now, after five years of planning and preparation, a few false starts and close calls (sounds a bit like NASA, huh?) please join me in celebrating the incredible journey of REACHING FOR THE STARS!



About the Author: Award-winning author, Roxanne Troup, writes picture books that inspire wonder and celebrate family. With a background in education, she also writes engaging nonfiction for all ages. Roxanne lives in the mountains of Colorado and enjoys hiking with her family, gazing at stars, and exploring our amazing world through stories. She also loves to visit schools to water seeds of literacy (and occasionally remembers to water the plants in her container garden). Learn more about her and her books at www.roxannetroup.com, or find her on social @roxannetroup.

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