Newcastle illustrator publishes first book

August 1, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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Everyone experiences rejection at some point in his or her lifetime. It’s what you do with it that counts. In Newcastle illustrator Dana Sullivan’s case, he wrote a children’s book.

After unsuccessfully submitting a bid to create a children’s disaster preparedness coloring book for King County, Sullivan was dejected.

“I thought, ‘Man, I was born to do this project. I’m going to get it for sure,’ and I didn’t,” he said. “I was really disappointed, and I was kind of surprised how disappointed I was, so I wrote a story about it.”

Local illustrator Dana Sullivan, surrounded by walls of his work in his Newcastle home, shows off a puppet- version of Ozzie, the star of his first children’s book, ‘Ozzie and the Art Contest.’   By Christina Corrales-Toy

Local illustrator Dana Sullivan, surrounded by walls of his work in his Newcastle home, shows off a puppet- version of Ozzie, the star of his first children’s book, ‘Ozzie and the Art Contest.’
By Christina Corrales-Toy

Thus, “Ozzie and the Art Contest” was born. The story follows Ozzie, a lovable blue dog, who enthusiastically enters an art contest, only to fall short of the top prize. With the help of his teacher, though, he comes to find that his passion for art is more important than any award or recognition.

“What Ozzie learned is that the stuff that he likes to do, they’re great. That he doesn’t get rewarded for them isn’t necessarily a big deal,” Sullivan said.

Originally titled “Max and the Art Contest,” Ozzie’s character was inspired by Sullivan’s now deceased Australian cattle dog, Max.

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‘Ozzie and the Art Contest’ book signing

“Max was a blue heeler, so naturally Ozzie is blue, even though Max wasn’t actually the color blue,” Sullivan said. “Ozzie is actually more outgoing, more affectionate than my Max was.”

Sullivan wrote the story in September 2010, and nearly three years later, in July 2013, the book will finally come to print. It was a long, arduous process, filled with revisions and rejections, he said.

“I received 26 rejections from publishers,” he said. “It can be depressing. Sometimes I’d get five in a day.”

All it took was one publisher to see potential in the story, and Sleeping Bear Press, based out of Ann Arbor, Mich., saw it in Ozzie and Sullivan.

“One thing I have learned in this business is everything is subjective,” Sullivan said. “One person can love something and the other person can hate it. It’s pretty amazing knowing that your book is going to publish, but after that initial approval, there’s a lot more work to do.”

So began the process of completing and refining the 32 pages of art and 700 words of copy that are customary in a children’s book.

At the end of May, Sullivan and Sleeping Bear Press took the finished product to BookExpo America, the largest annual book trade fair in the United States.

Sullivan signed copies of his book at the event in New York City, but the real draw, he said, was the blue Ozzie puppet that was a hit with kids.

When writing the book, Sullivan said he did not specifically write for a children’s audience.

“It’s almost impossible to write for someone,” he said. “In fact, I just read that Maurice Sendak never said he wrote for children, he just wrote for himself. I think if you do that, you are probably going to strike a nerve with more people than if you actually try to write to a specific audience.”

The longtime Newcastle resident spent most of his career working in Issaquah at Costco, where he was the creative director, designing the company’s infamous logo.

“I really wasn’t being as creative as I wanted to be,” he said. “It’s a great company and I still love it.”

Sullivan hosted an official book launch party at Secret Garden Books in Ballard July 5, but he is set to return to his old Issaquah stomping grounds, when he hosts a book signing at Costco Aug. 30.

“The illustrating is my first love,” he said, “but there’s nothing like your own book.”


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