Tag Archive for featured

Do My Hips Look That Big?

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 9.15.09 PM

During the illustration process of publishing my book, “Jellybeans Morning, Noon & Night,” I discovered that the illustrator and I had a different vision of what the mother in the book should look like. To the left is the first draft version of the jellybean mom.

My first reaction was … do my hips look that big?

Having the children in the book to be representative of my kids, seeing this version of their mother gave me a good chuckle (kind-of). The illustrator wanted the mom to be a little “cooky.” I was OK with cooky, but the hips had to go!

After several different versions, we finally agreed on the mom that appears in the book. She wears jewelry (which I do occasionally), has her nails painted (which I don’t have done anymore) and wears glasses a little crooked (which I don’t need YET).

She isn’t me, exactly, but she is a great representation of a mom who loves her kids and plays along with their imagination and “brilliant plan” to eat jellybeans morning, noon and night. It is a brilliant plan, isn’t it?

Touché My Clever Kids, Touché


The characters in the children’s book, “Jellybeans Morning, Noon And Night,” remind me of my own clever kids and here is just one example of how.

I was babysitting my nephew who is 4 years old and trying to reason with my five year old about how we need to SHARE our toys. I explained to him that his cousin was our “guest” and that we let our “guests” do what they “want” to when they visit. That included sharing our toys with our cousin.

Immediately I could see the light bulb come on inside my five year old’s head.

Without skipping a beat he turned to his cousin and asked him, “Do you “want” to go to Chuck-E-Cheese [a pizza and arcade place for kids].”

Well, I don’t have to tell you what his answer was because you know it was, “Yes! I “want” to go to Chuck-E-Cheese!”

I was witnessing what was happening, but I almost couldn’t believe it. Was I really about to be outsmarted by my 5 year old and his 4 year old cousin?

Yes, yes I was.

My five year old son then turned to me and said, “Mom, since my cousin “wants” to go to Chuck-E-Cheese and he is our “guest” I think we should take him!”

OMG! He totally went there! I was outsmarted and outplayed by a five year old!

Touché my son, you clever kid you. Touché!

A Dedication to The Troops

Welcome home ceremonies after 10 months in Iraq

My name is Maggie Pajak. I am the author and publisher of the illustrated children’s book,“Jellybeans Morning, Noon & Night.” I made up this story years ago when my husband was deployed in Iraq in 2005.

This story was the bribe that got my son to sleep in his own bed at night. Sleep was hard to come by as it was, not knowing what news I would wake up to with the thought that my husband could be in harms way. Having a two year old rolling around all night in your bed didn’t exactly bring a restful night’s sleep either.

As the parent on full-time “night-night duty,” I read more than my share of bedtime books that year. One night I decided to mix it up a bit and came up with this silly story about a boy and his love for jellybeans.

Me and my giggly son

Me and my giggly son

To me this book is more than a story about two brother’s love for jellybeans – ALL of them and their plan to get Mom to let them eat them morning, noon and night. It is more than a lesson of moderation and letting your kids learn a lesson on their own.

To me it brought a few giggle-filled moments with my son at the end of some very long and trying days.

It is for this reason I decided to dedicate the book, not just to my husband and our son, but to all of the troops and their kids.

I know my son and I were not alone. I know I was not the only parent on full-time “night-night duty.” I know my son was not the only child missing their parent. And I know I was not the only wife missing their husband.

Dedication Page
To the left is an image of the dedication page in my book, “Jellybeans Morning, Noon & Night.” It displays a pic of my son Matthew (who’s 10 now) holding a pillow with a photo of my husband in uniform back when he was deployed in Iraq. I hope that “Jellybeans Morning, Noon & Night” can bring some levity to others as it did for me and my giggle son those many years ago and as it did for my younger son Andrew (5) while my husband was deployed in 2011.

Mission Accomplished: My Self Publishing Journey – Part Two


So now you know why I wrote and published “Jellybeans Morning, Noon & Night” (see Mission Accomplished: My Self Publishing Journey – Part One). Now here’s a little bit of background on how I went about making my “brilliant plan” happen (insert maniacal laugh here).

It started with an idea of course. The idea turned into a story. Sounds “simple” right? I’ve always enjoyed writing and telling stories and in my professional marketing career, creative writing was part of my daily job and I was good at it (at least that’s what they told me). I thought, “Publishing a book – I could do this.” It is a brilliant plan, isn’t it?

Well, looking back now, the description “simple” would not exactly be how I would describe the process of publishing a book (I know, I know … anyone could have told me that). I have to say that the biggest lesson I learned in self publishing my children’s book, “Jellybeans Morning, Noon & Night,” was that writing the story was the easiest part (for me anyway).

After writing the story, which was about 8 pages typed in length (remember it’s a children’s book), it needed to be edited. I don’t just mean correcting any grammar mistakes, I mean editing the story down in length. Having worked in publishing, I luckily had a friend who agreed to do this for me. Without her (and the help of the illustrator), parents all over the world would be skipping page after page as they read my story to their kids. “And they lived happily ever after … the end.” (You know you’ve done it before. I know I have. You can admit it).

Editing the story down to fit on 25 scenes (spreads) was quite a grueling process at first. I thought that the illustrator would just find a way to make ALL my words fit onto her illustrated pages. In reality, I had to find a way to make my words fit on her illustrated page using a lot fewer characters than I had planned. It required re-working and re-editing the manuscript, quite frankly too many times I care to remember (I try to block those memories out).

At the end of the torturing, I mean editing process … when all of the red pencil marks, the back and forth, the debating on what to keep or the arguing about which way sounds better FINALLY stopped, what I had left was still MY story – just better (and shorter). Even more importantly, I learned a lot about the process of writing and editing a children’s book, which is helping me as I venture to publish my second (Follow the progress of that experience at ElfUnderCover.com).

From Idea to Illustration: An Unexpected Journey



I want to share some of the amazing before and after photos of the book, “Jellybeans Morning, Noon & Night.”

To help provide my illustrator with some direction for the illustrations in the story, I spent an afternoon taking pictures of my kids acting out each of the scenes in the book. Given this was my first book and most importantly a gift to my children, I also wanted the characters in the book illustrated in the likeness of my kids. So this helped provide the illustrator with a guide to follow when creating the characters in the book.

Above and below are some before and after images. To the left is an actual photo of my kids that I Photoshop’d with a pencil sketch filter and to the right is what the illustrator turned the photo into.


Now this was one the most unexpected lessons learned along this book publishing journey – illustration!  I naively thought that the illustrator would just draw the scene, scan it into the computer, add my words and the page would be done. WRONG! So so wrong.
Every illustrator is different, but with technology these days an illustrator can do so many things with Photoshop layers.  Some pages in “Jellybeans Morning, Noon & Night” are made up of over 100 layers. The layers on many pages added depth to the scene or gave me the flexibility to change something if I didn’t like it, without having to re-draw the entire page. (Like I said – I was very naive).

Looking at the before and after images now just makes this journey all the more worthwhile. Look at how far this “idea,” this silly “story,” has come – from and idea to an AMAZING illustration.

Mission Accomplished: My Self Publishing Journey – Part One

Books Arrived

First Print RunIn 2005 while my husband was deployed in Iraq, I came up with this silly story about a boy and his love for jellybeans. Several years and another son later, I finally decided to turn this story into a full fledged book.

When my husband first got home, I thought that we would just forget that we were ever apart and start back up right where we left off. I was wrong. Being apart changed us. There isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t think about that time.

What I came to realize was that (in our experience) it changed us for the better. Don’t misunderstand, the time that my husband spent on deployment was very stressful for all of us, but it made us stronger as a family. That time is not something we should forget, but remember and appreciate.

I guess coming to this realization is what finally motivated me to publish this book … to celebrate that time we spent apart (if that makes any sense whatsoever). Having worked in publishing for more than 12 years also helped give me that extra confidence boost to start this journey to publish this children’s book myself.

It was my main goal to accomplish this as a gift for my husband, kids, family and friends. Anything else would be icing on the cake.
Mission Accomplished!