Back When I First Taught Book Publishing, I Tried It Myself First

My first ‘written and illustrated by’ publication required glue, thread, transparency, and humor

Before I ever stepped into a classroom to teach for a salary, I did it as a volunteer. I taught 20 homeschooling children — kindergarten age through middle school — creative writing. The culminating project was a book, written and illustrated (and sewed and glued) by each child.

Of course, I had to try it myself with my own children, Laura, 8, and A.J., 6, first. And do my own book. Laura’s book, The Wacky Farm, offers this on the inside cover:

“A farmer named Henry discovers his animals have changed colors. He calls the newspaper, and people start visiting him to see the strange sight. Then something even more weird happens, and a crowd gathers. What will Henry do when he wants peace and quiet?”

A.J.’s inside cover gives this synopsis of The Cat and Mouse:

“A cat named Furball and a mouse named Mr. Gray Mouse become good friends while living with a mean boy named Matt. One day, Matt captures Mr. Gray Mouse and puts him in a cage. Furball not only comes to the rescue but also finds a way to freedom as well. Will the cat and mouse say goodbye to their abusive owner forever?”

Three books written and illustrated by the Dagens back in 1998. The Wacky Farm by Laura Dagen, The Cat and Mouse by A.J. Dagen, and The Funny Thing About Laser Surgery by Sara Dagen.
The inaugural books written and illustrated by Laura, A.J., and Sara Dagen in 1998 received critical acclaim (because we wrote the reviews, too).

I titled my book The Funny Thing About Laser Surgery. This was my synopsis:

“The writer and illustrator shares a personal story testifying to the miracles of medicine and the human body. After suffering acne as a teenager, Sara was haunted by the scars. She visits a plastic surgeon and begins the road to new, smooth skin.

But the author finds the process is sometimes ironic — when she discovers all the “ugly” stages she must go through to become beautiful man’s way. Is it all worth it?”

Since I had undergone laser surgery on my face at the time, I thought I’d not only write and illustrate the experience but make two copies — one for me and one for the plastic surgeon who’d done the job. I fully expected to see my book available on the coffee table in his waiting room, but I never did.

But today I unveil this story to you. Tada! My first book, written and illustrated by yours truly. Enjoy!

Yes, I provided the unbiased reviews myself.

That, my friends, is my first attempt at writing and illustrating my own book. I’m not sure illustrating is in my future, but it was important to do the entire process before teaching it to children.

(For the record, I never did more laser surgery, though scaring remained, and it took years before my face color matched the rest of me. If anything, the funny thing about laser surgery is that it removed my vanity, not my scars.)

I used the book Creating Books with Children by Valerie Bendt to create my own book. It included making book covers from cardboard and fabric, gluing pages to a skeleton, sewing the pages together, and more. Of course, you can now easily create books and have them professionally printed, but what a gem these “written and created by” books are to me years later.

Inside back cover. Obviously, it took more than waiting until my children were “just a bit older” before I became widely circulated. Although, had Dr. Poser simply shared my book on his coffee table, my career as a writer might have started much sooner!

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4 thoughts on “Back When I First Taught Book Publishing, I Tried It Myself First

  1. This is the kind of writing I’m talkin’ about–very entertaining! I love your sense of humor and writing style, but mostly I love reading about your life and experiences–makes mine seem so humdrum. Keep up the great work!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Connie! You could write about your battles with spiders and ticks and lawn mower blades and knitting needles and tormenting workout partners and such! 🙂 Hardly humdrum! However, I’m glad you find mine so thrilling. Thank you!


  2. Sara, This took me back many years! 😊. Can’t imagine the pain! When I saw you in the 90’s, you were beautiful! Great memories! Love, Blessings, Aunt Claire

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Aunt Claire! I’m glad you think I am beautiful — or was in the ’90s, at least! You are, too! (The pain was more memorable than childbirth!) Love you!


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