Excerpt from "Oak Leaves" article:
The idea for Eric B. Anderson's first book came about after he was disappointed when he couldn't find a children's book about father and daughter relationships while shopping with his then newborn daughter.
"There weren't many books dealing with fathers. I found hardly any that dealt with a father and daughter relationship," said the River Forest resident, who lived in Oak Park for eight years.
So he wrote his first book and titled it Alena and the Favorite Thing after his daughter, whose name means "bright one" in Greek, his wife's heritage. The story took a week to write, and Alena was 4 months old in August 2006 when he finished the book.
Anderson published the first print-on-demand book in March through lulu.com. Alena also is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble's Web sites. He hopes it will be for sale at bookstores.
"When Alena's Poppa loses his favorite thing and can't seem to remember what it is, he enlists his daughter in a quest to help him find it," says the alenabook.com Web site. "From a basement filled with monsters, through a grand Victorian ballet hall, to a big top's center ring and all the way to the moon, Alena and her trusty teddy bear search everywhere in a quest to find her Poppa's favorite thing."
Dad's point of view
Anderson explains, "I wanted to show a father can be sentimental, too. It's about a parent engaging a child's imagination and getting the parental bond going."
Anderson, 37, has been writing since attending second grade in Burlington, Iowa, where he grew up. He received a degree in English in 1992 from the University of Iowa.
Anderson has written ghost and horror stories, which have appeared in an online magazine and anthologies, along with a dozen speculative screenplays. He runs EBA Creative -- a design, writing and marketing firm that has designed covers for small press books and CDs. He used the EBA Creative name to publish the book.
For the first year of Alena's life, Anderson was working from home. Inspired to write the book, he then sought out an illustrator.
Through guru.com, he found illustrator Jakub Kuzma, who lives in Poznan, Poland.
Anderson posted the project on the Web site. "(Kuzma) did two character drawings and they were so well done that I chose him right away." He said all the detail in the illustrator's work "engages even the littlest reader.'"
In an e-mail, Kuzma said, "Eric has described his book and main figures. But he's given a free choice for kind of characters. I've described my vision of them and sent a few sketches. Eric chose me probably because he liked my vision of Alena and her father."
Kuzma, 43, is a freelance artist who has illustrated about 150 books for children and 50 covers in Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Holland. (Alena is the first book he has illustrated that was published in the United States.)
Kuzma said he and Anderson have communicated without any problems sending messages and illustrations to each other.
He and Anderson promised that they will work together soon on the next books about Alena. "I'm sure these will be great books. Eric is an amazing writer. His stories for children are very cute, full of family love and humor."
Anderson said, "I would like to do a whole series."
The reaction has been good so far. Anderson donated a copy of his book to the River Forest Public Library and said it consistently is out on loan. He has done readings for grade school students in Villa Park and Lombard. "I brought Alena to one and they surrounded her like she was a missing Beatle," he said.
His daughter also is a big fan of the book. "Right now she runs to the bookshelf and brings it to me to read," he said.
How will Alena react when she is older and realizes her father has written a book about her? "Hopefully she'll like it," Anderson said.
ALENA AND THE FAVORITE THING
Contact author Eric Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org. The book is available at www.lulu.com, www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.