Have you ever heard the term “rainbow baby”? Well I hadn’t either until I read today’s picture book.
Samantha Gassman Sam is a British-born, U.S. Air Force veteran and military spouse, and mom to two kids. During the day, she works internal communications for a Fortune 100 defense company. In her free time (a.k.a. the two hours between when her kids go to bed and when she expires out of exhaustion), she is a children’s book author, freelance writer and editor. You can learn more about her at her website.
DEAR RAINBOW BABY is a letter written from a happy parent to their rainbow baby. A rainbow baby is a baby that is born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. Because rainbows often occur after a storm, these babies represent healing and hope for the future. This book chooses not to dwell on the painful past but on the hope and healing of the future. It’s a very sweet perspective on a difficult subject and I suspect this will be a treasured gift book for parents who are struggling with this very issue. And Timothy Lange, the illustrator, also found numerous ways to sneak rainbows onto every page. That’s something you have to see!
Me: You have been a US Air Force VET, a mom, and currently work for a defense company. What is it that drew you to writing picture books?
Samantha: When my son was born, I loved reading to him. Even as an infant, he became completely enamored with stories and illustrations. At four, he still loves to curl up on my lap with our latest library haul and work our way through book after book. Writing picture books gives me a unique opportunity to help create a special moment between a parent and a child.
Me: This book is so heartfelt. I admit that until now, I hadn’t heard of a rainbow baby. What inspired this story?
Samantha: Thank you! To be honest, I never intended to write a book about a rainbow baby, but my miscarriage in 2019 changed all that. In the days that followed, I started writing as a way to deal with my grief. As I wrote through all my emotions, a letter to a baby we didn’t even have yet emerged. Before I knew it, I had written the first draft of the manuscript.
Several months later, the story received an offer of publication about a week before my rainbow baby was born. Now, two years after I signed the contract, my daughter and the book will share the same birthday!
Me: Wow! That’s amazing. What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?
Samantha: The thing that surprised me most was how writing completely transformed my emotional state. Even though it was ugly getting there, all of those feelings and emotions were necessary for me to arrive at this story.
Me: You have three picture books coming out soon. What does your writing process look like?
Samantha: Process sounds so regimented, haha! While I have writing goals, the actual process of writing stories varies from draft to draft. For one of my manuscripts, I was listening to the radio when a line from a song struck a chord with me. At the next red light, I wrote an idea down. When I got home, I wrote like a mad woman… one draft to get all the ideas out and another to organize it into a story.
Other times, I have an idea for a story and it churns around in my brain until (maybe) I get an ah-ha moment and I can complete a draft. Either way, the next step involves revision, critique partners, putting it away, more revision, repeat!
For each story though, my favorite moment is when I first share the story with my family. If it passes through my kids and my husband, I know I’m onto something special.
Me: The illustrations by Timothy Lange are wonderful. I especially loved the multiple ways rainbows were worked into each picture. Were there any illustration surprises for you?
Samantha: Tim did an amazing job with the illustrations. What shocked me most was how much the mother character looked like me, even though Tim and I have never met in person and I don’t think he had even seen a picture of me before starting the project. When I saw the first full-color illustrations, I was floored by the resemblance.
Me: Aww! That is a surprise. Any advice for other new picture book writers?
Samantha: My advice is simply to keep at it. If you have a passion for children’s literature and you want to create picture books, keep going and keep learning. The only difference between a published picture book writer and an unpublished picture book writer is that the former never gave up.
Me: Any advice for other parents who might be grieving the loss of an infant as in this situation?
Samantha: While miscarriage is unfortunately common (1 in 4), the experience is unique and deeply personal and should never be overlooked. My advice for parents in this situation is to lean on your family and friends for support. This is not a time to isolate yourself. You are entitled to your feelings of loss and it is completely okay to go through the grieving process. You are not alone in this.
That is good advice. Thank you for stopping by my blog today Samantha.
Dear readers, this book is released on August 22nd. It’s well worth a read just to see how to handle such a challenging subject in such a positive way. And if you or someone you know has gone through a loss of a child like this, perhaps this book will help heal some of pain.