Cover Reveal: Between Words

Four (plus) years in the making, I’m so STOKED I finally get to share this picture book with the world! 

I just had a moment of reckoning today, looking back at the countless stacks of sketchbooks and boxes full of painting studies it took for this book to become what it has. It was a true labor of love.

Archival boxes filled with sketches and paint studies for the book BETWEEN WORDS

Archival boxes filled with sketches and paint studies for the book BETWEEN WORDS.

Several sketchbooks showing character and color palette studies for BETWEEN WORDS
Painting sketches and studies for pages in BETWEEN WORDS

Several sketchbooks and pages showing character and color palette studies for BETWEEN WORDS.

SHWOO!! What on ERF is this book I did all this work/play for, you ask??

BETWEEN WORDS is a fantastical reimagining of my experience as a multi-ethnic kid who moved around the globe. It shares some of the triumphs and heartbreaks I encountered in my own journey as I learned to connect with the world around me, however foreign it felt.⁠

The writing process began as a cathartic exercise for my inner “Little Saki,” but it turns out this is a book for any of us who:

  • have ever felt like misfits
  • don’t always know the right words to say
  • struggle to make friends 
  • find solace in the magical worlds we create for ourselves

And why does this matter? (A question I grapple with daily.)

Maybe because we’re all affected by how we connect (or don’t) with others. 

Would my life be different now, had I had better coping mechanisms back when I lived the experiences that this book is based on? Would I have burned less bridges throughout my life? Would I have been better able to turn my wounds into wins and lashed out less? Would I have treasured and valued each human connection as the opportunities they can be to change our world, one tiny interaction at a time? I’d like to think so. While I totes believe that the cracks are where the proverbial light gets in (and I realize I’m still very much a work in progress), I often find myself wistfully pondering this question.

What if it didn’t have to suck so hard? What if we were able to dive into these situations with better connection skills to manage our fear and pain? How would that impact our lives and the lives of our kiddos? How might all of that add up to impact our world? 

On a related note, not taking loved ones for granted is a lesson I’ve had to slowly and painfully learn over the years. The great news is we can always start “doing better when we know better.”

In that spirit, I’ll end this post with the overwhelming gratitude I feel for the small village of amazing humans it took to bring this book into the world; beloved family and friends spanning all ages (youngest was four years old, the oldest are septuagenarians), countless workshop teachers and classmates and mentors, four brilliant critique groups, an incredibly patient dream agent, three (plus) dream editors, and a truly baller design team. I’m planning to share tribute posts about all of their genius contributions very soon.

I’d love to hear about your stories of connection! Please share your triumphs and heartbreaks too, if you’re so inclined. And if any of this resonates and you’re curious about the book, you can request it at your local library or preorder it here (pub date is May 21st).

  1. Annie says:

    I just got chills, for real. You poured your heart into this and it shows, and GLOWS, on those pages. One day there will be an art gallery filled with all of these little color studies, and I will stop and gape at each one. And let’s be honest, probably drool a bit.

    • saki tanaka says:

      Thank you ANNIE!! I’m so excited for both our books, brimming with our hearts. Our cups overfloweth. Maybe this will be a group show! And maybe, in OUR gallery?! ^__^

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