"Dino Does Yoga" Does Good
Sofie's Publishing Odyssey
by Sofie Engström von Alten
My mother had just flown off to India for business and I was recruited to watch her lonely house. With the true solitude of a yogi, and much free time on my hands, I began to really dive into my own, previously modest yoga practice.
It was the Spring of 2017 and was teaching yoga at a smelly, local gym in Sebastopol, California. Still I was lucky enough to take classes daily from some of the best yoga teachers in California. My constant companion at that point was a bright green inflatable balloon dinosaur, which I had gotten while on a trip in Italy. Aptly named Dino, (pronounced as the Italians do, “dee-noh") this little dinosaur was my loyal sidekick. Kids loved him. I took him not only to yoga classes, but also out to bars and clubs. He knew how to fit in with everyone. However, after a while, little Dino developed a slow leak. Sitting on my drawing desk, inch by inch, hour by hour, Dino would deflate all the way down until he was touching his toes.
As an illustrator, I am always looking for funny, new things to draw. I love making comics, and have been self-publishing and distributing comics, zines and bilingual travel books for over a decade. I thought Dino would make the perfect protagonist in my newest story – a Trex who can reach his toes – a YOGASAUR! I drew Dino in his best 'downward dino pose', and knew instantly I was on to something. I headed down to my library to pick up some anatomy books, and Dino Does Yoga the first children's dinosaur yoga book, was in the making.
Dino would hatch from his lonely egg and begin to discover his prehistoric surrounding using yoga postures. It was easy! Just breathe in, and flap your legs – Lepidoptera pose (prehistoric dragonfly pose). Catchy rhymes led Dino from one exciting pose to the next. Finally when he felt enlightened (or pooped out) he lay down on the ground, in Savasana (meditation or 'corpse' pose).
I was enchanted by the idea. Dino (the balloon) and I went around teaching kids about yoga dinosaurs. The uplifting message being that if Dino, with his tiny T-Rex arms, can touch his toes, or at least try to, then anyone can.
I decided to submit Dino Does Yoga as a book to "real" publishers, hoping that someone in that world would enjoy it too, and publish it for me. I had grown weary of distributing all of my own books, and keeping up with my inventory was always a challenge. Also, I discovered early on that bookstore owners these days tend to cringe at the words "self-published."
Ignorant in all dimensions of "real" publishing, as I was, I sought and found the bible of publishing (The Writer's Market – each year a new, updated edition is published), at my favorite resource, the library. Pouring over it for more than a week, I gleaned the names and addresses of 40 publishing houses that fit my genres: dinosaurs, children, wellness, and yoga. After printing, assembling, and mailing off all my little Dino books (or "dummies" as publishers call them), I sat back and waited. Soon enough, I received my first rejection letter - then another, and another. Thirty-nine rejection letters later, I received a letter from North Atlantic Books, Berkeley. They loved Dino!
At least, they said they did. In my green author's naivité I signed away the rights to Dino, expecting fast results and hard cash. I did get a little bit of cash, but it would be more than two years and countless edits on my little dinosaur until Dino would be ready for the little children's claws. At first he was too "creepy", his claws were too "spiky", his teeth were too sharp. A couple of older ladies even thought he resembled a phallus.
Again in my naivité (this being my first published book) I had imagined my publishers to have a tightly integrated plan of action for the book's launch. The runway being very tight, it would be essential to get the lift off just right. Alas, such was not the case. They inclined to the safest and softest path. I was disheartened that their timid approach did not match the Dino's potential to leave a heavy footprint in the minds of kids. I had thought support from my publishers was a no brainer. But, as it turns out, it's all up to me.
With Dino Does Yoga finally hitting the bookshelves on July 16th , I am ready to hit the road myself, this fall. During back to-school time, I will embark on a book tour to share Dino with West Coast of the USA. Kids will get to put on hand-crafted dinosaur costumes to unleash their Dino within. The tour will visit stopping in bookstores, science museums and schools alike, and will incorporate a book reading (offered in Spanish or English), a dinosaur-themed yoga class and a short group mediation. My dream is to empower children through yoga, to give them agency and of course teach them about dinosaurs.
And dinosaurs are hipper than ever. This spring there was a blockbuster T-Rex exhibition at New York's Museum of Natural History, which I was lucky enough to get the very last tickets for. The Smithsonian newly reopened their famed fossil hall, after 5 years of renovations, and it is now the most visited exhibit of the museum. Even the Bronx Zoo jumped aboard and in April, opening the biggest, most realistic dinosaur 'safari' in America!
Yoga is also super cool. Recently the UK started requiring elementary schools to incorporate meditation and mindfulness practice into their curriculum. In our fast-paced, ever changing world, yoga offers a healthy respite for kids and adults alike.
Dino Does Yoga synthesizes both of these trendy, awesome topics into a 32 page picture book, sure to inspire kids and adults alike! Using simple rhymes, loveable baby Dino teaches young readers about 'hatching' - waking up and opening one's eyes, practicing yogic breathing, and simple, easy-to-do yoga postures. The book offers a fun, wholesome activity for the whole family.
The Dino Does Yoga book tour will be stopping in over 35 locations (schools, museums, bookstores and libraries) in more than 20 different cities in the fall of 2019. To cover the travel costs to and from these locations, I am asking for sponsors to step in and help me out! In return for helping with my bus and train money, these sponsors will receive perks such as signed copies of Dino Does Yoga, promotional opportunities (such as marketing online and via banners or flyers at the events, handouts of their products and publicity via Penguin Random House's website) and a complimentary dinosaur yoga class in their location of choice.
Any support is greatly appreciated, and your contribution will help spread the powerful word about yoga and mindfulness to kids across the county. So please reach out and contribute if you can. Thanks for helping us make the world a better place!
Contact Sofie at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or on Instagram : @dinodoesyoga
Thank you. Namaste.
Sofie Engström von Alten was born in San Francisco, California in the 90's. She grew up doing yoga around hippies and jazzercisers. Her parents put her in a bilingual school, so she grew up speaking French.
As a teenager Sofie worked and studied with the Grateful Dead poster artist, Stanley Mouse, who is also renown for designing iconic images for the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Journey and Moon Alice. This personal mentorship was formative.
In 2012 Sofie moved to Berlin, Germany. With that the cultural crossroads as her homebase Sofie traveled to over 50 countries, absorbing art and culture like a sponge. In 2014 she was invited to complete an artist's residency in India. While she was there, she attended a yoga teacher training course in Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himayalas. Upon returning to Berlin, she brought her yoga knowledge to children at the esteemed language school Berlitz.
Sofie currently lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she is an artist, practicing yogi, and creator. In her free time she likes to make ¡Chula Libre! handbags and drink Coronas on the rooftops of San Miguel while sketching unsuspecting people in her sketchbook. She also makes self published 'zines.' She has over ten unique, hand drawn coloring books, travel guides, and comic books.