Evie Mulhern ’25 (She/Her)
In 2019, my close friend Sophie shared how she had always wanted to write a book; nevertheless, the thought of writing a novel as a high school sophomore seemed pretty daunting. Instead, she chose to create a children’s book and asked if I would like to illustrate it. News Flash: I replied with a huge “YES!!!” and Livia’s Day In Rome (or LDIR) was born.
Since elementary school I’ve always had a passion for art, whether that be in class, at home, or for commissions, contests, and more. However, while I had previous experience creating digital works and illustrating, I had never done anything quite at this scale. Sophie likes to call LDIR the “lovechild” between our two passions: language and art. Drawing upon Sophie’s knowledge and education in Latin and my research of Roman culture, we spent nearly two years making this book a reality for young readers. It was worth it!
A little background on LDIR: the story centers around a young girl named Livia who grows up in Ancient Rome. It follows her through a “typical” day in her life: attending school, visiting the market, doing chores, and reflecting on the adventures of being a Roman girl. The book is intended to be educational through the use of historical references and Latin. We also wanted to empower girls through imparting the idea that they can be themselves and that they do not need to be held to gender stereotypes. LDIR, in addition, is about entertaining children readers and their parents.
To make sure the book’s format met the expectations of kids today, I sorted through a stack of classics from my childhood that I kept in my house’s attic, including William Joyce’s Snowie Rolie, my all-time favorite! I studied each book, noted the commonalities, and applied that knowledge to form an artistic theme that would shape the final work. It would include a cartoonish yet detailed design for the story; the words were formatted in a “curly” font with a white bubble background; and the color palette blended pastel and muted tones. While I was initially unsure of how this artistic template would translate into the final product, I was really happy how the colors amplified the features of the illustrations.
The artistic process involved taking standard printer paper and drawing a rough sketch for each of the 34 pages. The pages were then photographed and opened in Adobe Sketch on an iPad. I used basic tools to outline the drawing which included the geometric features that make images look more crisp. The images were then imported to Adobe Fresco where it was time for color! I added color and created layers to add extra design features, which included jewelry, shading on clothes and hair, and texture. After confirming everything was accurate for each page (which took many attempts), I imported the writing into customized bubbles, and imported everything into Adobe Illustrator. This is where the final product came together through final tweaks to text position, fonts, special highlights for Latin words, and the addition of page numbers.
We used Ingram-Spark self-publishing services, and while I can attest to the quality of their publishing program, there was still a HUGE learning curve. After starting with the book files in Illustrator (which is great for digital books), I learned that InDesign would provide a much better look for the hardback format. After finalizing a publishing date, hardback/digital formats, and the suggested retail price, Livia’s Day in Rome was released on February 1st, 2021, and has since been available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and limited brick and mortar bookstores in Charleston, SC (and hopefully soon in Davidson)!
The experience of publishing this story stands out as my favorite artistic venture and learning challenge to date! Looking towards the future, Sophie and I are collaborating on our next book which brings together a love of history and art once again. We intend to create a series about young girls in historical settings around the globe. A sneak peek for Davidson readers: be on the look-out for “Her Day in History” books coming to a bookseller near you!
Evie Mulhern (she/her/hers) is an intended Computer Science and Studio Art double major from Alexandria, Virginia. She can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.