Rachel Atherton believes that when you’re meant for something, things will fall into place.
She knows that from her own experience. From an idea for a children’s book to publishing four books in just two years.
Although her background was not in writing, she was involved with children. Atherton, who has lived in Chelsea since December, has over a decade of experience in early childhood education, cognitive and behavioral therapy. When she and her husband Casey lived in Nashville, she worked as the director for a private early childhood education center.
“Working with children has been my passion my entire life, especially from infancy to age 6,” she said. “I’ve always had this creative gene and these fun little stories and a lot of them are based on the kids in my class.”
In March 2020, Atherton sat down and wrote the concept for her first book. She shared it with her father, who told her she was on to something. However, Atherton said her confidence wasn’t high enough at the time and she wondered if anyone else would like it.
After rewriting it a few times and deciding to turn it into a rhyming book, she pitched the finished project to her husband in August 2020 and then shared it with a few other people. Her positive reactions helped boost her confidence.
She found an illustrator from Ireland and said she was “really lucky with him and couldn’t have found anyone better”. He had the book’s illustrations finished a month after her Zoom call.
“When I saw the illustration along with the words I had written, it came alive and was so much more tangible,” said Atherton.
Her father helped her with editing and did a digital layout of the book, which she sent to a publisher. The next day she received good news.
“My father called me and said, ‘Do you want a publishing deal?’ and I started crying,” she said. “I wrote three more books and had them all illustrated and ended up publishing them very quickly after they signed me.”
All of her books are based on animals, coincidentally also on animals from Africa. The first was “Ostriches Can’t Fly,” followed by “Hip Hip Hooray: A Hippo Parade,” then “Momma Meerkat.”
In November 2021, she released a Christmas book called Very Merry Penguin, which Atherton says is loosely based on her husband, who loves penguins.
“It went quicker than I expected,” she said. “Looking back on it now, it seems like a short time to get four books on the shelves.”
Their overarching mission is to put books in the hands of children to encourage imaginative thinking and creativity. The importance of early literacy is close to her heart, she said.
“I want every book to ignite a light in the reader and make them feel inspired and empowered,” she said. “It’s never too early to read to your children and it builds confidence, retention and improves reading.”
Atherton said she already has several ideas for future books, but will be taking a break from writing for a while after welcoming her first child in late May.
“I can take the time I need to be with him and be a mom first and will continue with the writing when I start to pick up the pace again. My books are in the nursery and I can’t wait to read them to him,” she said.
For more information on Atherton’s books, visit rabookclub.com.