Friday, November 21, 2014

Typhoon is the Cause for Finding Hope: The Making of an eBook

Update: Finding Hope is now available in Spanish.   4/14/2015       

   by Janie Reinart

“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed.” ~Barry Lopez

One year ago, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines stopped being just another terrible news story for author, Suzanne Albers. 

"I was upset watching the news of the catastrophe. It felt very far away. Then I spoke to a friend whose village was devastated by the typhoon, and that was when it really changed for me from a news story to a human story. "

"I thought a lot about how overwhelming an experience it must have been for the adults and especially for the children. That was where the idea for Finding Hope came from-- an e-picture book from the perspective of a child after the typhoon." 

Suzanne quickly wrote the first draft of Finding Hope with the idea of using it to raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Next came a period of countless revisions and consideration on how to do the illustrations.

"A lucky break happened, when I received an invitation to a supporter event here in London for the charity, Plan UK, marking "Six Months On" from Typhoon Haiyan."

"I've sponsored a child through Plan UK for years, so I knew that it was a great organization. This gave me the opportunity to learn more about their work after Typhoon Haiyan and approach them about using Finding Hope to do fundraising for them."

After proposing the idea to the charity, revising and editing of the story continued, as Suzanne still struggled with what to do about the illustrations. 

The staff at Plan UK were incredibly supportive during this period, providing photos and feedback on the illustrations and how to best present information on Plan's work in the aftermath of Haiyan. 

With the anniversary of the Typhoon in mind as the deadline for finishing the e-picture book, Suzanne worked on it a couple hours a day for months.

"I work four days a week and have two little ones under five, so it was rare that I had a chance to work on this before 9pm. But I became good at using whatever minutes I happened to have free - 5 minutes on the tube or 10 minutes during my lunch break."

"I wish I could have done it faster, but I'm not an illustrator and I had no idea how to make an e-book, so there was a lot to learn during this time. I fell head over heels in love with two iPad apps - Book Creator and iDraw. Book Creator is both extremely powerful and straightforward to use. iDraw took more time to learn, but YouTube tutorials introduced me to its many features, and allowed me to learn by doing."

Finding Hope is a tender story that shows the impact of a natural disaster on a family and their courage and faith as they struggle to stay united and help others. Finding Hope  can be seen as a free video here.
Suzanne hopes her project will help people see that the devastation of a typhoon like Haiyan isn't over in a year. She offers her e-picture book to be used by parents and schools as a tool for discussing natural disasters with children. To help support this fund raiser, donate here.

"I'd also like to thank the many people who helped me  produce the e-book and fundraising website. Thanks so much to my amazing husband, kids and both sets of grandparents who gave me time over the last month to finish this project."

"Thank you to my wonderful critique groups - the Scribblers and Spoons - and friends for your help on the many, many drafts of Finding Hope. Thanks again to the amazing people at Plan UK for all of their support."

Suzanne, we at the Grog thank you for taking the story that came to you, for caring for it and for giving it away where it was needed. You are a wonderful role model for all of us. Much success with your fund raiser for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.  

Suzanne Albers is a rating analyst by day, mother of two by night and weekends and a picture book writer for those occasional minutes between the two. She grew up in NJ and has lived in London for 14 years. 


  1. You've done a wonderful job, Suze! I'll do my best to help spread the word too! :0)

  2. Thank you, Suzanne, for your book to help this worthy cause. You took the Barry Lopez quote to heart, with your story reaching out to help the typhoon victims. Best wishes for many, many sales.

  3. Thank you, Donna and Patricia. Please re-tweet and post to spread the word about this wonderful project and to help the smallest victims of this natural disaster.

  4. What a dynamic project this is. Writers can change the world w/their words.

  5. Kathy, excellent point about writers changing the world. It gives us the courage to write on!

  6. Wow. Thanks so much for your lovely messages Donna, Patty and Kathy! Your support is really appreciated. Suzanne

  7. Very cool. I love Book Creator! I use it with my students and have used it myself to make mock ups of picture books. Great article!


    1. Todd, Thanks so much for your comment. I'm really pleased that you and your students have also found Book Creator to be a great tool. All the best, Suzanne

  8. Thanks Todd. I need to try Book Creator.

  9. Dear Suzanne,
    You are a gifted & sensitive story teller.
    Today I was able to view & hear the video book FINDING HOPE. It is crafted in a delicate way that clearly sets the destruction scene, but offers it in a picture book format for young readers. I especially luv that the sister, Faith, looks for Hope's smile. And that the new friend, Joy, is pulled into the story. You have the poet's touch with your text. And brava! on tackling illustrations. They are mighty fine for a non-artist - hard to believe that is the case! I hope your friend's family, catalyst for this, is making out okay.
    Happy Holidays over there in the great UK!

    ~ j a n

    1. Hi Jan, Thanks so much for both of your incredibly supportive messages! It's truly an honour to receive them from you. Happy holidays to you, too! All the best, Suzanne

    2. Please keep us posted on your projects, both for volunteer causes such as this & also your creative endeavors that land you contracts, which I feel will happen.

      ~ j a n

  10. Janie - thanks so much for the adding the info on the Spanish version of Finding Hope to this. An unexpected and amazing part of this process has been that two of my wonderful colleagues have offered to translate Finding Hope. And since I had made the ebook myself, putting in their translations was easy to do. The Chinese version should ready soon, too, which is also really exciting!

  11. Suzanne,
    How wonderful!! I am so proud of you and your good work! Your colleagues rock! Now even more people around the world will be able to read your words and find hope for the typhoon victims. Continued success .