Fishy Tales by Vicki Riske

Author Spotlight | March 2022 | Vicki Riske | Fishy Tales

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Author Spotlight:
Fishy Tales by Vicki Riske

March’s Author Spotlight we’re featuring is a book we printed called “Fishy Tales” by Vicki Riske! Below features an interview with the author, where she talks about her book, where she gets her inspiration and special events coming up.

PUBLISHED – MARCH 7, 2022

Fishy Tales by Vicki Riske

Featured book: “Fishy Tales” by Vicki Riske

What is Fishy Tales about?

“Fishy Tales” is based on a puppet show I wrote six years ago for Day of Puppetry. This annual celebration is hosted by the Phoenix Guild of Puppetry, the Great Arizona Puppet Theater, and Puppet Pie. It is a wonderful day full of puppet activities, from professional puppet shows to make-and-take puppets, puppet parades, and a puppet show performed by the children in attendance. All these activities provide an opportunity for children to show their puppetry skills for friends and family.

I wrote “Fishy Tales”, the puppet show, as a way to involve as many children as possible in a production. Children ages three to twelve created fish, octopuses, and trash puppets. Using a blue bedsheet, we created an ocean. A narrator read the story, and the children performed with their handmade puppets. The show was a success, and I have used it at other events as well.

Working with children on this puppet show inspired me to write and illustrate “Fishy Tales” the book. Children have told me that the story is important to them. They are concerned about the future of the oceans. They want to be involved in solutions for saving our planet from climate change.

“Fishy Tales” (the picture book) is about a colorful school of fish, who love to swim and play in the ocean. While playing their favorite game, Marco Polo, the fish hear cries for help. The concerned fish are off on an adventure to save an Octopus and their ocean from a large trash island. The fish need to find a solution, which is people. They need the help of people and their boats, to bring the trash to land and recycle it. That’s pretty much the whole story.

My process is basically to write the story, and then start illustrating. During that process, I am always looking for validation that the story is worthy of my audience. I am lucky to have many nieces, nephews, and friends with kids, that I can send out drafts and ask, “Well, what do you think of this?” I generally receive honest responses because kids don’t worry about pleasing me, they’re really frank about the whole thing [their opinions about Vicki’s book]. My books are always vetted by kids, and that’s a huge part of my process. I learn a lot about what kids do and don’t like.

For example, originally the names for the fish were: red fish, blue fish, etc. Their names were their colors. When a four-year-old heard the story, his father told me, “Well, Jayden wants to know the names of the fish.” I said, “Red Fish, Blue Fish.”. The father replied, “Well, I tried to tell him that, but he said, ‘NO. What are their names?’” So, using that feedback, I added names to the fish. I even named the green fish Jade after Jayden, which made him very happy that he had contributed to my story. I take feedback from my audience very seriously.

Have kids reached out to you after they read your books, specifically kids that you didn’t know before?

Yes, they have. It’s really sweet when kids tell you they like your book and it’s even sweeter when it is a kid that doesn’t know you. When they appreciate your work and give you that feedback, it makes you think: “Writing books is really worth my time.” It doesn’t get better than that.

What was the most exciting about writing this book?

Feedback from children, donating books to libraries and translating “Fishy Tales” into Spanish.

I feel a strong connection to libraries. We didn’t have many books in our house growing up, so I went to the library often to check out books. I always appreciated the library.

I donated copies of all my books to a library in Minnesota. The librarian mentioned that her favorite book of mine was “Grandma Bibi”.Grandma Bibi” is a story I wrote about my mom who had suffered from Alzheimer’s and how over time, she couldn’t remember who we were. During one visit, I could see in her eyes that I wasn’t Vicki anymore; I was her Aunt Lucy. This interaction with my mom was unexpected and unsettling. I wanted to write a book about my experience, and use it to help kids understand when their grandparents forget who they are.

When I showed the librarian a draft of “Fishy Tales”, she said: “Oh my goodness! There aren’t many books that have written about this issue (the environment) in such a simple way.” She told me that this will eventually go viral – that was the way she put it.

For me, this was an unexpected reaction. That’s the most exciting part is when you receive a surprising reaction to your book. When you find someone that appreciates what you have done, it motivates me to do more.

Additionally, “Fishy Tales” has been translated into Spanish! The Spanish title is “Los pececitos aventureros”, it is in the process of being printed. I met my translator, Sonia Elizabeth Urrutia de Soto, at a publishing company, where we both worked. We both moved on but continued our friendship. Now, every time I write a book, I make sure to send a copy for her opinion. When I sent her “Fishy Tales”, she loved the book. I asked if she could translate the book into Spanish; she agreed. I’m hoping that the Spanish version will be helpful to reach more children in Arizona due to the number of Spanish speakers here. I’m thrilled to have my book translated into other languages making it more accessible for everyone.

I also make and sell puppets of the characters in my books! You can buy these puppets on my website (along with my books) and even download coloring pages of all the characters and even the highly demanded boats from “Fishy Tales” for free!

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How did MyBookPrinter help your 
vision become a reality?

The very first book I wrote was “The Polka dot Tea Party”, using a different printer and self-publishing company. For me, the whole experience wasn’t satisfying at all. It was my first book, I was very nervous about it, and I thought it would go faster. I was a little impatient! The person who was helping me with the process was hard to contact and communication was strained. If I asked a question it often took a week to receive an answer. I was very frustrated.

For my second book, “Grandma Bibi”, I decided to self-publish. For a self-published author, offset printing is expensive due to the quantity restrictions. I could not afford to have thousands of books printed to lower the price. I requested quotes from a variety of printers from here in Arizona and other locations. I finally received a recommendation for (a company that was to become) MyBookPrinter. I called and talked to Kim (service specialist). Kim explained their process and was able to send me paper samples, quotes, and was able to answer all my questions. Communication with Kim was relaxed and she always returned my emails or calls within a 24 hour period of time. Ellen (customer service) provided technical advice and was always able to answer my questions about the files and how long it would take to print my books. They both were professional and were helpful without being pushy in the process. I am proud of the product that they are helping me create.

MyBookPrinter offered the best prices for printing, and the book quality was much better than the previous company. Customer service is outstanding. I am no longer frustrated with the printing process. MyBookPrinter understands the author’s experience. They are on my team and want my product to look as amazing as possible. They understand what I’m doing and I appreciate working with them. It’s been a great experience, that’s all I can say really!

OK one more thing, not that it matters in the grand scheme of things, but I do like that MyBookPrinter is a Michigan-based company. My kids were born in Michigan, and I feel a happy affiliation with the state and area.

Do you have anything exciting planned for the future?

I will continue writing books. My next book is already written and in the editing stage. I am working on ideas for illustration. For printing, I will continue working with my team at MyBookPrinter.

In March, I will be at the Tucson Festival of Books. It’s one of the largest book festivals in the country and is hosted on the campus of the University of Arizona every year. This will be my first time at the Tucson festival and I’m very excited! For those planning to attend, I’ll be at the Indie Pavilion on March 11th from 10 AM to 12 PM selling my books!

In April, will be at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum for a special story time reading of my book “The Polka Dot Tea Party” for Earth Day. The book is about finding shapes in nature and the importance of friendship. The event is on April 23rd starting at 9 AM.

I’m looking forward to what’s in store for this year, I feel optimistic about the future.

Where can you follow Vicki Riske?


Photo credit: Jenelle Bonifield

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Where can buy Fishy Tales?

We Are Puppeteers Website
wearepuppeteers.com/fishy-tales

What events will Vicki be at?

Tucson Festival of Books
University of Arizona
March 11th, 2022 from 10 AM to 12PM, at the Indie Pavilion

Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Pinal County, Arizona 
April 23rd, 2022 at 9 AM