El Pasoans Marco Saenz and Phillip Cortez dusted off old talents to pursue a dream when creating the children's book "Night Rhythms," released in October. For Cortez, reading to his young daughter reminded him of an old college writing assignment. For Saenz, it meant grabbing the opportunity to delve back into a life-long hobby that he hadn't made time for in years.
"Night Rhythms" tells through verse the story of a boy whose noisy surroundings make his attempts to sleep increasingly futile. Barnes & Noble is hosting a reading of the book at 2-4 p.m. Dec. 10 (East) and Dec. 17 (West). At the readings, young audiences are encouraged to clap their hands to the beat of the story and participate in a mini drawing lesson.
Saenz' drawings often depict what he calls "a city kid's view of the world."
His style merged well with Cortez's manuscript, he said.
"I grew up reading children's books about farm animals and green pastures," Saenz said. "But I grew up in a big city. Perhaps many kids could relate, but I couldn't."
Saenz obtained a bachelor's in graphic design at UTEP in 2001. A Mexico City native, Saenz' family was displaced to Juárez after the 1985 earthquake hit the capital. After many years in the tech industry, he now teaches at Community of Faith Christian School.
Cortez is marketing director at Telemundo. He and Saenz were in the same graduating class at Cathedral High School and reunited on Facebook coincidentally around the time Cortez was thinking of retouching the story, which was a children's writing assignment at UTEP. Cortez graduated from UTEP with a major in organizational communications in 1998.
"I was looking for stuff to read to Ava, who's 2 now, and I just decided to dust it off and see if she liked it," Cortez said. "I read it to my 14-year-old step daughter Cameron and she really liked it. I thought, wouldn't it be cool to get it illustrated? Around that time, Marco popped up."
Once Saenz was on board, Cortez asked him to take the story and run with it.
"He gave me full liberty," Saenz said. "I spent a lot of time taking photos, finding images, capturing colors and working with light effects. Each drawing took me from three to five days."
In the meantime, Cortez created a publishing company, called Monkey C Publishing, named after his local blog, Monkey C, which he started in July of this year.
"When you self-publish and make that decision to go that route, you do it knowing that you're not doing it for the money," Cortez said. "While there was a small financial investment to get the publishing company started, it's more of a time investment than financial."
He created the company in order to get on board with Ingram Book Company, book distributers who work strictly with publishing companies, he said.
He used Photoshop and InDesign for the layout.
Cortez said they're currently working on producing electronic versions of the book. He says a collection of short stories may be his next project.
But for now, his goal is to reach more local kids.
"I'm proud of it, we worked hard on it, and I'd like to be able to continue to read it to other people as well as my own daughters, who were a big driving force," Cortez said.
Monkey C Publishing, 32 pages, $20
available on order online and at retail book stores