The story of writing Robotastic! is a special one. In fact, as a long-time screenwriter and storyteller, I can assure you that the best stories have a great story behind that story. And I’m here to share with you how Robotastic! came to be.

Author Sari Karplus holding her first book: Robotastic!

It was fall of 2018. My family had just moved to the suburbs of Los Angeles earlier that year. My kids were all born in Santa Monica, and I imagined we would stay in Culver City forever. But with baby number three, my husband insisted we ditch our townhouse and see what having a little more space would do for us. And so we hit the road to Thousand Oaks, CA.

After living in one place for 5 years, I had to prep my 5 and 3 year old for a new home, new preschool, and new routine. Our newborn seemed ready for a move though. Part of our routine, which we carried over from the old house into our new life, was my improvised bedtime stories. Most of my stories were about a superhero family much like ours. But many stories were just whatever the heck my tired parent brain could come up with. And what I found is that I would try and drop a lot of lessons about making friends in my stories. They had never really had to do much of this before when you’re in the same class with most of the same kids for years. One fateful night, I told the story of a boy who wished for a best friend. This would be the basis for Robotastic!

After I had told this story, I shared it with some other family members. They were all incredibly moved by it. My mom loved it so much she remarked, “That’s a bestselling idea!” I wasn’t confident, but I was honored and delighted to get this positive feedback. I wrote up the story I had told and walked away.

For months I thought, “Could this be a short film? How would I build and design the robot character? Who would play the boy? Where would we shoot this?” I have always loved making short films, but I had never written a children’s book before. As I bounced the concept off of friends, they were supportive and gave some version of, “You should definitely do something with this!” But I sort of waffled on the idea of doing it as a film. My bandwidth as a working parent was low, so I had to be choosy about what big creative projects I take on.

I let the project go. I forgot about it for a year and a half.

March 2020, a big moment for all of us, I remember hearing my kids would be off of school for two weeks due to the coronavirus. I thought I would never survive two weeks. My husband laughed at me and said, “Get comfortable.”

“How dare he suggest this last longer than two weeks?!” I thought. But as we can all attest to, this would be a life-changing experience for all humans that lasted waaaay longer than two weeks.

Not much further into March, my dear friend, Aadip, asked if I wanted to join an Artist’s Way Group with him online. I didn’t really know what that was to be honest. It sounded intriguing, but I didn’t know how he was going to pull this off let alone me with three kids at home 24/7 that were 7, 5, and 2. That, plus no babysitters, and 8 client projects I was on the hook to code their websites. I couldn’t say yes to this group. I couldn’t. But after Aadip sent me a workbook to join him, I kinda just shrugged and thought, “Meh. What’s one more thing?! Pile it on, universe.”

Me with my new workbook gift

So I ended up doing The Artist’s Way for 12 weeks with a group on Zoom who became my pandemic friends and confidants. We still text chat regularly to check in on each other and share the best Ted Lasso memes. Half of the process of The Artist’s Way felt arduous– I felt like Daniel-san waxing Mr. Miyagi’s car. Occasionally, I would do artist dates while my husband finished putting the kids to sleep. I would barely get morning pages out. I would have upwards of 14 interruptions while trying to do them most days.

But I think I took more from the whole Artist’s Way process than I realized. When the 12 weeks ended, pretty soon after, I finished all my work projects. Come June 2020, I decided to try and revisit my robot story and attempt to write it as a book.

What hit me was that I always loved rhyming, so I thought, what if I rewrote my story in rhyme? And with that, suddenly I had a project that was off to the races! Things took a turn just moments after I re-started on this journey. Just a couple weeks into this inspiration, on a walk with my kids, I was attacked and bitten by a dog. I ended up in the emergency room to treat the bite. I was in bed for a few days. And while I was recovering, my grandfather passed away. He had a good long life. The man escaped the holocaust as a teenager! What a life story. But this time became very surreal for me.

I was lucky, though, because all of this paired with the fact that my aunt and uncle started giving me the gift of time. I would be allowed to have Saturdays off from the kids and husband and get a rare day of quiet with my own brain. It was the perfect weird storm that allowed me to really go for it with trying to write my first children’s book.

I barely even told my friends and family I was working on the book. Because truth be told, I had no idea what I was doing. I still didn’t know if I was going to be able to see this crazy idea through. I was making it up and learning as I go. I adopted a very strong beginner’s mindset. No obstacle was going to stop me, and there were so many!!!

In November of 2020, I was at the dinner table with my husband and I told him, “I really want to get this book out before Christmas.” His response I could tell wasn’t meant to be negative but he countered, “Seems ambitious.” But I shrugged it off and kept my own pace. And sure enough my first book was sent to distribution just after Thanksgiving for a December 11th, 2020 release date. Glory be!

I started sharing the news, and it was so fun having people get excited with me. All the folks with and without kids in their lives buying copies warmed my little heart. This book was a major ray of light in an otherwise tough year.

I didn’t know where to set my expectations with sales since I was not only new to this, but I understood that self-publishing relies massively on your ability to market. I cautiously set my goal to sell 150 copies in 1 year not even sure if that was possible. And somehow, by some grace of the universe, I sold more than 300 copies in just the first 3 weeks!

The moral of the story is, if the universe is telling you to focus on something, you listen and you do it. It doesn’t matter if you have no idea what you’re doing– One foot in front of the other is all you got. Bit by bit and byte by byte, something special will come about.

If you truly want to tell your story, don’t let the challenges hold you back!

Go for it.

To get your copy of Robotastic! you can snag a signed copy from the Robotastic store or on Amazon, Amazon UK, or Barnes & Noble.