Day 13: TeMika Grooms

TeMika Grooms is a Georgia-based writer and illustrator creating stories with a belief that all children should be able to see themselves as the hero within the pages of a book. Learn more about TeMika’s journey into publication on Day 13 of The Brown Bookshelf 28 Days Later.

TEMIKA GROOMS is a Georgia-based writer and illustrator creating stories with a belief that all children should be able to see themselves as the hero within the pages of a book. In 2021, she was selected as an Illustration Mentee in the We Need Diverse Books Program and was a member of the first cohort for the Highlights Foundation and The Brown Bookshelf Amplify Black Stories program.  Her latest illustrated book Put Your Shoes On & Get Ready! by Senator Raphael G. Warnock was released by Philomel Books in January 2023.


The best way to describe my journey to publication is a long, magical ride.

My journey to publication started in 2004 when I decided I wanted to create a children’s book for my oldest daughter based on our mommy-daughter experiences.  Being a visual artist, it was easier for me to come up with the art, but I struggled with finding the words for our story. I learned quickly that I needed help to move the project forward. An Atlanta author happened to be giving a workshop on creating children’s books and decided to attend.  My mind was blown away by the craft of writing, illustrating, and constructing children’s books.  It is a powerful medium for learning, joy, and transformation.  In this workshop, I learned of Uri Shulevitz’s book Writing With Pictures, an essential resource in my home library.

Like many people, I was balancing the responsibilities of work, family, and self-care along with my desire to follow this creative path in children’s books.  I hopped in and out of practice when I had time.  I happened to tell my brother that I was working on a book, and he happened to run into someone who volunteered for SCBWI.  She said I should join.  I did not. Not for a while. But in 2006, I finally attended my first conference to witness a whole community of adults writing books for young readers.  I left inspired, overwhelmed, and overjoyed at the possibilities.  I continued to dabble here and there with writing and illustrating, mostly inspired by the antics of my two daughters whom I affectionately called Thing One and Thing Two when they were growing up.

Fast forward to 2014, I really wanted to join a community of people doing this work.  I had already begun illustrating for self-publishing authors which helped me learn how to manage illustration projects. Yet, I still felt like I needed to learn a lot more to get good at my craft.  I decided to volunteer with SCBWI to make it more affordable for me to attend conferences and events to fill in my knowledge gaps, despite my tight family budget.

I had other internal feelings that showed up as obstacles in my journey.  The biggest was a major case of imposter syndrome.  I also felt like book publishing was not ready to hear the diversity of stories that were knocking at their doors.  And I felt there was so much more for me to learn about the publishing business.  I continued to freelance in self-publishing and traditionally published the books Nana’s Favorite Things written by Dorothy H. Price (Eifrig Press 2015) and a nonfiction book, Save the Crash-test Dummies by Jennifer Swanson (Peachtree Publishing 2019).  On my journey, I took baby steps to build my confidence.  I took my time….

…until 2020 happened.

The pandemic gave me time and space to acknowledge how much I NEEDED to create for my well-being.  It showed me that I could do this if I put my mind to it.  My purpose was to create art and I decided I wanted to focus in on children’s book illustration.  I committed to a year of developing my portfolio, writing my own stories, submitting my work, and putting the effort forward to find an agent.  I really started doing the work.

By the end of 2020, I submitted to the We Need Diverse Books Mentorship Program and was selected to be an Illustration Mentee with Barbara Higgins Bond.  I saw the similarities in our work, and she generously shared tips to guide me along my path.  In early 2021, I decided I was not going to let the opportunity to apply to the Brown Bookshelf Highlights Amplify Black Stories program pass me by.  I was kicking imposter syndrome to the curb.

BACKSTORY of Put Your Shoes On and Get Ready!

I closed out 2021 with representation by Painted Words and a book deal to illustrate Put Your Shoes On and Get Ready! by Senator Reverend Raphael G. Warnock (Philomel Books 2023).  People often ask if I was able to meet him.  I did, over Zoom, and I was able to keep my composure.  It was a very proud moment to begin my first major picture book with that book and it allowed me to operate as a creative documentarian of a living person with historical impact for young readers.

I am currently working on several books to be released over the next couple years: Getting Us to Grandma’s House by Nadia Hohn (Groundwood Books), A Century for Caroline by Kaija Langley (Simon & Shuster), A Flea for Justice: Marian Wright Edelman Stands Up for Change by Valerie Bolling (Charlesbridge), We All Serve by Jeff Gottesfield (Candlewick), and two more books with Philomel Books by Senator Warnock.

Seventeen years.  Sometimes journeys appear to be meteoric.  Sometimes they are slow and steady. But they are always magical no matter how they happen.  I had so many people help me along the way with knowledge, encouragement, and amplification of my work when it was time for my work to be seen.  I am grateful for it all.

As my path continues to expand, I still hold on to that little story about me and my daughter that inspired it all.  And one day, it will also find a home on the page.


The Amplify Black Stories program was an invaluable experience for me as it tapped me into a community of Black children’s book creators committed to doing this good work.  When I left our second Highlights retreat in 2023, my heart was so full of love for the kinship within our group that I couldn’t hold back my tears.   The whole program gave me the professional and personal nurturing that I needed to take me to the next level.  Publishers showed us that they were interested in change by showing up to do the work to improve diversity in this genre. I am forever grateful to The Brown Bookshelf and The Highlights Foundation for providing this opportunity for all of us.

And the icing on the cake was seeing the groundswell of OUR books placed on display for us all to have a seat at the table.







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