Ryan Rivera is a Partner at Hartman Simons who specializes in assisting clients with Commercial Real Estate matters, with a focus on retail developments, including the acquisition and leasing of shopping centers. Recently however, Ryan has decided to add a new role to his resume in the form of children’s book author. On July 7, “I is for Iowa” was released. The book, written by Rivera, introduces young readers to the University of Iowa campus and a few favoriteIowa City spots.The University of Iowa cheerleading squad, along with mascot Herky the Hawk, recently visited the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital with copies of the book for the children there, and it was greatly received. The book itself is currently available at Iowa Book, along with other stores throughout Iowa and Amazon.com.
Ryan, tell us about the origins of “I is for Iowa.” Had you always had aspirations to write a children’s book?
Rivera: It was a combination of the birth of my son, Parker, and words of encouragement from my wife, Casey, and a good friend of hers that recently wrote her own children’s book. Parker was born on July 22 (his first birthday is just around the corner!) and the Iowa Hawkeye baby apparel, books, etc. started arriving shortly thereafter. At that point I noticed the most recent University of Iowa children’s book was written in 2004, and overlooked quite a few areas of campus. It occurred to me there was an opportunity to introduce something new. After kicking around the idea with Casey for several weeks, I embarked on this fun (and at times frustrating) project over Labor Day weekend. After a month of seemingly endless adjustments to the script, I submitted the proposal to my publisher, Mascot Books, and they loved it. While I was able to pull together the script rather quickly, the illustrations took around five months. I was fortunate to work closely with an extremely talented illustrator, Adam Schartup, and each page turned out better than expected.
What’s the experience been like for you so far since the official release of the book?
Rivera: From receiving purchase orders from various bookstores, to the many great pictures that my friends have shared with their sons or daughters reading "I is for Iowa," to the handwritten note that I received from Iowa Football Assistant Coach, Brian Ferentz, it’s been an exciting few weeks since I received the initial shipment of books. Just last week the University of Iowa Alumni Association confirmed that "I is for Iowa" will serve as the gift for all two-year-old children whose parents have enrolled them in the Hawkeye Birthday Club. Each book will be signed by Herky, which is a much more valuable autograph than mine! However, without question, the most rewarding moment came last Friday, when the University of Iowa cheerleading squad and our mascot, Herky the Hawk, handed out books during a recent visit to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. The cheerleaders and Herky are regular visitors at the Children’s Hospital, bringing a smile to many young faces during otherwise difficult times, and I cannot imagine any experience with the book that will be more meaningful than the small part it played in those uplifting moments.
Do you have any book signings or other book events planned for the near future?
Rivera: My first book signing is scheduled for September 19 at Iowa Book the morning of the Iowa-Pittsburgh football game, and we’re working to schedule another book signing for homecoming on October 10. I’m also working with a friend in Iowa City to schedule a reading at one of the local elementary schools, and will drop by the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital on each visit to restock their inventory!
Do you have any other books that you’re looking to release moving forward?
Rivera: I’m working on a children’s book about Atlanta and have a few other ideas in mind, but for now I just plan to savor the next few months and all the opportunities that have come from "I is for Iowa," including providing me with a good excuse to return for at least two football games this season!