Author Emilie Kefalas earned her B.F.A. in writing at the Savannah College of Art and Design in March of 2018. Her new book, "A Capital Dream," sparked from her internship working for Congressman Rodney Davis during the summer of 2014. After she graduated from SCAD, she decided to use her talents to help children ages eight-to-twelve explore the nation’s capital with her book.
“A Capitol Dream” was written, illustrated, essentially created to be a children’s guide to the U.S. Capitol Building, something, aside from this book, "does not exist in the Capitol Visitors Center gift shop, the House gift shop, and the Senate gift shop,” she said.
Do Savannah had the opportunity to speak with the author about her new book and future projects.Get Savannah arts & culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and our Dine newsletters
Q: Please tell the audience about your background.
Kefalas: "I’m a writer, professional daydreamer, and, more specifically, an external communications coordinator for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products in Glendale, Calif. Though I live in Burbank at the moment, and used to call Savannah home from 2015 through the first half of 2018, I’m originally from Decatur, Illinois. This month marks my 16th month living in Burbank and working for Disney."
Q: What was it like working on Capitol Hill?
Kefalas: "Prior to spending the summer of 2014 interning on Capitol Hill, I worked at a radio station producing a morning talk show, Talk 101 F.M. Because of that show, 'Busboom and Wolfe,' I met Congressman Rodney Davis who represented and continues to represent my home district. After my freshman year at Saint Mary’s College of Notre Dame, I did not know at the time what I wanted to pursue professionally but I remembered Congressman Davis and how US Congressional offices offer internships. I decided to work in his office on the Hill partly because I love U.S. history, but also due to my curiosity and craving to be where the action is, so to speak.
Words fail to express my gratitude to Congressman Davis and his entire staff for giving me the opportunity to join their team for that summer. I absolutely, irrevocably loved every minute of my time working on the Hill. Every day, I was the first one in the office because I couldn’t wait to get there and be immersed in the glorious bustle of legislation. From taking the metro from my neighborhood in Foggy Bottom, all the way to D.C. where I joined the parade of commuters in going through security to access our respective offices to following the Congressman through his daily routine, I was in heaven. Hands down, it was one of the most positive professional experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m so grateful to Davis for giving me the opportunity to walk with history every day."
Q: Please talk about your time at SCAD and in Savannah.
Kefalas: I transferred to SCAD in the fall of 2015, and next to working on the Hill and participating in the Disney College Program, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. When I arrived, my intention was to pursue writing with a minor in animation, but this evolved once I realized where I truly wanted to focus my creative energy: District. SCAD District is the school’s official online news source, and I knew I wanted to participate in its journalism-based community as soon as I enrolled in classes.
My skillset was shaped by both my stellar writing professors in tandem with my time invested in District. Every professor encouraged me as well as the entire class to produce real-world work, as in pieces we could submit for freelance after being graded, and this was instrumental in the way my portfolio formed. Through District, I developed as a leader and communicator through my tenures in editorial roles. Some of my fondest and, frankly, best SCAD memories are thanks to District, including covering the SCAD Savannah Film Festival.
Q: Please talk about your book.
Kefalas: “'A Capitol Dream' was written, illustrated, essentially created to be a children’s guide to the U.S. Capitol Building, something, aside from this book, does not exist in the Capitol Visitors Center gift shop, the House gift shop, and the Senate gift shop. Certainly, there are books for students about the building and its history, but they were not as accessible for that 8-12 age range. They took the more traditional 'guidebook' route, which was something I wanted to avoid. Between the approach I took with the main character meeting historical figures and the illustrations’ style, the art of storytelling as integrated into this book binds, pun intended, readers with the information it’s sharing in a much more intimate fashion. I am extremely grateful to my fellow SCAD alumni, Alex Hoyle, who created, and is currently creating, more animations for the book’s official website.
Q: Please talk about working with your publisher and the process of it.
Kefalas: "After considering my publishing options as an agent-less author, my research directed me to the Palmetto Publishing Group based out of Charleston. They actually called me after I left an inquiry with Arcadia Publishing, and the rest is, rather appropriately, history. From when I first signed my contract through when I was notified the book was ready for print and retail, they were incredibly helpful and informative about my edits, options, and goals for 'A Capitol Dream.' The whole process took about five months, and I’m already engaged in talks with them (Palmetto) about the book’s sequel."
Q: What’s next?
Kefalas: "My mission for 'A Capitol Dream' is to expand it into a series covering multiple aspects of rooms and buildings on the Hill, including the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court. The sequel will cover the current House and Senate chambers, because those had to be edited from the first draft to make room to discuss the old Senate and House chambers.
In addition to that project, I’m very excited about the upcoming premiere of my short, off-off-off Broadway play following a rookie sports announcer, “Replay,” which I wrote and is being produced by the wonderful team at the Manhattan Repertory Theater in midtown Manhattan. That opens Friday, Oct. 18th and will run through a matinee Sunday, Oct. 20th. Other miscellaneous projects include collaborations with fellow SCAD alumni on a cookbook and two short animated films. These projects keep my creative energy high but also provide me with a way to channel my imagination outside of my work as an external communications coordinator with Disney Parks, Experiences and Products."
Q: Do you have anything you would like to add?
Kefalas: I cemented several goals in stone at the beginning of this year, and I’m proud to say that with the constant love and support from my communities in Decatur, Ill.; Savannah, Ga.; and Washington, D.C. (and now Disney!), I’ve transformed those must-do’s into meaningful accomplishments.
More information about “A Capitol Dream” can be found on the book’s official website: https://www.acapitoldream.com, and about Kefalas at https://www.emiliekefalas.com.