[Author, Ria Czichotzki . Rialee Photography]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by M.Schleif Photography
Since 2007, Ria Czichotzki, of Rialee Photography, has been one of Fargo-Moorhead's most beloved family photographers, so it was only a matter of time before her creativity was bound and published. Last month, she released her first book "Rosie Goes to Fargo", with a special launch and book signing at local boutiques, Eco Chic Home and Handpicked Goods. Inside, you'll find Czichotzki's passion on every page, inspiring families to discover and explore both the new and nostalgic treasures just around the block.
Bound for Fargo
In her new book, "Rosie Goes to Fargo", the takeaway is a toddler-friendly travel guide that inspires us all to rediscover the city. As the pages turn, the reader follows Rosie, a two-year-old little girl who spends the day taking her stuffed bunny on a fun-filled tour fusing Fargo's newest hot spots and nostalgic favorites.
"Fargo is such a charming and vibrant community so I decided to highlight places that local children may have already enjoyed or will be able to discover through the pictures in this book," said Czichotzki. "I want young readers to be able to identify and be familiar with the settings in the story and be able to say, ‘Hey, I’ve been there!’”
"This book is intended to celebrate what makes our community right here so special and unique. I also really value being able to spot joy right in the middle of ordinary moments. Being a photographer has really helped me be able to do this," said Czichotzki. "Sort of a 'romanticizing your life' idea; make little things about your day feel really special, even if it's just a trip to the library. Everything to a young child is magical, and I feel like we can all do a better job of seeing our days and our lives through that lens."
"Everything to a young child is magical, and I feel like we can all do a better job of seeing our days and our lives through that lens."
Rosie, the book's main character, is the daughter of a good friend of Czichotzki's, Ranelle Block. "She is super creative and fun and I asked her if she would be interested in helping me with this project. She enthusiastically agreed and we went for it. Rosie is her youngest of four, so all three other siblings came along to most of our shoots and were such good helpers and so patient while we were working."
Czichotzki photographed the book in the summer of 2019, spending the fall and winter designing, writing, finding a print company, filing for copyright, library of congress and ISBN numbers. "In total, it probably took me longer than normal because I was still working full time with my photography business and doing most of the work on the book in my spare time," explained Czichotzki. "Once I sent the final finished copy to the printer, it took about two months to be printed and shipped to my doorstep."
A Journey to Remember
Intertwined with the excitement of debuting her new book, Czichotzki cannot forget that before Rosie, it was another child who had sparked her very first book concept. "We were in the process of an international adoption from Africa, and I was searching for multicultural children’s literature to help our child feel represented in the books in our home," explained Czichotzki. "It was hard to find books that depicted and celebrated various cultures in a realistic way."
As an educational tool, she set out to create a book about him traveling back to his home country to learn about his culture and celebrate his heritage. "Since I’m a children’s photographer, my photos would be the illustrations and he would be the main character," said Czichotzki. "The country we were adopting from ended up closing and I had to give up the dream of adopting, but the seed and idea for a book had been planted."
A few years later, Czichotzki's literary spark would be reignited, this time finding an alternate way to fuse her passions. "I was reading an inspirational book about committing to working towards the things you’ve always wanted to do; it talked about not getting to the end of your life and saying 'I wish I would have _______.' I began thinking of ways I could still make my children’s book work, but with a different story."
Celebrate the City
Her new vision started taking shape in the summer of 2018. "I spent the next year developing my ideas, studying children's literature, and exploring self-publishing," said Czichotzki. "My love for children, design, and photography really all worked in harmony on the venture of this children's book." In 2019, she began collaborating with local establishments and planning shoots to coordinate with the storyboard she had created.
For Czichotzki, the idea behind "Rosie Goes to Fargo" is to celebrate the city and what makes it unique. "I wanted it to be a little bit informational - for example, she has a picnic by the Red River which can be a teensy tiny geography reference for the young reader. I also wanted it to feel familiar to readers from our area, so they can recognize places like the Red River Zoo or Silver Lining Creamery," said Czichotzki. "It might also encourage people to get out and explore new areas of our city that they haven't yet visited, to know that there is a whole world of interesting places right outside their door. I wanted a nice balance of familiar and new."
"It does feel really good to be able to check this item off my bucket list. It's always a rewarding feeling to be curious about something, to immerse yourself in learning and creating, and to have a finished product to show for it. I loved so many parts about the process and have really felt so supported and celebrated as I put this little project out into the world. It has been said that this would be a really fun series, so who knows! Maybe we will have toddler travel guides to Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle coming soon!"
About the Author
Ria Czichotzki grew up in Pelican Rapids, Minn., and has resided in Moorhead with her husband since graduating college; the two have four grown kids. Her passion behind the lens is not solely about capturing sweet moments and milestones, it's also rooted in education. While earning a degree in elementary education/special ed, she's taken several early childhood and children's literature courses, even taking on the role of an in-home childcare provider prior to photography. Today, she can often be found working from her natural light photography studio in Downtown Fargo.
Buy the Book!
Czichotzki's book is available now at Eco Chic Home in South Fargo, as well as Handpicked Goods and Zandbroz in Downtown Fargo. For a socially-distanced option, you can purchase the book and Rosie's bunny friend on her website at rialeephotography.com.
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