Today it is my pleasure to bring you an interview with an amazing woman from the field of Children’s Writing: Marissa Moss. Not only is she an award winning author and illustrator, she also happens to be the publisher at CRESTON BOOKS, the same place where my book WHEELS OF CHANGE is published. Here’s Marissa:
1. You’ve been a successful and prolific children’s book author for many years. How did you get started in this career?
I sent my first book to publishers when I was nine, but, of course, it wasn’t very good and didn’t get published. I didn’t try again until I was a grown-up and then it took me five years of submitting stories, getting them rejected, revising them, submitting them over and over again until I finally got my first book. It’s a good thing I didn’t give up in year four!
2. Which of your books are most fun and enjoyable to write? Your favorite character?
Amelia’s notebooks are definitely the easiest to write since they’re based on me, so I just basically remember my childhood. The historical ones are the hardest since there’s so much research involved. But I love writing both. They’re challenging and fun in different ways.
3. You’ve recently begun a new venture as Publisher of Creston Books. How did this brave and daring move come about?
Creston Books’ first list came out in the fall of 2013, so we’re very new. The impetus was the loss of Tricycle Books, the children’s division of Ten Speed Press. When I first wrote Amelia’s Notebook in 1994, I sent it to out to all the major publishers, many of which I’d already worked with, but they all turned down the book as too odd. It wasn’t a picture book or a middle-grade novel, so how would booksellers sell it? Where would librarians shelve it? It took a small, innovative press like Tricycle to take a risk on such an unusual format. Now, of course, the journal format is everywhere, from The Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Dork Diaries to The Popularity Papers.
When Random House bought Ten Speed Press, they closed down the children’s division, Tricycle. That was a loss to all of us in the children’s book community, especially those from the Bay Area where Tricycle was based. At a time when there were fewer and fewer houses, the need for small, innovative publishers seemed greater than ever. Friends who are also small publishers encouraged me and I’ve been helped by the rich children’s book community here. I wouldn’t have dared to try doing something like this without all of them.
4. What’s been the most rewarding part of the journey?
I love publishing debut authors who might have a very hard time finding a home otherwise. Each list so far has featured one to two debut writers or illustrators, as well as established authors who haven’t published in a long time. When Denys Cazet’s Minnie & Moo: Hooves of Fire came out last spring, Denys, a prolific writer, hadn’t published anything in several years. And we’re currently working on a book with the brilliant, award-winning writer, Julius Lester, who also hasn’t had a book out in years.
5. What makes Creston unique from other publishers? Where do you envision the company 10 years from now?
We’re unique in that we fully promote each title. We do no more than four books a list and each book gets all of our attention, unlike a traditional publisher which puts out many titles and promotes only a handful. We also do a lot of work with our authors, editing stories, not simply acquiring them. We want our authors and illustrators to feel fully supported and listened to.
I would hope that in ten years, we’d have many award-winning books and could afford to give better advances. Right now our advances are small, but our promotional efforts are big.
6. Wearing so many hats must sometimes feel daunting. If you could have one super power what would you choose and why?
Juggling so many roles can be challenging, but it’s also hard in the same way writing is — it stretches me and forces me to grow in unexpected ways. If I could have one super power, it would be to time travel, so I could be even more efficient or maybe to lose the need to sleep. If I could work day and night, imagine how much I could do!
7. What’s next for you?
I’m always working on the next book. Right now, that’s the fourth and final book in the time travel series, Mira’s Diary: California Dreaming.
You can learn more about Marissa and CRESTON BOOKS at: firstname.lastname@example.org, marissa moss and creston books on facebook, @marissawriter and @crestonbooks on twitter.