Today I am super proud to feature an interview with my very talented author/artist twin sister, Martha. She is by far the most creative person I've ever been lucky enough to know. Her mind is just creative through and through. The things she says, and does...it's all just her. About 10 years ago, she had her first book, Journey Around Cape Cod from A to Z published. The journey has led to a series of books based on different US cities, a cookbook, several activity books for kids, and her most recent accomplishment...two board books for younger children, Hello Boston, and Hello Cape Cod. We have been fortunate to collaborate on several activity books for kids...among them, a shadow book called Whoo's There?, and several Scratch and Sketch books. Here's what she has to say:
1. How did you get your first book published?
My first book, Journey Around Cape Cod from A to Z was published relatively quickly. In the spring of 1998, I tagged along to the American Booksellers show with Heather and was able to get some contacts. I sent packets out to several publishers and within about 3-6 months received some polite rejections—generally, they liked the book, but it was too regional for a national publisher, with a first-time author illustrator. Through a class I was taking at RISD, someone gave me the name of a small regional publisher, I sent them the book and heard that they wanted to publish it within the week!
2. What was your next big break?
This publisher was very small and very regional. They originally printed two or three thousand books and ran out two times between July and Christmas. When I expressed my dismay about the small printing (and at the time what did I know?), they said, "If you sell three thousand of this book, I'll eat my hat!"... This book has sold over 30,000 copies! Anyway, they suggested I do Boston and gave me a contract. I had begun working on the Boston book but became nervous when they kept running out of books during the busiest seasons. I still had the unsigned contract sitting on my desk when my current publisher, Commonwealth Editions (a larger regional publisher) contacted me (they had been given my name by a bookseller) wanting to discuss illustrating a book about Cape Cod. I sent them a copy of the Cape Cod book and I mentioned that I was working on a Boston book. They loved it and offered to publish it and never got around to mentioning what project they originally wanted me to illustrate! My Journey series has grown with this publisher ever since.
3. What is your educational background?
I went to Connecticut College and majored in Art. I then went to Lesley for my masters in teaching. I was an elementary teacher for several years, but had always wanted to write an illustrate children's books. Everyone had always said that I was too young to do this so when I turned 30, I decided that that sounded old enough so I took a course in illustrating children's books at RISD and the Cape Cod book began as a homework assignment for that class. I taught on Cape Cod and I basically wrote and illustrated the book I needed to teach about Cape Cod. The field trips that we took with the kids gave me a lot of ideas about what they thought was interesting.
4. Where do you get your inspiration?
I love children and have gotten a lot of ideas watching them and learning about what they are interested in. I approach each of my "Journey" books as though I were taking a group of children on a field trip. I also get ideas from reading children's books. Now that I have children of my own, (and an adorable nephew!) I have seen what interests them at various ages and have worked that into the approach I've taken for my new "Hello!" series of board books.
5. What were some of your first rejections and what made you keep going?
Ask Heather, I am a wuss. I hate feeling rejected and will avoid most situations that could potentially result in rejection. She is much braver and more adventurous than I am (gee, thanks!—H). The initial rejections came with the first batch of material I sent out. After that, and for better or worse, I've stayed with Commonwealth Editions. The publishing of my books also coincided with the birth of my daughter. The Cape Cod book came out the summer before she was born and I've done about a book a year ever since... And added another daughter so I've been too busy to do much more than that. What has kept me going... Determination and wanting to do what I want to do creatively. I get grumpy when I don't have a project to work on.
6. What advice would you give some one just starting out?
I love this poem by Shel Silverstein...
Listen to the mustn'ts, child.
Listen to the don'ts.
Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles the won'ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me...
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.