Monday, October 21, 2013

Guest Post: Marissa Moss on Creston Books – a New Children's Press is Born

By Marissa Moss
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

As a long-time successful author-illustrator, why start a new press? The same thing that sparked my career as a writer: a love of children's literature.

When I wrote Amelia's Notebook in 1995, the format was too quirky for traditional publishers. Where would libraries shelve it, with picture books or middle-grade fiction? How would booksellers respond to this odd handwritten book with its jumble of words and pictures?

Not willing to take a risk on something so unfamiliar, every major publisher passed. But Tricycle, the children's imprint of small Ten Speed Press, took it on. Now with more than twenty titles in the series (published by Simon & Schuster after a stint with American Girl), it's hard to imagine that books like The Diary of a Wimpy Kid or The Dork Diaries would be around without Amelia.

When Tricycle Press died last year, the children's book community lost a vibrant voice willing to take creative risks. That absence became the genesis for Creston Books, a children's press dedicated to strong story-telling, whatever form it takes.

I started with authors I knew, asking for books they'd long wanted to write. It didn't take long for word to spread and submissions poured in. The first list, Fall 2013, includes two debut authors and two established ones, a mix I'd like for future lists.

Authors who'd given up on New York (or felt New York had given up on them) are returning to print with Creston. New authors, daunted by the high gates of major houses, are finding a home.

All four of the titles on our debut list have garnered glowing reviews, including a Kirkus star for Rotten Pumpkin: A Tale of Rot in 15 Voices by David Schwartz and Dwight Kuhn. The title alone tells you clearly – this is not your average picture book.

It's daunting to learn this side of publishing, but also exciting. I'm seeing the sausage being made, but rather than feeling appalled, I'm broadening my understanding of what makes a good book.

As I write my own stories, that sense creeps into my work now. Not during the messy first draft, when I just pour my ideas out, without worrying about any possible audience, listening only to what the characters and plot demand, but later, during the many revisions.

Then I start thinking of how would a reader react, a reviewer? How would a salesperson pitch this book? And that kind of responsibility isn't a bad thing.

I'm also aware more than ever of the importance of good, old-fashioned editing. In these days of blogs and self-publishing, anyone can be a writer.

Whether they're a good writer depends on how much revising they do, whether they have a writers' group to provide essential editorial guidance, and whether they're humble enough to admit that writing is hard work and that there's no such thing as a perfect first draft.

Which is why there will always be a place for publishers. At their best, they provide assurance of some kind of quality control, of care taken so that the book you read is the writer's best possible version.

One of Creston's debut books is a first book for the author. Called Lola Goes to Work: a 9-5 Therapy Dog, the picture book introduces Lola, a tiny terrier with dreams of a big job.

If Lola can make it in a world of Great Danes and Labradors, so can anybody who's feeling like a runt.

These days I feel a little like Lola, a small dog with a very big job. But I'm proud of each book and excited to work on the Spring 2014 list. Like Lola, I know I can do it.

Launch party for Creston Books at Books Inc.

2 comments:

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Definitely a publisher to keep an eye on! :) e

anny said...

Creston Books is another example of Marissa's generosity, and desire to put remarkable books into the hands of kids. Her business savvy, combined with her willingness to go the extra mile to make sure her books reach their audience, has already made Creston a first choice publisher for many writers. I look forward to the day when one of my books makes it onto Creston's list! anny rusk P.S. How to Be Human: The Diary of an Autistic Girl is a must read!

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