Congrats on your first published book. Tell us a little about it.
Thank you! My book is titled, The Mess Monster.
Lucy is your average messy kid. When she loses her soccer cleats for the umpteenth time and her mom threatens to take her off the team for good if she can’t find them! Lucy and her dog Max set off to find her cleats and the Mess Monster - she's sure that's who really made the mess. On her journey, she is shocked when she discovers who the Mess Monster really is!
We'd love to hear more about your writing journey. What's the process been like?
Growing up, I always felt like I was the odd man out. In college, I believed my passion was for teaching. I graduated from the University of Kansas with my Master’s in Special Education. I taught in Texas for several years and found that teaching just wasn’t my thing. Lots of prayer and soul searching followed the years ahead of me and I found a career in writing children’s books. I fell in love! They say that when you’re doing something you love you don’t feel like it’s work, and it comes easy. Well, that’s what happened with me! Ideas have been flowing out of me since I began. I love collaborating with my editor and illustrator. I love bringing my story to life!
How do you weave pieces of yourself into your main character? How are you alike or different from them?
You always write from your own experiences. My editor once told me that and it stuck with me. It has really held true with all my books. My inspiration in this book was my little girl! She has lost her soccer cleats several times and this was in reference to that part of the story. The monster, however, came way before…When I was in 6th grade, I had an assignment in English. I ended up writing a story and paired it with a drawing. My drawing was of a monster who lived under the bleachers. This idea has stuck with me for a long time.
What do you love about self-publishing and what made you decide to go that route?
Self-publishing is very difficult and a large time commitment. There are numerous revisions that are made during your experience, so you are in constant communication with your illustrator. This is to make sure everything is just right. But, in the end, the book came out exactly how I wanted. Nick Child, my brilliant and talented illustrator, took my dreams and visions and made them a reality. I’m very proud of us. I decided to go this route because traditional publishing takes a long LONG, LONG time… to come to fruition. I wanted to get my voice and words out in the world. I made the right decision
What were your struggles with self-publishing?
Nick, my illustrator, lives in Cheshire, England. There is an 8-hour time difference. This was a huge problem in communicating with him and providing the correct feedback on illustrations. Incorporating suggestions from both my editor and illustrator was a constant struggle. There is a mirror in the story that carries great significance to the overall message in the story. This was really difficult to place in the illustrations. KDP was really hard in getting to the final stage. You must get the sizing correct and make sure it will come out in print preview correctly. It took me 5 days to get it correct and by the end, I was extremely frustrated.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
It is of utmost importance to work with an editor. I’m very lucky and work with Kathy Macmillan. Although the process has been tough, she has guided me through it seamlessly.
But most of all please just Enjoy it, don’t overthink it, and write from your heart.
Do you have a critique group? And if so, how has that group been beneficial to your career?
Yes, I begin in a few weeks and I’m really excited to show them all that I have been working on. I have been in some other groups, and they have all been very helpful and very encouraging. Most critique groups have given me a sense of community. It has also helped me to see that this process can be lonely but there are writers out there just like me! Please refer to question about editor. I cannot recommend an editor enough.
How have you stayed connected to the writing community?
SCBWI, of course!
Kansas conference, attended this networking event, creative coaching group
I went to Middle of Map conference online and went to some of the networking events following up to it! That was really fun! It was so cool to meet actual writers and people that had the same career as me.
What challenges have you experienced that you didn't expect?
I had a lot of issues getting my book published on KDP. I also now realize my illustrator is not a mind reader. If I want the layout a certain way, I need to clearly explain myself.
What do you love about being a writer?
Everything. Mostly because I am so proud of myself, and my daughter is proud of me! It’s a career win for everyone!!!!
Are you planning to attend the Middle of the Map conference this November, and/or why should someone plan to attend the MOTM conference?
Yes, hopefully in person. Even when I attended online, it helped me to make connections to other writers, agents, and publishers. This also helped me to work on my craft.
How has networking with other writers helped you along the way?
It has further encouraged me to follow my dreams and meeting likeminded people has also helped. Through networking I’m able to meet other writers or agents. The critique groups and networking has helped me to not give up. I’ve had several manuscripts that I could have given up on, but because of networking, I finished them. I submitted them and love what I created!
What do you do when you are not writing?
I love being outside and being with my two dogs. I enjoy yoga and running. I love to hang out with my 8-year-old and get a lot of stories from her!
What is your daily writing routine?
I write in the mornings. I don’t have a time frame but am most likely to write then.
What goals do you have for 2023 and beyond?
To get an agent and traditionally published.
What are you currently working on?
I am finishing up a picture book about best friends, inspired by my daughter and her best friend, who lives in Texas. I am also working on a rhyming book about body positivity.
Hi! I’m Jessica Marie, a first-time children’s book author, but longtime maker of messes. I graduated from the University of Kansas with my master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. I taught Kindergarten for several years in Texas. This book was inspired by my 8 year old daughter, whose cleats would always go missing. I’m still convinced there is a Mess Monster living in my house!
I have 2 dogs, and I love to do yoga and spend time outdoors. I live in Kansas City, Kansas. My favorite color is pink and my favorite food is candy.
I’m so excited to begin this journey as a children’s book author and I hope you enjoy The Mess Monster!
Hometown is St. Louis, MO but currently and forever home is Kansas City, Kansas.
Genre I write is picture books.
Thanks Jessica! We look forward to learning more about you:)