Acclaimed author of the self-published picture book, And I Thought About You (illustrated by Lisa Carletta-Vieites), an Honorable Mention recipient at the New England Book Festival, Rosanne L. Kurstedt, Ph.D., is an adjunct literacy professor at Fordham University and William Paterson University. She presents at national and international conferences on topics related to literacy, is an educational consultant, and co-author of Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models (Scholastic, Inc., 2000).
I had the pleasure of meeting Rosanne at last year’s NJ SCBWI conference and we recently had the chance to catch up over coffee in Manhattan.
Rosanne, thanks so much for doing this interview.
And I Thought About You celebrates the special bond between a working mother and child. How did And I Thought About You come about?
And I Thought About You was inspired by a bedtime routine my older son and I shared while we lived in Hong Kong. Every night, after reading books together, we would talk about what we had done that day. After sharing what we did, we’d say “and I thought about you.” Even though the events of our day would typically change the one constant was that we were in each other’s thoughts throughout the day.
I had published a professional book for teachers entitled Teaching Writing With Picture Books as Models so I was no stranger to the picture book genre. In fact, I had been writing stories for most of my life. When I realized the “and I thought about you” routine would make a great picture book, my professional and personal writing lives converged. This was truly exciting.
What led you to self-publish And I Thought About You?
I had sent the manuscript to a few publishing houses. One was really interested. We went back and forth with a few revisions and then all of a sudden they just passed. I was crushed. Then an editor at another big publishing house said she loved the manuscript and had had a meeting about it. She said she would send me some editorial suggestions. After a year of emailing her every 6 weeks to see what was happening, I never received the suggested edits. Each time I emailed her she said, yes she was still interested and apologized profusely for the delay. After the year, I asked if I could pursue other avenues and she said yes. I sometimes wonder if that was a wise choice on my part but at the time it felt right. I didn’t know the industry that well at the time (and I’m still learning) and if I had known more about how it all worked, I might have been a bit more patient. On the other hand, if she didn’t move on it in the first year, it might not have been the manuscript for her.
Devastated by those two close calls, I put the manuscript away for a while. I was also in the throws of my dissertation so I didn’t have much time to write creatively anyway.
Fast forward a few years. I joined a writing group and started writing again. I really wanted to get this book out into the world because I believe the message is universal, one that could provide joy and comfort for many families. In addition, it demonstrates to children, on their level, that while their parents might not be physically with them all the time, they are always in their thoughts and hearts. I think that’s very comforting for children. Since the book celebrates a small and simple family routine, I knew it could inspire others to do the same: celebrate those routines they’ve already developed or help them begin to develop their own.
The self-publishing industry was growing so there were more options for independent authors. I began looking into the various options but never did anything. Honestly, I was afraid—until my mother-in-law, who was dying of cancer, told me one night while I was staying with her in the hospital that she wished she had followed her passions more. Wished she had taken the time to invest in those things that truly made her happy even if others close to her didn’t fully support her. After hearing her talk that night, I was committed to making And I Thought About You a reality. And that’s when I made the decision to self-publish.
Probably a longer answer than you expected but it was a journey. That’s for sure.
How did you hook up with illustrator Carletta-Vieites?
It took a while. I contacted a few agencies and also searched Internet illustrator databases but never was able to decide on one illustrator with whom I wanted to work. Then, one afternoon, while sitting in Lisa’s backyard (she and I are neighbors) she shared with me her passion for art and her need to keep up with it—despite how busy she was (a working mom with two young children) because it provided her with a much-needed creative outlet. I told Lisa about my passion for writing children’s books and suggested Lisa might want to illustrate one. A bit apprehensive, Lisa read the manuscript and was particularly drawn to And I Thought About You. And the partnership began.
After three years, a new baby, and many changes on the job front, Lisa completed the illustrations and together she and I researched our publishing options. We decided to publish And I Thought About You with Mascot Books through their Author Program. The Mascot Books Author Program allows prospective authors to publish their children’s books in a way that combines the freedom of self-publishing with all the support a publishing industry leader has to offer.
In traditional publishing, I keep hearing that authors and illustrators rarely collaborate. Has this been your experience while working on And I Thought About You?
Definitely not. Lisa and I worked very closely together from beginning to end. Together we decided on the medium she would use to get the right mood for the illustrations and then we shared ideas about individual sketches, font choices, color palates, really everything.
As a self-published author, handling sales and marketing, how do you get the word out on your book?
We have tried to get the word out in a variety of ways. We’ve done book signings and readings at local bookstores, schools, and daycares. We’ve attended book festivals and submitted And I Thought About You to contests. As you mentioned in my bio, And I Thought About You received an Honorable Mention at the New England Book Festival (which was so exciting). We have a Facebook page, a blog, a website of course, and I tweet a lot. We’ve sent media kits to magazines we thought would be interested in the book. We’ve also had some bloggers do book reviews and interviews. The marketing piece takes a lot of time and persistence. It’s not easy.
Do you have any advice for authors and illustrators considering self-publishing?
Research your options and the various companies out there. They are not the same. Be careful of the fine print and added costs for fulfillment. Once you decide on a publisher or decide to do it completely on your own, do some marketing before the book is released to get some buzz. Also join forums and follow blogs that are in line with the theme or topic of your book. Be prepared to devote many hours to crafting materials and setting up events.
Can you give us the scoop on some of your current projects?
The publishing of And I Thought About You and the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve gotten has re-energized me and my writing. Currently I’m working on a few picture book manuscripts and have an idea for an early chapter book series but nothing has been written on that yet. I will try to get these new manuscript traditionally published at first and then who knows.
What’s your writing schedule like?
Sadly, I don’t have a writing schedule. My other commitments just don’t permit it. I do however, try to write or do something related to my children’s writing every day. I carry a writing notebook around with me and when I’m in the midst of revising a manuscript I always carry a copy in my bag. I’m often writing or revising between meetings or while waiting/watching my kids at their various activities.
How can your fans get a hold of you if they would like you to do an author visit or would like to purchase a copy of And I Thought About You?
Love the notion that I would have fans. 🙂 I can be reached at Rosanne@rlkurstedt.com.
And I Thought About You is available for purchase at:
Rosanne, I cannot thank you enough for doing this interview. All the best and much success.