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Author Showcase

Spring 2008 Featured Author, Marianne Richmond

RT: Welcome to the Reading Tub®! Hopefully the early April snows are gone in Minnesota and spring is just around the corner!

Over the last 15 years, you have written and illustrated 15 picture books, almost all of them focused on the bonds within a family. You cover relationships across generations (between a grandparent and child), within the nuclear family, and within yourself (i.e., a child's self-esteem). Do you have a favorite title in this collection?


Marianne: I sound like a typical mother, but I have a couple favorites! Because my books are inspired by people dear to me, I have a soft spot for all of them! If I had to pick a favorite, however, I’d say I Love You So… because it captures the love we have for our children, yet can be given to express mature love, too. I also treasure You Are My Wish Come True because I’m quite smitten with Barley Bear. I think he captures the child in all of us.

RT: Five of your titles — a full one-third — have won awards, from medals to honor books. There are so many children's picture books out there, many covering the same topics. Is there something an artist or writer needs to consider in trying to distinguish their book from its peers?

Marianne: Great question. I would say the key is to capture universal emotion. When your reader seems him or herself in your story, you create an emotional connection. Many writers feel strongly about a potential book because the story has special meaning to them. But will it resonate with a wide range of people, too?

RT: Your newest books, You Are My Wish Come True and I Wished for You: An Adoption Tale, are companion books that answer a child's question about how Mama Bear knew he was special and, by extension, how families come to be. Are there other life lessons you'd like to put in book form for kids?

Marianne: Yes! I would like to write about cultivating a heart of gratitude and generosity.

RT: When you visit schools, you spend time reading with the children. What are the things that you find children are most interested in when they share a story with an author?

Marianne: Interacting with the kids is a joy. They are most curious about how I get ideas, what my favorite books are, and how long I’ve been doing what I do. They also love to tell about their stories and share about their lives, their pets, their siblings.

RT: Marianne Richmond Studios has evolved from a greeting card company to a multi-faceted gift company. In the beginning, you designed all of the stationary. Is that still the case?

Marianne: All our products feature my art and writing but I have a wonderful graphic designer with whom I’ve worked for more than 10 years. We think so much a like that she can take a sketch or a rough idea from me and turn it into something beautiful and perfectly in sync with our style.

RT: In talking about the business on your website, you say there is constant pressure to always looking for something new. Do you think having to find something "sellable" affects the creative process?

Marianne: There is pressure to keep sellable books coming. I have been so fortunate that I’ve managed to create books that resonate with people. And I believe the reason they do is because they are from my heart — and inspired by something real. People do want to know what’s next — they want to know what’s coming for this fall and for next year. Well, if I haven’t been inspired about something specific, that’s a tough question to answer. I could put something down on paper — but it wouldn’t be authentic, and I think that would be reflected in the sales.

RT: Do you find that there is pressure to move away from your core business and add new media to what you do?

Marianne: Well, it’s taken me 15 years to learn that I should stick to doing what I do best. When I go to a show and see all the cool giftware and other products out there, I think, “we should do that, too!” But we’ve learned that people know us for books. In all we already offer, our books sell best. Just because you CAN do something else doesn’t mean you should.

RT: Do you have any suggestions for writers and new-authors-to-be about ways they can balance their passion with the need to have a marketable product?

Marianne: Such a good observation! I have read a lot of manuscripts that I, personally, don’t “get.” As I said above, one must speak a universal language when they write. Sure, our family and friends will buy a copy, but to get beyond that, one must create something that appeals to the masses. The other part is marketing. I tell people that it’s easy to get a book printed — but selling it is 99.9 of the equation. What’s your plan for that?

RT: You have worked with established publishers and also self-published your books. On your site, you offer a number of reasons why you prefer self-publishing. Would you ever consider publishing other writers' books? And if so, how would you (or could you) change the publisher-author dynamic?

Marianne: To date, I have been able to sustain our company’s offerings with my work. This fall, we are venturing into board books to expand our brand to a younger audience. What we do is rare these days. Most people are growing through acquisition and by representing multiple artists/authors. We are one of a handful of single author/artist companies out there who has reached a mass—market audience.

RT: In May 2008 you are opening Marianne's Gift Shop, a retail outlet for Marianne Richmond Studios. Will customers have the opportunity to see "artists at work" when they visit?

Marianne: We officially opened our doors last Saturday, and we are offering all my work in addition to several other lines we purchased — some clothing, jewelry, baby gifts, etc. It is a small space, about 600 square feet, so there isn't too much room to have people at work there. If you’re ever in Minneapolis, come see us!

RT: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Marianne: You ask great questions!! RT:
Keep up-to-date with Marianne at a href="http://connectwithmarianne.typepad.com/" target="_blank">Marianne's blog.

Website: http://www.mariannerichmond.com




                 

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