Martha and Ann Driscoll are a mother/daughter writing team who most recently lived together near the banks of the Bellamy River in Dover, New Hampshire. Between them, and thanks to the award-winning illustrations and book design of Susan Andra Lion, Martha and Ann have three award-winning books. Other titles are Sammy the Seahorse and Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly. Martha’s professional life was devoted to literacy education, reading education and the preparation of reading teachers. Ann’s professional life was a mix of teaching and leadership in higher education and organizational development consulting. Martha died on November 08, 2021. But there are still stories to write…
Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write/create it?
My mother (Martha Driscoll) and I were co-writers (she died this past November). We created three picture books, Nosey’s Wild Ride on the Belle of Louisville, Sammy the Seahorse: Is He a Horse or is He a Fish? and Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly: The Magic of Metamorphosis. At their heart, all three books are an imaginary means for early readers to learn about something that is real – an historically significant steamboat, seahorses and monarch butterflies. My mother and I began working together on picture books around 2012. The idea seed for our latest book, Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly, came from a real-life experience that my mother had seventy years ago as an elementary school teacher. A little girl who was made fun of by her peers brought a monarch chrysalis to school. The teacher turned the moment into an opportunity for the girl and her classmates to get to know one another and to learn about the monarch life cycle. In real life, the teacher was the hero who intervened in the bullying and prompted the girl’s classmates to see her differently. For our story we shook things up. We wanted the girl to be the heroine, for it to be her voice that talked about monarchs and for the book to be a resource for readers to learn about monarchs. The inspiration engine for this particular story was the tremendous satisfaction my mother and I took from writing the first two books together. We both wanted to have that experience again, the act of creating something together from our imaginations.
Share your personal publishing story. Did you choose self or traditional? How did you go from book manuscript draft to finished book available for purchase?
Our first two books were printed by small, local publishing companies who handled the production of the books and provided inventory storage. The illustrator who helped create all three of our books, Susan Andra Lion, is both an award-winning illustrator and talented book designer. As we got ready to do a second edition of Nosey’s Wild Ride, my mother and I realized that we could reduce our costs if Sue worked directly with the printer to get the books produced and if my mother and I took over management of inventory and fulfillment. This lead to Driscoll Publishing. From the second edition of our first book on, we have self-published our books. Because we haven’t yet cracked the marketing nut, for our latest book, Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly, we seriously considered trying the traditional route for production and marketing. However, we opted for self-publishing because:
1) Speed – My mother was in her nineties and we wanted to make sure that she got to hold a finished copy of Rosa in her hands. We wondered if a traditional publishing route might help us get our books on shelves. We knew we had a huge learning curve ahead regarding traditional publishing. We did some homework and everything suggested that it was likely to take a long time to hook up with a traditional publisher and eventually see our books in print. We opted for self-publishing because it gave us a known timeline for when we’d have the books in hand.
2) Illustrator – Self-publishing was the only way to guarantee that we could work with the illustrator of our choice. Sue Lion, my mother and I are an amazing writer/illustrator co-creation team. Over time we’ve built a friendship as well as a terrific working relationship. My mother and I wanted another book that was created by all three of us. That made self-publishing an easy choice.
Persistence and willingness to go out and learn what we needed to know were key ingredients in getting from manuscript draft to finished book.
What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
I wish I knew how my mother might have answered this question. For me, the challenge was learning how to move from being a mother and daughter with a writing project to becoming two writers writing together. We had to forge a new way of being in relationship with one another. Even though we are both adults, to do all the stuff of imagining, writing, editing, and creating together we needed to move beyond parent/child and become creative peers. I treasure our success in this as much as I treasure our books.
What do you do for book marketing? Describe your plan, how it is working, and what you want to add or change to that plan, if anything.
We do almost zilch for marketing. And it shows. We have way too many books gathering dust in our storage unit. Marketing is the next arena of how-to-learning that needs be to tackled. A robust, detailed marketing plan is needed.
How many unpublished or unfinished books have you written and set aside? What are your plans for them?
We’ve got a bunch of stories jammed in file folders in our story box. Some are just a story start but most have a beginning, middle and end. They’re stashed in the box because as a story goes, they’re just o.k. But they weren’t tossed in the trash because they aren’t garbage. They remind us that we’re writers and that we’re writing. They help us see how our writing has improved. We do have a story about a brave girl and her heroic horse. We finished the first draft just before my mother died. It’s got a great story line but to be a book, it still needs a lot of work. I’m not ready yet to finish it without her. It’s set aside, but not forgotten. I wondered whether I would be able to write without her. Inspiration came. I’ve got a picture book of my own in the works about a little bear that learns how to be a good friend. It turns out that carrying on with writing is a very meaningful way to be with grief.
How do you go about obtaining book reviews? Do you read them? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?
I’m embarrassed to admit that until very recently I haven’t been in the habit of paying any attention to book reviews. But that’s changing fast! The first time we started to seek out book reviews was for our third book. So, our efforts to obtain book reviews began just a few months ago. We knew absolutely nothing so I jumped on line and started googling how to get book reviews for a children’s book. Scoring a couple of reviews was energizing and eye opening. The affirmations were great and I realized these could be really useful for book promotion. But I almost missed out on a great growth opportunity by being dismissive of the reviews I experienced as critical. My first reaction was defensiveness, Did you actually read this book?? Fortunately, a friend who’s a writer suggested a different perspective. I went back and reread and reconsidered the so-called negative comments in reviews. I realized that the constructively critical reviews were also invaluable. The positive reviews let me know what readers like about the book. The constructive ones offer insights that help me continue to improve as a writer and make better books.
Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?
I prefer reading print. I like to feel the weight of the book in my hands. I like being able to highlight lines, make notes in the margin and dog ear pages. When things like maps, photos, glossaries or endnotes are included, I like to be able to flip around between those and the text. If it’s a book that ends up meaning something to me, it becomes a friend and because it’s in print I can keep it on my bookshelf. I love having an audiobook playing when I’m driving. I especially enjoy audiobooks as a means to listen to an author or a poet read their own work.
There are many trends in self-publishing that have come and gone. What do you think is going to change next in the self or traditional publishing landscape?
I think more and more books will continue to be self-published and that those avenues will open up in ways I can’t begin to imagine. There are too many people with stories to tell and traditional publishers don’t have the means to handle all of those stories.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Just write. The only way to get from aspiring to be an author to being an author is to get words down on paper. Find a writing group for collegiality and feedback. Carry a notebook and pen in your pocket so you can capture things that feed your imagination. Don’t fall in love with every single word you write. Be willing to edit and let lots of words go. If you write books for children ask them to read your draft and then tell you what they think.
Who is your favorite author, book? The last book you read?
Right now, my favorite author is Jacqueline Woodson. Because it touched my heart, I especially love her picture book, Each Kindness. The last book I read was also fabulous – Jason Reynold’s graphic novel, Long Way Down.
More about the author and how to find her books.
Where to Purchase Books: https://driscollpublishing.com
Link to Story Monsters Ink Cover Story Featuring Martha & Ann Driscoll
Book Awards & Reviews
Nosey’s Wild Ride on the Belle of Louisville (2014 and 2016)
- Creative Child Magazine, 2017 Seal of Excellence Award
- Literary Classics, 2017 Gold Award Finalist
- Mom’s Choice, 2016 Honoring Excellence Gold Award, Juvenile Books, Ages 5-8
- Story Monsters, 2016 Books Worth Devouring Seal of Approval
Sammy the Seahorse (2017)
- Readers’ Favorite Book Review, 2021 5 Star Rating
- Creative Child Magazine, 2018, Book of the Year, Educational Story Books Category
- Literary Classics, 2018 Gold Award, Educational Category, Picture Book/Early Readers
- Story Monsters, 2018 Books Worth Devouring Seal of Approval
- Story Monsters, 2018 Purple Dragonfly, 1st Place, Picture Books 6 & Older
- Story Monsters, 2018 Purple Dragonfly, Honorable Mention, Children’s Nonfiction
- Mom’s Choice, 2017 Honoring Excellence Gold Award
Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly (2021)
- Mom’s Choice, 2022 Honoring Excellence Gold Award, Ages 6-8
- Readers’ Favorite Book Review, 2021 5 Star Rating
Description for Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly:
Rosa knows a ton about monarch butterflies. And she’s often picked on by classmates because she’s curious about things. One day a classmate hollers, “It’s caterpillar pancake time!” Rosa gulps, “Oh no!” She bravely ignores the bully and steps up to rescue the caterpillar. Rosa then lights up her classmates’ curiosity about monarchs. One of the bullies continues to make fun of Rosa and questions her knowledge. But Rosa persists. As she does, the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, her classmates are wowed by monarch magic and the bully is transformed by what he learns from Rosa. This journey of discovery and change contains original pen and ink illustrations by an award-winning illustrator, a compelling story by award-winning authors and loads of educational information about monarchs – caterpillar and butterfly anatomy, stages of development (egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly), habitat, food, flight, migration, threats to survival, transformation, a glossary of terms, and activities including How to Make a Butterfly and a Matching Game.
Martha and Ann Driscoll are a mother/daughter writing team who most recently lived together near the banks of the Bellamy River in Dover, New Hampshire. Martha was born near the Falls of the Ohio River in New Albany, Indiana. After marrying, she and her husband moved across the Ohio to raise their family in Louisville, Kentucky. Ann was born in Louisville and had loads of adventures paddling on that mighty river. The Belle of Louisville plies the Ohio and docks at mile 606, the Port of Louisville. The Belle’s 100th birthday was the inspiration for Nosey’s Wild Ride on the Belle of Louisville. But Martha had actually written the first draft of this story in 1950, set it aside to raise a family and picked it up 62 years later to polish it off. Little did they know but retrieving that document was the start of Martha and Ann’s shared writing life. The last decade of her life Martha had very, very poor vision. So, Ann’s job was to type up the mountains of pages that Martha hand wrote. But they both love words and very quickly they were doing the research, creating the characters, writing the drafts, editing, and creating together. Between them, and thanks to the award-winning illustrations and book design of Susan Andra Lion, Martha and Ann have three award-winning books. Other titles are Sammy the Seahorse and Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly. Martha’s professional life was devoted to literacy education, reading education and the preparation of reading teachers. Ann’s professional life was a mix of teaching and leadership in higher education and organizational development consulting. Martha died on November 08, 2021. But there are still stories to write…