About Marissa

Who is Marissa Moss anyway?

photo of Marissa Moss

I’ve been making children’s books for a looooong time. I sent my first picture book to publishers when I was nine, but it wasn’t very good and they didn’t publish it. I didn’t try again until I was a grown-up and then it took five years of sending out stories, getting them rejected, revising them and sending them back over and over until I got my first book. Now I’ve published more than forty books and each new one is still hard in its own way. Each one takes a lot of revising because I never get things right the first time. That used to frustrate me. Now I expect it. And I don’t mind, because that gives me permission to make mistakes. It means I can take risks and try new things because I don’t have to be perfect – I can always make changes.

I had already published nearly a dozen books when I got the idea for Amelia’s Notebook. I was buying school supplies for my son when I saw one of the black-and-white composition books. It reminded me of the notebook I had when I was a kid, so I bought it (for myself, not my son) and I wrote and drew what I remembered from when I was nine. Amelia’s what came out. I didn’t plan on the book becoming a series, but the first one sold so well and Amelia had so much to say, I kept on going.

Now I’m playing with other notebook formats, like in the historical journals and Alien Eraser (where I get to play around with making comics, something I love). And I’m working on my first chapter book, a long story with no pictures. It’s also my first time writing a mystery, another challenge. I’m not sure I can do it, but it’ll be fun to try. Keep your eye on the new ideas page and you’ll see if I ever get the book finished or published.

If you want more official information, like where I was born or went to school, I’ll give you the basics here. I’m sure there are other websites with excruciating detail.

I was born in Pennsylvania, but my family moved to California when I was two, and I’ve been here ever since. I grew up in the southern part of the state and now live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I studied art at San Jose State but fought too much with my art teachers (I was very opinionated – I wanted to do my kind of art; they wanted me to do theirs). So I transferred to the University of California at Berkeley where I didn’t take a single English or Art class. Mostly I took history where I learned how to do research, tools that have helped me in making the historical journals and working on my Young Adult novel. Then I took classes at the California College of Arts and Crafts for a year since I didn’t want another degree and a year’s tuition was all I could afford. I just wanted some guidance on how to break into childrens books.

I waited tables while I sent out stories, waiting for some editor to fall in love with my work. There was no fall-back plan, no alternative career. I’d still be waiting tables if I weren’t lucky enough to have gotten that first book. And after that, the second one, and then the third and the fourth and the fifth. . . .

Each new book is still a challenge. It’s hard work and I love every minute of it.

Marissa Moss has written more than seventy children’s books, from picture books to middle-grade and young adult novels. Best known for the Amelia’s Notebook series, her books are popular with teachers and children alike. Her young adult novel, A Soldier’s Secret: the Incredible True Story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, a Civil War Hero, won the California Silver Book Award. Barbed Wire Baseball, a picture book biography won the California Book Award, Gold medal and was named an ALA Notable Book and a Notable Book for Social Studies this year. Her books have been translated into French, Spanish, Chinese, Indonesian, Korean, and Polish. Her first adult book, Last Things: a Graphic Memoir of Loss and Love, won the Cowan Award.

In 2013, Moss founded Creston Books, starting the small children’s press with a kickstarter campaign. Dedicated to strong storytelling, the creator-centered house hopes to give debut and established authors a bigger role in their books, from design to marketing. Each list of four titles has a good balance of picture book and older readers, debut authors and well-known names, and strives to showcase the very best in children’s books. Of the nineteen titles published so far, a third have earned starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly, three are Junior Library Guild selections, one was named a Notable Book for Social Studies, one an Outstanding Trade Science Book, Cook Honor Book, Eureka Gold Medal Winner, and Amelia Bloomer book, and three made the Kirkus Best Books lists.

Author Presentations/School Visits

I give either group presentations or journaling workshops, depending on what the school and teachers want. For presentations, I start by telling a little about where I get my ideas, how I go from idea to finished book (via many revisions!), and then I do a story with the students where they come up with the characters and plot, and I illustrate it for them. They think of three different endings so they can see different possibilities for how a story can turn out and think about what makes one ending better than another.

For journaling workshops, I lead the students through a series of exercises developing characters and tools for better plots (breaking it down into beginnings, middles, and ends). We work on juicy verbs, great first sentences, and satisfying endings.

Schools I’ve been to include:

  • Live Oak School, San Francisco, California
  • Hamlin School, San Francisco, California
  • Kent Place School, Summit, New Jersey,
  • Vigo County School District, Terre Haute, Indiana
  • Marin County Day, Corte Madera, California
  • Oxford School, Berkeley, California
  • American School in Bombay, Mumbai, India
  • American School in Amman, Jordan
  • American School in Casablanca, Morocco

Send me a message here if you’d like me to visit your school.