Vanessa's rich and varied background includes working in the music industry, movies, and advertising at The Walt Disney Company. Her love of storytelling is evident in her debut book, BOOMER AT YOUR SERVICE, which will be out later this October. The book will benefit a non-profit that pairs service dogs to kids with special needs. Please join us in wishing Vanessa great success with her first picture book.
Describe your process of taking an idea and developing it into a story.
I like to think my writing process is akin to cooking a perfect Sunday sauce. First, I imagine all the ingredients and how the flavors will build on each other. Once I chop up all the ingredients, I throw them into the pot with abandon. I don’t care what they look like or taste like at this stage because I know it needs to simmer to build to my desired consistency. And then, when I think it’s ready, I give it a taste. YUM! Right? No. That would be too easy! Full of doubt, I ask for others to give it a taste test. The replies usually go something like this… “Nope. It needs more salt. Nope. It needs more time. Nope. Keep stirring.” So, I go back to the pot, taste again, add more flavor, take some out, stir the pot, taste again, lower the heat, raise the heat, and repeat steps 1-6 until I can feel the sauce is perfect in my bones. That’s when I know it’s finally ready for all to devour.
What other jobs or careers have you worked in prior to becoming an author?
I started out my career in the music industry working for a major record label before changing to the movie industry. That’s when I realized I loved the art of storytelling. I worked at The Walt Disney Company, working on Integrated Marketing campaigns reaching both moms and kids. I spent the rest of my corporate career (over 15 years) dedicating many long days and nights to our advertising clients. I created the ideas, the pitch, the sale, and then executed the campaigns in TV, digital, print, radio, retail, and in-market events. It was the best feeling to see my hard work brought to life through the world’s most beloved characters. Most recently, I worked in the interesting (AND CRAZY) world of Influencer Marketing. With the decline of TV viewership, advertisers are clamoring to get in front of young audiences and working with the largest YouTube and Social Media stars is the place to be. In the most serendipitous fashion, every job in my past has led me to my new career as a picture book author.
At what point in your life did you know you wanted to write?
Deciding to write full time came to me in a perfect storm of emotion. I lost my father to a long battle of cancer only ten days before my baby was born. It happened 2 years ago. I was trying to enjoy every moment with my new baby boy, but it was an emotional roller coaster bouncing between elation and grief. In my quiet moments, I started writing and it became a cathartic experience. The first story that found its way to the page was about a little girl and her dad. I realized how much I love to write stories for children and how my professional background has actually prepared me to tell my stories through pictures. Once my maternity leave came to an end, I made the very difficult decision to leave the corporate world for good. I just knew it was the right thing for me to do. I want to spend as much time as possible with my family and embarking on a new career as an Author is allowing me to do that. Life is too short! We have to do what we love.
How did publishing your first book inspire and or change your writing process?
I’m so lucky to have my debut book, BOOMER AT YOUR SERVICE, published by Spork. I met my publisher and editor through The Children’s Book Academy. My teacher, Dr. Mira Reisberg, became my editor. What I love about working with Spork is that it is truly a hands-on experience. I get to talk to my illustrator and work directly with Mira on feedback. Actually, going through the process as a team has been a deep dive education. I can see how my text is changing as the illustrations are coming in. I’ve learned the art of “less is more” and it is impacting how I write my newest manuscripts. I’m so grateful to Mira, Callie Metler-Smith and our incredibly talented illustrator, Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom. The illustrations are spectacular and I can’t wait to share them with the world.
How did it feel when you signed your first contract?
AMAZING! I suffer from imposter syndrome all the time. Hearing that someone else actually likes my work and believes in me is the ultimate gift. Receiving a contract was a boost of self-confidence I needed to keep going, keep writing, keep querying. I can’t wait to get my hands on my first book. I just hope everyone loves it too! YIKES!
What would you like readers to know about you?
I want readers to know my mission as a writer is to both create stories children will love while also making a positive impact in the world. With BOOMER AT YOUR SERVICE, I’m partnering with an organization called Merlin’s KIDS- A non-profit that rescues shelter dogs, trains them to be service dogs and pairs them with special needs children. They are saving two lives at a time. I plan to visit schools and libraries to introduce as many kids as possible to Boomer and teach them about all the ways service dogs help kids. They are real-life superheroes. Check out the link above to see how you can help today.