When I can’t get somebody to do something the way that I know it should be done, I usually do it myself. There is no glory in being a one-man band, but when I want to dance and there isn’t any music, I will pull out my kazoo and start humming.
I was born and raised in the Northwest (Metaline Falls and Kennewick, Washington and Burley and Boise, Idaho). After graduating from Borah High School in Boise, Idaho, I received one of the first male scholarships to Stephen’s College for Women in Columbia, Missouri. I had other opportunities at other colleges, but if you were eighteen what would have you done? I went east to Missouri. It was there that I was smitten by the beauty and intelligence of a fellow student, Celia Pryor. Somehow, someway I managed to lose her in a swirl of teenaged insanity, an event that would haunt me for decades to come. Fortunately, it was a delightful haunt that would guide me on my life’s journey. Still and all I was an idiot to lose her in the first place, which makes me all the wiser in finding her later.
Heart-broken, I migrated back to the west coast and joined my family in Seattle, Washington. During this time I had a passion for writing and storytelling but never held any hope that a career would ensue. For a time, I worked for my father and would slip into the office early to use a company typewriter. By early, I mean really early 3:00 AM or so early. It was a habit and discipline that I hold to this very day.
In 1973 while working as a vice-president of a leasing company I went to a bookstore to buy my, then, three year-old daughter, Jennifer, a book. What I was looking for was a fun-to-read story that contained a subtle message of some sort. What I found instead was a plethora of expensive hardcover books that had little of the content that I was looking for. I got out my ‘kazoo’ and wrote his first stories.
Once upon a time, a long time ago...
I really didn’t have much of a thought in mind as I wrote my first book, but my instincts were keen. I was influenced as a child by the writings of Aesop and Charles Dickens, and it was with that backdrop that my first story and the all the books that followed reflected plots driven by the moral failings of the central character.
Teaming with Seattle illustrator, Robin James, I went on to create four titles that became the foundation of the Serendipity series: “The Dream Tree,” “Serendipity,” “Wheedle on the Needle,” and “the Muffin Dragon.” I designed them as original paperback books — books that people could easily afford to buy.
For a year I sent the books on to a variety of publishers only to have them rejected. In 1974 I was offered a wonderful contract with a major New York publisher; a contract with a significant dollar advance and a guarantee of much, much more to come. The only bad news was that they didn’t like Robin’s artwork (too bright and fanciful) and they wanted me to remove the ‘values-learned from the plot. Additionally, the books would be brought in hardcover and would not be books that everyone could afford to buy.
I was so frustrated that I began to hum. Within 3 months Serendipity Press was born with me acting as publisher, editor, shipping clerk, and janitor. I have to admit I was a better janitor than an editor, but in time I learned how to deal with my only author, me.
In 1978, after selling well-over 3 million books, I merged my fledgling publishing company with P/S/S – Penguin/Putnam and focused my efforts as a writer and creator of multi-media events for children. And all of this delightfully concludes with my finding Celia again, although she had never been out of my heart.
I now live in Austin, Texas, where I continue to create unique adventures and multi-media events. If you would like, check out my projects page to see what new creative noodles have plopped onto my plate. Better still you can follow my twisty path on Twitter. http://twitter.com/stephenCosgrove
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