An interview with Nancy Gee, author and publisher of MacKenzie Press
Mackenzie Press/ For Teens, Written by Teens publisher and Secret Book Series author Nancy Gee chats with Film Daily about her publishing journey, the Secret Book writing contest, and the genesis of the For Teens, Written by Teens imprint.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action to change your life? Can you share the story?
I was not inspired by one book but instead a library of books! Growing up, my mom was easily the greatest inspiration in my life when it came to discovering the power of reading. Our house was filled with books, and I developed a fascination watching my mom not only read not one but several books at a time. She inspired me to discover the magic of every book I read and to this day, I carry her inspiration to read throughout my life.
Tell us about your history as a publisher. How did you get started?
The Secret Book Contest, the most amazing turning point in my career, was solely inspired by kids asking me for help to become authors themselves. Having authored several books, I knew firsthand of the many difficult challenges these kids would face. This led me to launch a contest seeking teen author talent.
The winner would have their book published and receive a cash prize. Contestants’ submissions came from all over the country and internationally, and the talent was amazing! Winner Anya Costello is the sixteen-year-old author of THE SHADOW HOUR (which she started writing at age ten!), and runner-up Priyanka Nambiar is the sixteen-year-old author of ESCAPE THE WAR.”
As you mentioned above, you’re also an award-winning author of the Secret Book Series. Can you tell us more about these books?
The SECRET BOOK SERIES began when a flying squirrel got into the house and hid in the sock drawer only to be discovered by the family cat. Seeing my grandchildren delighted by the adventures of the flying squirrel challenged me to write my first book to share with children everywhere:
- THE SECRET DRAWER, starring Al and Sal, the flying squirrels. This challenge was the beginning of our publishing journey.
- Next came THE SECRET PATH, the true story of our flying squirrels returning to us to nest and the surprising birth of baby flying squirrels.
- Then came THE SECRET ROOM, in which the flying squirrels Al and Sal attend a local library reading where they see a child on the floor reading a book to a dog. But this isn’t an ordinary dog … he’s a R.E.A.D dog, trained to sit quietly as children read books to them. What an amazing story to be shared!
- The newest title in the series is THE SECRET BUS. Enjoy the new adventure of Al and Sal, the flying squirrels as they discover the Secret Bus that travels throughout the forest day after day. The inspiration for this book came from a foundation sponsored program of a mobile care vehicle that travels to communities providing medical care, free treatments, as well as preventative care to children in underserved communities.
Can you articulate why you think books have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?
Children possess innocence and see creativity that has not been sculpted by age and society. Children have the freedom to see purely, and the freedom to tap into and express their imaginations.
As a publisher why do you feel a responsibility to aid writers of tomorrow? What impact did you hope to make with your publishing company, “For Teens, Written by Teens”?
I’ve corresponded with hundreds of teens who yearn to write but don’t know where to begin. My job is to listen to their dreams and to help guide them follow their dreams and manifest their stories. As a publisher, I know and understand the difficulties that exist in getting published.
I genuinely believe that my starting the “For Teens, Written by Teens” imprint was a calling for me to help our teens fulfill their dreams. Every one of us needs to support whatever our children’s dream might be and mine is opening doors and opportunities for our next generation of writers.
Both books you have published, The Shadow Hour and Escape the War, would translate well on the big screen. Do you have hopes to bring this idea into fruition?
Most definitely …one only has to read Anya Costello’s THE SHADOW HOUR and
Priyanka Nambiar ESCAPE THE WAR to envision both YA books coming to life on the big screen. Hollywood is searching for YA titles and YA title adaptations have been growing. And I feel that both books are ready for screen adaptation! Imagine the exciting movement of YA books written by teen authors hitting the big screen! Their voices would absolutely be resonant with the youth in our world. And what an inspiration that could be!
Of all the current streaming platforms, I feel that Netflix would make a great fit for a potential streaming platform. They have a lot of YA book adaptations already that are currently doing very well on Netflix (Heartstopper, Shadow and Bone, Tiny Pretty Things, and many more). They have also picked up some international movies/shows that feel similar to our books. Alice in Borderland, for instance, is a Japanese TV show that feels very much like Escape the War.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
“REMEMBER THAT FAILURE IS ONLY SUCCESS TURNED INSIDE OUT”
Never forgetting doors do close but there is always another door to open in the quest of your dreams!