January 11, 2024

Birth Stories for Books: THE MESS MONSTER, by Jessica Marie

Welcome to the New Year dear readers, and welcome to another round of Birth Stories for Books interviews and guest posts. Today's guest, Jessica Marie, shares her experience self-publishing her debut picture book, THE MESS MONSTER, which came out in October of 2023 (illustrated by Nicholas Child). 

by Jessica Marie and Nicholas Child

Dawn Prochovnic: So glad to have you on the blog, Jessica, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about your debut picture book, THE MESS MONSTER.

Reading your bio, it sounds like this story might stem from personal experience. Can you share some details about how the idea came to be and what motivated you to move the idea forward to fruition?

Jessica Marie: It actually stemmed from an experience I had in middle school. We were assigned by our English teacher to write a story associated with a picture we had drawn. I drew a monster that was hidden beneath the bleachers. The story was more of a horror story, but the monster shined through in this book. I also am always motivated by my very active and messy daughter, who gets the messiness from her mom. However, the story of the Mess Monster was inspired by my daughter losing her soccer cleats. This story grew into a mother-daughter story with the messiness added to it.

Photo provided by Jessica Marie

DP: Very fun! 

Can you share with us the process and timeframe between your initial idea and the story that was formulated fully enough to produce as an independently-published book?

JM: The story was formulated enough within 6 months. I got sick of waiting for a publisher or agent, so I took matters into my own hands and self-published my manuscript.

DP: There is definitely a lot of waiting (and waiting...and waiting...) involved in the traditional publishing world! It sounds like you discovered a path that was a better fit for you. 

When you compare one of your earliest drafts of this story to the version in the published book, what stands out for you in terms of what is most different? Likewise, is there anything in particular that stands out that was included in your earliest drafts and survived the revision process?

 JM: It was actually created as a monster that lived in the basement. It didn’t have the elements it does today. There was no messiness or family element to the story.

DP: Oh wow. It sounds like the manuscript changed a lot over time.

Reflecting on the journey from idea to published book, are there any individuals, experiences, or opportunities that you credit with opening the door for you to bring this story to publication?

JM: My editor, Kathy MacMillan. She walked me through the publishing process and the art of book creation.

DP: Kathy MacMillan is wonderful! She and I got to know each other because of our mutual interest in American Sign Language. We've been championing each others' work for a couple of decades now! 

How did you and she connect with each other, and can you share how the editorial process worked?

JM: I found her through SCBWI. I am so grateful for this connection. I watched some of her presentations and reached out to her. I now work with her on a weekly basis with all of my manuscripts. It’s been a real blessing.

DP: It sounds like you and Kathy have a fantastic working relationship.

I’m also interested in hearing how you went about the process of connecting with the illustrator for this project, Nicholas Child.

JM: The illustrator was tricky. I was at the end of my rope and stumbled upon the website Reedsy. There you can view illustrations and illustrators and choose one. I was connected to the illustrator who illustrated my books, Finding my ROAR! and The Mess Monster. However, I have since changed my illustrator and she will be working on my new books.

DP: In addition to Reedsy, were there any specific resources you utilized (for example, software, reference books, online classes or tools, etc.) that were most helpful to you along the way?

JM: I did utilize online classes, online tools, and a person who does all of my marketing. I did appreciate the online classes, but my greatest endeavor is working with a marketing person. She is wonderful. She has helped me set up all of my social accounts and is very helpful.

DP: Have you engaged in any book promotion and/or marketing activities that have been especially effective in terms of growing book sales?

JM: I have engaged in book promotions with book conferences and book fairs. Fairs like Oktoberfest and readings at elementary schools have helped with sales. I have also created a Mess Monster lovey to go along with the book. That seems to be helping switch marketing. However, the biggest promotions are in the pre-sales. I have not had the chance to do that with this book.

Photo provided by Jessica Marie

Photo provided by Jessica Marie

DP: Love the lovey! It's so cute! 

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your pre-published self? Or, said another way, what do you know now, that you wished you would have known a bit earlier and/or are there any lessons you've learned along the way that could help others who would likewise like to write and independently-publish a children’s book?

JM: It is going to take time, so be patient. I never realized until I was in it just how long it would take. It also comes with many, many rejections, and you cannot take that personally.

DP: I couldn't agree more! 

Is there something you wish someone would ask you about your path to publication for THE MESS MONSTER that you haven’t had the opportunity to share yet?

JM: It brings you immense joy to know that someone loves your book!

DP: That is so very, very true! 

Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on?

JM: This book is a series. Right now, I am finishing up The Love Monster, and The Mess MOMster.

DP: Those sound like super fun titles, Jessica! 

Thanks so much for sharing your Birth Story for THE MESS MONSTER with us. I wish you much success with this project and the new books down the line!

Jessica Marie's Bio: 

I am a children’s book author, but longtime maker of messes.  

I graduated from the University of Kansas with my master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. I taught Kindergarten for several years in Texas. 

I have 3 dogs and a spectacular 8-year-old daughter. I love to do yoga and spend time outdoors. I live in Kansas City, Kansas.  My favorite color is pink and my favorite food is candy.


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud, the 2023 Walt Morey Award winner, and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.  


  1. What an wonderful, fun series! And the lovey is Perfection! This birth story is so packed with encouragement for writers. Thank you, Jessica Marie, for talking us through the challenges and rewards of self-publishing. I think your motto should be 'Don't wait! Navigate!' Congratulations on Monster Mess!

    1. Isn't the lovey awesome! (And yes, that's a great motto!)