Interview with Debbie Glade and Rachel Glade of Smart Poodle Publishing
Tell us about your company, it’s purpose, mission, target audience, goals, what makes it unique.
Smart Poodle Publishing is a small press publisher of children’s picture books. Last year we published our first book, The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica. Our goal in setting up Smart Poodle, writing, illustrating and recording the book on CD was simply to have an outlet for introducing a unique, ultra creative way for young readers to learn. Our book is completely different than anything we’ve found out there. It is much more sophisticated than most picture books, yet it is fun, funny and educational at the same time. We wanted kids to enjoy reading without even realizing they are learning. Narrating the book on CD and setting it to an original musical score, offered an entertaining experience for the entire family. It also makes it possible for kids too young to read the book to enjoy the story.
When I wrote the travel adventure, I obviously had geography on my mind. But since I have been visiting schools with my book and large maps, I have realized just how much our students are lacking in geography knowledge. I am now on a serious mission to improve the geography education in our schools. That is how my daughter and I created our fun and educational “Ask Lilly Badilly All About the World” Geography Q and A.
How did you come to work together in the first place?
Before I even wrote a word of my book, I worked out how to combine my travel writing/ geography background (I used to be a writer for upscale cruise lines), my silly cartoon voices, love of painting and my daughter’s musical (piano and sitar) talents. What I came up with was my travel adventure for children, illustrated and recorded on CD using my voices and Rachel’s original musical score. She was 14 when she wrote the music, and is now 16. When I started creating the book, we discussed her involvement in the music and helping me use her internet skills to market it.
Please describe your respective roles in the company.
I am the publisher and author. Rachel is the Director of Internet Marketing and the Musical Director of books and videos.
How has working together affected your relationship outside the “office.” In other words how do you keep family matters separate from work related issues?
Since Rachel is a junior in high school, she can only work with me part time. We set our hours for the week every Sunday. When we are working, we seem to have no trouble focusing. Much of the time we work separately and do not need to interact constantly. But the truth is both work and family issues overlap. We find ourselves talking about marketing ideas at the dinner table or when we are in the car on the way to the movies on the weekend. I think that is the case with everyone who works with family members. It is impossible to keep it all separate all the time, and that’s okay with me – as long as the work gets done!
What are some of the challenges you have faced working together?
Since Rachel is in high school, taking 5 AP classes, she is very busy. She works with me after school some days and more on weekends. In the summer, she works at least 25 hours per week with me. Her shortage of time is sometimes stressful for both of us, but school is a priority. I sometimes feel guilty asking her to help me, and I can see the stress she is under. But there are some responsibilities she has that I am not skilled enough to do myself and need her assistance. That is the frustrating part.
She gets a bit frustrated with my lack of patience at times – not patience with her, rather seeing results from all the work we have done.
Rachel’s musical contribution to my book’s CD is what makes the product so unique. I would have never been able to do it without her – and my husband (who plays guitar and sings). I gave my daughter complete creative license over the music, and she more than rose to the occasion. Having a teenager’s view of reading and books is invaluable to a children’s book author. Rachel’s input could not be bought from the finest children’s book editor. She helped me create and judge a children’s travel writing contest that was a big success. Her computer skills and knowledge about websites has expanded my marketing capabilities immensely. And as far as her technical skills, I could never do that stuff myself!
My daughter is extremely bright and mature for her age. I have treated her like an adult for many years. Ironically, she is much more calm than I am, and I find myself asking her for advice more than anyone else I know. She has never steered me down the wrong path, and has an ability to put situations into perspective and solve problems more calmly and rationally than I can. Should I be embarrassed to admit that?
The plus side for her is that she is learning how to start and run a business. She sees firsthand the challenges and triumphs of being an entrepreneur. Not many teens can say they’ve had this kind of experience and this level of responsibility.
What do you like best about working together? Least?
The best part of working together is that we often laugh our butts off! We film new geography Q and A videos every weekend, and there has yet to be a day where one or both of us collapses on the ground from laughter. Being in the children’s book business gives you a lot more creative license than writing boring how-to books! We read emails together from fans, reviewers and even spammers and laugh. We share silly ideas and daydream together about unique projects.
What, if any big challenges or little annoyances have occured as a result of working together and how have you managed to overcome them?
See #4 above.
What tips would you share with our readers for working with a member of the family?
Define your roles and responsibilities before you decide to work together. Make sure each member of the family is doing what he or she is best at and most comfortable with. But be flexible. Everyone is creative in his or her on way and can add value. Get in the habit of focusing on work while at work and not bringing family issues to the board room. Know in advance that you will not always agree on what direction to take, and that’s okay. Don’t argue; it is a waste of time. The benefits of working with family greatly outweigh the challenges. No outside employee will have the same dedication and drive as a family member/partner will!
What’s been the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of working together?
The day my family recorded the book and CD was pure joy and excitement for all of us! One bonus I had not considered was all the great attention Rachel has received from composing and performing the music on the CD. An article about her was recently published in the Sun Sentinel newspaper. And she was recently interviewed for another publication in CA. The real icing on the cake was last week when Rachel was able to attend an author visit at a school with me for the first time. She has been to libraries with me, but has been in school during all my previous school visits. This event was at night, and she was able to share her insight with the students and play piano for them. She also got to see me in action with the students for the first time, and it was a most memorable evening for both of us!
What’s next for this mother daughter team?
Hopefully the next book in the Llilly Badilly series is around the corner! When Rachel goes to college after next year, you can bet we will still be working together! That’s what computers are for!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
If my daughter were not my daughter, I’d still be thrilled to work with her.
For more information on this mother daughter duo, visit Smart Poodle Publishing at www.smartpoodlepublishing.com
This article can be read in the Spring/Summer 2009 Issue of WE Magazine for Women