Questions and answer with author, publisher Stephen Kozan
*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD
Stephen Kozan owns Harrisburg-based ReadyAimWrite Publishing. A branch of the company includes ReadyAimWrite Kids, which allows students to write and publish books targeted for other kids. His second youth author was Bellefonte Area Middle School student Annie Cernuska who wrote “The Hunter Voyage.” She went on a book tour around elementary schools within the Bellefonte Area School District and held a book-signing event, which featured an appearance by Kozan. Kozan took the time to speak about what it’s like working with Annie and describes the mission of his publishing company.
Question: What’s your publishing company all about?
Answer: I own ReadyAimWrite Publishing, which is strictly for my books. ReadyAimWrite Kids is just another company that I wanted to have an imprint of. I created ReadyAimWrite (Kids) just for the students. When we go into schools and do Flash Fiction and InstaArt, this is their opportunity without any red tape … it’s who has the most creative story and we’re going to publish that and that’s it. That’s what ReadyAimrWrite Kids is – an opportunity for kids to thrive and flourish with what they do best, which is write and illustrate.
Q: How did you get the chance to visit Bellefonte Area School district, and work with Annie and other students?
A: We’re here doing author visits, but in addition to that, Annie has become my second student author for ReadyAimWrite Kids LLC, which is my second publishing company ... by kids who write books for kids. We don’t publish adult books, we don’t do children’s books by me through that company – it’s all through students who I meet through schools. Every school I’ve been to for the past eight to nine months, we’ve done this exercise called Flash Fiction. Flash Fiction is a fictional story written on one side of one sheet of paper. From that I read hundreds of submissions and we try to pick one winner per school so that we can publish their book. In this case for Annie, she and three other students were part of the finalists and then we asked for them to write a 150-word synopsis on what their story is going to be, and she ended up winning and that’s why we’re here to celebrate her book release. We also spent time with sixth- and seventh-graders (Dec. 18) doing personal workshopping with Tony (Maulfair), my illustrator. We did something called InstaArt, which is another hands-on activity that we do with the kids.
Q: What’s it been like working with Annie and other students?
A: It’s been different and unique for me, because usually I’m just doing my books and I have Tony illustrating. With the students, it’s a learning process for everybody because when you’re dealing with kids this age – 11, 12, 13, 14 – you don’t want to cut them down with traditional editing. My editor, who’s in Minnesota, will take my work and just hatch it because I have thick skin. When you’re dealing with students, you can’t damage them this young. We want to make sure the grammar is correct and everything else, but we don’t pick apart their story – the last thing they want to hear is, “I did this wrong and I’m never writing again.” You don’t want them to feel like that. We worked with Annie’s parents (Erin and Matt Cernuska) and worked with Annie, and finding out how her story is going. It’s rewarding for me because this is the (second) time I get to work with a student author, so it’s just been a really neat experience from the get-go. Now, watching her have a book-signing at the school is so cool for me to process. I always talk to the kids about writing and illustrating being a process and that it starts with a beginning. Everything started for Annie with Flash Fiction with one simple sheet of paper, and now, she has a little novel in her hands that she can sell for the rest of her life.