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Shipman Publishing Celebrates Five Years in the Biz with More to Come Interviews by, Aissa Martell


Founded in 2017, Shipman Publishing has reached kindergarten status and is ready for graduation. After releasing "The Adventures of Mahalia and Malcolm, The Robinsons” in 2022, Team Shipman Publishing has their diplomas in hand, has aced the ABCs, homed in on their special powers, and is ready to conquer the publishing galaxy.

But before we get to the ways of triumphing over the universe, let's begin where it all began with "Mr. Shipman's Kindergarten Chronicles." Besides "ABC" This collection of children's books peers through the door of the family's dynamic of the big sister schooling her little brother on the ways of kindergarten. As Dewayne approaches milestones in Mr. Shipman's kindergarten class, like the first day of school and field trips, his big sister Banicia recalls her experiences in Mr. Shipman's class before him, much to his delight.





When interviewing members of Team Shipman Publishing, I first spoke with Milan Ristic, the illustrator for Mr. Shipman's kindergarten chronicles. He is currently working on his sixth project for the company. Although I did not get the chance to ask Milan about his artistic process of creating the artwork, it is plain to see he is an integral part of the compilation message. His illustrations vibrantly portray the action, love, and excitement of the narrative of the book. It also unites a universal message as Milan lives in Serbia.

Aissa: How long have you been with Team Shipman Publishing and what role do you play with the company?

Milan: Well, I think I've been there from the start of the publishing business so practically five years and maybe a couple of months more, I think in December it was the first year since the book was published, so it took me a couple of months to finish that book. I am the illustrator for team shipman, so Terance contacted me via Upwork and he hired me and that was the start of a very long trip.

Aissa: What is your favorite book you've worked on for Team Shipman Publishing?

Milan: The current one, and it's always the current one. I always like the one I'm drawing, when I look back on the older ones, I always think I could do this or that better, in regard to the story I love the trip to the farm the most.

Aissa: What's your favorite part of the business?

Milan: Drawing what I like and how I like it. I'm a bit of a spoiled artist so I only choose jobs that I enjoy working on. So I enjoy working on it and certainly take my time to do it.

Aissa: What have you learned from the business and is there anything you would change about it?

Milan: Well... I don't know, I don't know that much about publishing or marketing, Terance sends me an update or so so I can see the comments, or I follow him on Instagram, so I see posts and stuff but I'm not in that part of the business.

Aissa: So, as an artist do you relate to the "not the typical family" dynamic, does that affect your work, I mean how does the storyline affect you as an artist? Do you relate to the storyline? Mahlia and Malcolm I'm referring to.

Milan: I didn't read that one, the other artist was working on it.



Aissa: What are you working on with Team Shipman? what are the books you've illustrated with Team Shipman? What are the books you've illustrated with Team Shipman?

Milan: It's the ones with Mr. Shipman's kindergarten chronicles so "December Celebrations" I'm currently working on a numbers book, The one before was the "Trip to the Farm," there was the "ABC" book, "The Field Day," "The First Day of School," and I think that's all of them.

Aissa: So with your illustrations, with working with Team shipman, what positive impact do you hope to achieve with young readers, you've worked on the ABC's and the 123's what do you hope is your impact?

Milan: That's one of the segments I like about their books so I think to illustrate with colors, to make readers engaged so if I can move them just a bit towards reading more or visually to sink into another book, or cartoon or movie, or something like that if I help any of them to just learn words or that kind of thinking that's the part I truly love.

Aissa: What are your hopes for the future with working with Team Shipman?

Milan: I hope to finish all the 36 books...

Aissa: Oh you have 36 books to do!

Milan: I don't know how many really, there is but I get like one or two books per year and it is pretty steady and they are pretty relaxed about when they are ready to release them, so I hope we can continue to work together.

***





I got the chance to speak with mother and daughter duo Nancy Knight and Keisha Walker for a quick chat during a mid-day break. The mother, Nancy is an author of two books with Shipman publishing, and her daughter Keisha is her editor and helps with Team Shipman's marketing. The books nancy wrote are called "Poems for All Occasions" and "Poetic Memoirs" a story about Nancy's hometown of Lake Providence Louisiana.

Aissa: So long have you two been with the team and what is your role there?

Keisha: We've been with the team maybe four years maybe four and a half. My mom is a writer and I'm her editor and manager.

Aissa: And what is your favorite book by Team Shipman publishing so far.

Keisha: My mom's book "Poems For All Occasions."

Aissa: What is that about?

Keisha: Pretty much what the name states. They're poems for Christmas, holidays, birthdays, graduations, and the other book, her poetic memoir, is about growing up in her small town in Louisiana.

Aissa: What is your favorite part of the business.

Keisha: Well with Team Shipman, even though we're not blood relatives, he makes you feel that way. Shipman is a good friend, a businessman and he just want everybody to participate in winning, being successful.

Aissa: What have you learned about the business and what would you change about it?

Keisha: Well, we learned how to write a book, and publish a book.

Aissa: Nancy are you there?

Nancy: Yes I am. The business he handles and all, but he was clear with us the whole way. And anything we needed he made it available, so I didn't learn so much about how to publish a book, Keisha may have, he was there for us for whatever we needed.

Aissa: Is this your first-time publishing?

Nancy: Yes, 2020 two books and his books are interesting as well to me, Kindergarten Chronicles, the one where they took a field trip, was my favorite.

Aissa: Have you always been a writer, and this is your first time publishing?

Nancy: I always wanted to write a book, and I thought its the easiest thing in the world, but you better think again. Because when I first started, I ended up with an essay, and I knew that wasn't going to cut it. So it just came to me, I was sitting at a friend's house helping her with something and I wrote a poem to go into an obituary, and it was like a light going over a kid's head in the classroom, that happened to me, and I said okay this is how I'm going to get in. I wrote the first Book Poetic Memoirs about my life growing up in East Carroll Parish, Lake Providence it's a small town, so it's been an adventure for me. Now I'm on my third book, it's a little bit different though, but like I said Dr. Shipman is there for every move?

Aissa: How do you know Dr. Shipman?

Nancy: Through my daughter, they worked together, and she introduced us.

Aissa: So what do you do Keisha are you a teacher?

Keisha: Yes at the time, I was teaching school in Georgia.

Aissa: Are you two involved with the Robinsons series, the Robinsons new book?

Keisha: No that's just him and his wife. But sometimes he'll send pieces out and ask us to read pages together, so we still do help with editing and catching mistakes and things like that.

Aissa: Is there anything about the business that you would change if you could?

Keisha: No Ma'am.

Aissa: What positive impact do you see your books making on your audience? Do you see them making a difference with your customers, what impact do you see with your books?

Nancy: I got great reviews from people, most of it was hometown folk, but they enjoyed the reading, and a lot of stuff people would tell me would be "oh I'd forgotten that" or "remember when this happened, oh yeah..." It was really familiar to them after they got it. You know a lot of people don't read poetry. But when they bought the book, they said they thoroughly enjoyed it, so I got good feedback. Even out of town people, my co-workers, I used to work out in Baton Rouge, everybody enjoyed it.



Aissa: Well congratulations.

Nancy: Thank you.

Aissa: What do you hope your work will achieve?

Nancy: Like I said, people said they had forgotten a lot of the things that happened in Lake Providence so I want to raise awareness about our small town, and maybe we can get some people to come here, its a real quaint place, and open a business and do something good in our small town. And for people to remember stuff that used to hold us together, so to speak.

Aissa: You still live in the town?

Nancy: Yes.

Aissa: Are you working now?

Nancy: Yes, I have a part-time job. I retired from teaching in 2012 and, I stayed in Baton Rouge for several years there then I came back home. I never meant to stay away from Lake Providence I love my little hometown even though it's not what it used to be, so I came back home in August of 2020.

Aissa: What do you hope to accomplish as a part of Team Shipman in the next 5 years?

Nancy: I hope to be one of the best-selling authors that he has, and that Team Shipman can be known all over so to speak.

Aissa: And what about you Keisha, what do you hope to accomplish with Team Shipman.

Keisha: Well, I'm part of my mom's team, but I help out wherever that it's needed, and I hope that Team Shipman will be at the top of the charts.

***




Jerontai McFee is a publisher with Team Shipman and has been on board since the beginning. I was able to speak with and hear about his experiences with the team thus far.

Aissa: What's your favorite book by Team Shipman publishing so far?

Jerontai: That's a good question because I've always been stuck between the second and the third book. We had some trouble with the first book we definitely did. It was trial and error.

Aissa: What's your favorite part of the business

Jerontai: Getting the book in my hand.

(We laugh)

Aissa: Do you have children to read the books to?

Jerontai: I have my child yes.

Aissa: What have you learned from the business and what would you change about it.

Jerontai: I pretty much have learned how to publish books, I've learned how to sort through different artists and see what's best for the style that you need, and stuff like that. There's a lot that I've learned, but at the same time, there's a lot that I'm still learning too, about the business.

Aissa: Have you read the Robinsons?

Jerontai: Yes, I have.

Aissa: And do you relate to that book, have you read it to your child?

Jerontai: I've shown them pictures, but I haven't read it to them yet.

Aissa: What do you think your superpower is in real life?

Jerontai: (laughs) My superpower would be getting to know people.

Aissa: If you could choose a superpower what would you choose?

Jerontai: Hmmm... Power over technology.



Aissa: Power over technology?

Jerontai: umm hmm.

Aissa: Okay, that's cool, I've never heard of that one before. And what positive impact do you see the Shipman books making on young readers?

Jerontai: I like the fact that it inspires little kids to have powers and actually shows them what they can and can't do with their powers.

Aissa: Okay, and what do you hope your work will achieve.

Jerontai: Right now, I'm hoping we can sell as many books as we can, but at the same time I hope that the books do inspire kids, I hope that they actually learn something from them.

Aissa: And what do you hope to accomplish as a part of Team Shipman in the next 5 years?

Jerontai: I want us to publish more. I want us to actually publish more than just regular kid's books. I'd like to get away from children's books and have comic books and short stories too. That's my goal.

***





Cheryl Andersen is the author of "Guns! Guns! Guns! a Kid's Guide to Gun Safety" which helps teach children that guns are for adults.

Aissa: Ok so you wrote "Guns! Guns! Guns! a Kid's Guide to Gun Safety" What is that book about?

Cheryl: It's an answer, we've had so many young children die of gun accidents, I was just really thinking about it one day, it was on the news a lot. So, it's an answer to that. You have to teach children to just not touch the guns. Help them understand that when they pick it up, a real gun and point it at someone, it could have serious serious consequences. It basically reiterates the fact that if you see one don't touch it, let an adult know where it is so that they can put it in a safe place.

Aissa: And how long have you been with Team Shipman, or when did you first publish?

Cheryl: It's been about three years now.

Aissa: Ok, and that's the only book that you've written, or have you been involved with how you have been involved...

Cheryl: Yes, so far.

Aissa: Ok, so I supposed your book is your favorite book by Team Shipman, or do you have another book by Team Shipman that you really like a lot.

Cheryl: Yes, I really like "December Celebrations" Like the Kindergarten Chronicles, I think they're really really cute.

Aissa: Are you a teacher as well?

Cheryl: Yes.

Aissa: And how do you know Terance Shipman?

Cheryl: We started working together in 2014. I was a media specialist, and he was a classroom teacher, in Rockville County, we met there.

Aissa: And what's your favorite part about the business, about publishing?

Cheryl: My favorite part?

Aissa: Yes.

Cheryl: (Pause) I guess the finished product!

Aissa: (Laughs) The reward?

Cheryl: I didn't really participate in any of the ins and outs, even when he was publishing mine, I wasn't really involved in it. All I did was go through and do the edits and check the pages and make sure it's what I wanted it to be. But as far as his other books are concerned, a couple of them I did the audio part for his audiobook, but the rest of them I haven't really been involved in them.



Aissa: Is there anything you would change about the business, is there anything you would change about the process?

Cheryl: No, because like I said I don't really know about the process, but what I do admire about the whole situation is that this was Terence's dream. And he kept working at it, and he's still working at it and building it, he's using all of his creative energies, and stuff is coming out of him that's helping him to realize a dream. I really really admire that.

Aissa: What positive impact have you seen your book create in young readers.

Cheryl: I can't really say that I have seen a lot. I don't think a broad enough audience has been reached, so I have not heard any feedback, so I'm not sure how well it's doing, or if it is doing what I'd hoped for it to do. It's been three years now and I hope for more, but I'm still waiting for it to sort of blossom and turn into something that's big enough to make a difference in communities.

Aissa: And that's what you hope to achieve with your book to make a difference in the community.

Cheryl: Yes, of course, it's for little kids to stop picking up guns and shooting one another. It's terrible, every year there's one that's close, an actual kindergartner in the school district or in a neighboring school district, it's always close. And they're always picking it up. We had one picking it up out of mommy's purse. But we have to teach them not to touch them because they're not toys. That was the hope, and to present it in a creative way, because one thing is it says is "remember don't touch it" and the pictures have don't touch signs in it every other page. You give them a situation where they play video games, and they shoot all the people, and they fall down and they get up in the next round. But in real life, they're not going to get up in the next round. It's not a toy and it's not something you should pick up. You should never aim it at a person, you should always tell an adult.

Aissa: Do you plan on continuing to write with Team Shipman, do you have any plans for the next five years.

Cheryl: I've considered another, but I don't have all the content, all the words haven't come together yet.

Aissa: So it's in progress.

Cheryl: Yes.

Aissa: So have you read the Malcolm and Mahlia story?

Cheryl: I only read the rough draft. I thought it was really cool. And I have a copy of the finished product, but I haven't had the chance to read all of it. It looks like it's much longer than what I actually read as a draft. But I thought it was really good, it's so different from the books for the smaller children but, so many kids now are so into superheroes and, its family and they're all superheroes and different things happen. I like imagination, sometimes I don't feel like I have a whole lot of it so I love when I get to see someone else's imagination and creativity. And it's pretty cool, I've got a break the next couple of business days, so maybe I'll get a chance to read it.

Aissa: What do you think your superpower is?

Cheryl: (Thinking out loud) What is my superpower? (pause) Making sure things get done.

Aissa: So you'd be a super organizer?

Cheryl: Yeah, making sure the ball doesn't drop. So that everything keeps moving.

Aissa: Do you relate to the not the typical family dynamic as in Robinsons' story?

Cheryl: Yeah, I think we all kind of have that kind of story in a sense because to achieve anything you kinda sort of have to stick together, in order to make something happen. So, in that respect, I can relate to it, you know mom, or grandma, or grandad, doing something superheroic that does something to protect us, or rescue us from a situation. I definitely can relate to that, in that way.

Aissa: If you could choose a superpower what would it be?

Cheryl: Maybe to disappear.

Aissa: Why?

Cheryl: Maybe to be invisible, because you can see what's really there when no one's looking. In every situation, and get to know the raw truth about everything, everything that you encounter, just by being invisible, I think that would be cool.

***





I spoke with Prudence Williams who not only is the woman behind the man but takes the stage herself. She is creating "Ruby Smiles" a children's book series, and she is also co-author of "Mahlia and Malcolm, The Robinsons."

Aissa: So, are you in Atlanta?

Prudence: Right outside of Atlanta we're in Ellenwood Georgia, we're probably 15 minutes from the airport.

Aissa: First, how long have you been with Team Shipman, and what is your role with the company?

Prudence: Me and Dr. Shipman, created Team Shipman about five years ago. We were co-workers, we had a friendship, and we both shared our love of writing and poetry, and we started sharing writings. and he said, "I always wanted to write a book" and I said, "well write one," and he said he wanted to write a book about his early years as a young teacher. Being an African American male whose over six feet tall teaching kindergartners. And you know, how much fun he had and how much he loved it. And I encouraged him, and he gave me a rough copy a handwritten rough copy, and I told him, and I say this forever, "I can write anything I'm an incredible writer," I don't have a story to tell. I have no story to tell that has always been my limitation with my writing. So, I tend to do a lot of editing and stuff, so I edited to it for him and I fleshed it out, and we fleshed it out and we went back and forth, and he did the research on, well we tried to publish. We tried to go through the traditional routes and learned that that was a nightmare. Traditional publishers are not necessarily interested in helping young and new writers. They want sensational hits, and I get it, so we went the self-publishing route, and he did the research, and the next thing we know we had a book.

Aissa: Well congratulations, so you're an editor and a writer?

Prudence: I ended up editing his first book, since then my role has changed, I write, we co-write together. I'm a sounding board for him I definitely deal with the actual management, the day-to-day management of Team Shipman. Making sure the books are sent, looking at sales, those kinds of things, so I guess I would be the VP, I'm more of the VP now.

Aissa: Okay, so what's your favorite book so far?

Prudence: I will always like the Christmas celebrations, it is a very sweet tale, and it's something in the American public school system, Christmas holidays are a big thing, especially in kindergarten, you're excited, you're old enough to understand what Christmas is, it's two weeks off from school, you're going to miss your friends you’re going to miss your teacher and so it's a great book.

Aissa: And what's your favorite part of the business.

Prudence: Writing, I have one book myself under Team Shipman, "Ruby Smiles" about our dog, and I co-authored our last book with him "The Adventures of Mahalia and Malcolm" it's again one of those great stories, but he was having trouble with the timeline. It's a teen book and it's 125 pages. I jumped in after he put together the story and I said okay let's flesh this out, and I really do like doing it. I like doing the research, making sure everything is correct, everything's fixed, continuity, all of those things I really do enjoy doing.

Aissa: And what have you learned so far from being in the business, and what would you change about it?

Prudence: I've learned that writing a book is not enough, being a good writer is not enough. You have to be willing to hear others' criticism of your writing, and be willing to take it to heart, and adjust and make those changes, for the betterment of the product. I have learned that I'm a much better writer than I thought, I am very shy about my writing. I would prefer nobody knows that I'm writing but my husband and our CEO gets me out there he's constantly pushing me to do it. Now let's see the second part what would I change? I would change people's opinions of books; I'm a teacher and I teach middle school and I have so many middle schoolers who are poor readers. And I know from having a teacher as a parent being in the business for so many years, that reading and holding books is so important. It teaches more than reading comprehension. It teaches patience, it teaches skills of foreshadowing, guessing, figuring things out, being able to go back and go hey, did I read that right for chapters ago, going back and finding it. It is the baseline of all learning reading. And I just don't think the world right now is giving our little ones are K through eighth grade enough books. I am not anti-technology in fact I agree that technology should be there. But I also think not enough time is spent going outside, finding a good chair, reading a book. Going to your room curl up in a blanket, read a book. I don't think kids read enough, I think the value of that is gone, and so it becomes very difficult to encourage sales in a culture that is slowly going away from the art of reading books. And I don't have a problem with a Kindle, but I do think there is something special about turning a page.

Aissa: Me too. So, you co-wrote the Robinsons?

Prudence: Yes, we co-wrote them together We sent them out at probably like ten days, he had what he wanted he knew what the story was, and he gave it to me, and I was like yeah, this is an overview of a story this is not a story. And I was working on another project at that time, my second book, and I put down my second book, we both had six weeks of summer vacation and we probably had used two of those weeks to just relax, after the school year you're tired, and I sat down with him and over a two-week period, I opened a word document and we literally just sat down and through chewed through that in ten days. And it's a really good book it's getting great reviews, it's selling pretty good and it's only been out since February the 2nd was its launch day and it's going well, and nothing but good reviews. I had a couple of my students, cause like I said it's a tween book. We were aiming for probably ages 9 to 12. And I had a sixth grader, a couple of sixth-graders elevens read it, and they really enjoyed it I'm getting great feedback. He had some of his fifth graders read it, and you know we're kind of proud of ourselves here, kind of proud of it. We said we're going to sit down either during spring break or summer vacation and do the second series.

Aissa: Congratulations on its success.

Prudence: Thank you

Aissa: And you said you're going to do a second series of the Robinsons?

Prudence: Yes, we're going to be starting on the second one.

Aissa: So how do you relate to the "not a typical family" dynamic in the Robinsons, is it anything personal?

Prudence: It wasn't for me, I like I said I don't have a story, but when I was writing it and helping him get his story out, it is his story I am just the strong writer, I am a stronger writer he will acknowledge it, I acknowledge it, he's a stronger storyteller. But it’s a brother and a sister, and I'm the baby of the family, even though I'm 50 I'm the baby, I have an older brother and sister and I used a lot of the dialogue, I understood, my husband's an only child, and sometimes he doesn't quite catch the nuances of siblings. That's like the most serious love-hate relationship there ever was, your brother and your sister. I was like these kids have superpowers, but Mahalia is the oldest her job no matter what is to protect her brother. She knows a couple of things, she loves him, she knows that if she lets her brother get in trouble or hurt she's going to get in trouble and so I was like, it's just one of those things, being the baby, you know you always do more than you should, cause you're the baby and the baby just does, I am the baby, so I know that feeling. My sister is my best friend and I also get now that we're adults, how many times in my life she has stepped out to protect me. Protect me from myself and from others so I used that dynamic of having a brother too who is older than me, their protectiveness and then their sheer frustration with me, and even anger with me, and irritation with actually having to have me around, you know the little sister following around. So I think I did a good job of pulling that one off and helping him understand siblings, that's a different relationship.



Aissa: Okay, so what do you think your superpower is in real life?

Prudence: I'm a teacher, and I taught middle school 6th, 7th, or 8th grade that would be 11 through 14, for 28 years. And truthfully my first class was only 5 years younger than me when I taught them, which is weird I was 21 and they were just 12, so they were 5 years younger than me, so my first group is 40 years old now, and I still keep up with quite a few of them and I think that building those relationships, and being able to not be irritated by middle schoolers, they are a lot, they are a whole lot. They ask the strangest questions, do the strangest things, but they're very lovable and I've enjoyed it and sometimes when I see teachers run out of the building literally, vowing never to ever teach or deal with middle schoolers again, threatening kids, trying to fight children and I'm like, no they love me and I love them, and that is a superpower and the fact that I can hold on to them. This year I'm very proud to say I have a senior who's an intern, who was a former student of mine, she asked to come back to my class, she's in a magnet program and she's already technically graduated from high school, she has all her course work, so she gets to do this internship and she comes back and helps me in my science class, I'm just so excited, I think that's a superpower I think that, that particular age group, 14, 13 get such a bad rap but I can't imagine a day without them.

Aissa: If you could choose a superpower, what would you choose?

Prudence: I would want to be able to hear people's thoughts. I do this thing, my family laughs at me, but I do this thing, we'll be at the mall or a restaurant and I'll say, "you want me to tell you their story" and I'll see a couple or a family and I'll make up these stories about them, I've done it my whole life and everybody finds it hilarious. I do it with my students I make up these stories, I wish I could hear their inner thoughts so I could know if I were right or wrong.

Aissa: So, you'd tell everybody's business?

Prudence: No, I think I would use it to better them, or if they needed a pop on the hand I'd give them a mental pop.

Aissa: What positive impact do you see with the adventures of Mahalia and Malcolm on your readers, I know it was just released, so also any of the books you've written, is there any positive impact you've seen?

Prudence: We have readers all over the country now, I think we're in every state and we're very excited about that, so I don't always know who my readers are. But what I do hope that it does, is one of the things when we first started talking about books, both of us are avid readers I read all the time, I'm always reading. And we both said we wanted to draw a picture of African American livelihood and life that was normal. Just typical, kids going to school learning their letters and older sister teaching her little brother something, parents having family dinners, parents fighting for each other in a positive way, encouragement of school and education. We wanted to normalize the good things that we know are good about African American families we want to normalize it. I think a lot of times when you look at the media and see African Americans, it is an exaggeration of our best and our worst the super bowl is on now and I'm not a football fan, but I looked at it and said wow look at that about 100 black men doing great things. Positive making money, yay! you know the singers that's great but that's our best. And then you look at the news and you see the absolute worst. What we wanted, I want kids of all colors all races all ethnicities to read these books and realize that black families are just like all other families. They celebrate Christmas, they celebrate Hanukkah, they celebrate Kwanzaa, whatever their religious beliefs are, moms run the show in everybody's homes, sisters and brothers, little boys get scared big sisters hug them and make them feel better. We wanted to normalize that the first day of school is rough for the whole family and it's also a poignant day a memorable day. If you have more than one kid, you always look back. You always remember each child's first day. I remember my son's first day of school, I was a teacher, and I told my principal I'm going to be late; I have to get my baby to his kindergarten class and it's a big deal. And I have a picture of him he's got a book bag on his shoulders and he is so proud of himself. It's a big deal in every family and we wanted to normalize, I think sometimes as an African American you struggle to say that's what our family does, at six o'clock we sit down and eat dinner too. We have bad days we have good days, it's just life it's normal. And so, I think even with Malcolm and Mahalia, they have superpowers, but the opening scene is Sunday dinner at Grandma's. How normal is that? It is no matter what you've got going on. Everybody does a special dinner sometimes. At somebody special's house. And we wanted to show that this is normal life. One of our household's sayings is finish the drill, we're a wrestling family we have 3 wrestlers out of 4 boys. And that was always one of the things, finish the drill, you start you finish, and go and do-good things. And that's what we hope, to normalize the use of African American families and the idea that what you start you finish.

Aissa: What do you hope to accomplish as a part of Team Shipman in the next five years?

Prudence: Our goal is, or my goal is to get my series "Ruby Smiles" a Ruby series. "Ruby Smiles" is the first book, about our dog, she's a hoot she's hilarious she's about 150 pounds of love. She's an Alaskan dog in Georgia, she refuses to go outside in the summer. And she refuses to come inside when it's like 30 degrees outside. And I'm using Ruby again for that normalization and telling a story. I'm also working on a series of workbooks. Kids aren't able to write the way we want them to because they're on a keyboard so much now. I think only 19 states in the United States mandate cursive writing, so a lot of kids get to middle school and don't know how to sign their name, they're still block printing it, so these are things I really hope my work can help parents at home, give them the resources and tools to get their kids how to sign their names, how important is that?

Aissa: Why did you decide to name the family the Robinsons, when there are other Robinsons like the "Lost in Space" series.

Prudence: So, all of the names in the book hold historical African American references. The Robinsons, if I'm not mistaken was for Jackie Robinson, my husband is a big baseball fan. Malcolm X, Mahalia Jackson, even down to some of the weapons they use, we use a lot of historical references in it. As we continue to argue and combat about critical race theory in America, and the looting of the US history curriculum as it deals anything other than traditional mainstream culture, we wanted to put things in that if maybe their parents read it to them, they'd go well who is Mahalia and that conversation would start. Once you realize that these are all historical names maybe they'll start looking it up or asking their parents about the importance of these people in our history.

***



When interviewing Terance Shipman the founder and CEO of Shipman publishing, we met via zoom. He was at home at the helm of his spaceship (he used the deck of a spaceship as his background) quite literally and figuratively.

Aissa: So, how long have you had your company, Shipman Publishing, and what is your exact title?

Terance: This is the fifth-year anniversary, my exact title is I guess CEO.

Aissa: And what's your favorite book so far that you've published?

Terance: It's a toss-up it's really hard to say it's like naming your favorite child. So, I'm going to give you three, "December Celebrations" "First Day off School" and "Mahalia and Malcolm..." Those three.

Aissa: And Mahalia and Malcolm that was just released this year?

Terance: Yes February first. And that was written by me and my wife.

Aissa: I interviewed your wife, I was was a little confused, because she never explicitly said Terance is my husband. What is your favorite part of the business?

Terance: It has to be, going out and meeting people. And I think that's been hurting a lot the last two or three years because of Covid. I haven't had the ability to go out and see those rations and meet people. It's my favorite part but it's the part I have not had the opportunity to do in the last two years.

Aissa: So, what do you do, go out and do marketing, book signings?

Terance: I kind of leave bookstores alone now.

(We laugh)

Terance: And I'm going to get off-topic for one second, I keep saying I'm going, and I think I'm going to do it this summer, I'm going to write a book on publishing, from the black perspective because I think it's totally different. I just think a lot of the things I've researched or learned while I was building the business, just doesn't apply in our community, in one form or fashion. And it's not a good thing and it's not a bad thing, it's just it doesn't work. I guess my second favorite part of the business is marketing. My wife says I've really gotten good at it. I do a lot of marketing on Facebook, social media. Sometimes texts, sometimes email marketing. A lot of that text and email marketing don't do too much work. And you read all these books on how to market and they say, yeah do email marketing do text marketing. Some people respond some people don't some people will unsubscribe you really quick, and others will tell you stop texting me, people that you've known a long time, and it just doesn't work. So, a lot of what you watch on the videos and they tell you to do this, do that, You've got to come up with your own ways of marketing invent your own ways of marketing and do what works best for you.

Aissa: So social media is what works best for Team Shipman?

Terance: Yes, I think social media does, and I'm on everything except Snapchat. And I play around with Tik Tok.

Aissa: What have you learned from the business and what would you change about it, maybe we've already talked about this.

Terance: Yeah, what I'm still learning is that everybody doesn't want to read. And that's the hard part. You know, trying to get people to buy your book. Trying to find that, that group of people that will buy your book, that's the hardest thing. Your niche, whether with "Mr. Shipman's Kindergarten Chronicles" or Mahalia and Malcolm but finding that niche of people that will buy your book, reaching across this country or reaching across this world, I think a few days ago, I sold a book in Great Britain, I was just so happy, I was like yes, I sold a book in Great Britain. Just trying to find that niche, that group of people that will give you a chance. I think being an independent author and publisher is really hard. Because the major book companies, and Amazon, they pretty much keep you, I have to say in your place. They only allow you to rise so far. You would have to sell a lot of books, to make a lot of money. Even through amazon, it's just really hard to do it. It's hard for an independent publishing company and artist to rise up and get people to notice you across the country and the world.

Aissa: Would you switch to another publishing company, or do you like being your own boss and making all the marketing decisions yourself?

Terance: We have that conversation often if somebody approached me and said hey, we'll give you such and such money for your books. It depends on how much control you've got to give up. I would research first and look at other independent artists and see what kind of deals they made. And again, what rights would I have to give up. And that's the biggest thing. Would you have to give up your print rights? I know some artists give up their total print rights but keep their eBook rights or audiobook rights. They keep certain rights so they can still generate money. Or they, if every book sells for ten dollars you get a dollar or maybe fifty cents off of it. Is that a lot of money, you don't know? So, I would really have to do my research before I would say, okay I'll sell. But I kind of like being independent.

Aissa: Okay, so in the Robinsons how do you relate to not being a typical family type dynamic?

Terance: They have superpowers, but they're kind of quiet about it, that's keeping them from being the typical family. They are a typical family with teenagers and family dynamics that happen, you know the daughter's upset with the father it happens. The children are just normal kids, but it's that little thing they have, they have superpowers that separate them from other families.

Aissa: How do you relate to that dynamic? In what way do you relate to that dynamic?

Terance: I relate to it in... You've stumped me on that question. In my 20 years of teaching, I see each person, I've seen Malcolm, I've taught Malcolm and Mahalia, I understand the mother's role, the father's role. When I'm making videos about the book, I tell people it starts with family, that's the first thing. In Team Shipman Publishing most of my kids have worked in it, so I relate that way. It's revenge, we don't have revenge in our family, but you can relate to the emotion of revenge or when you read books or see movies, people will do stuff because of revenge. And love, love is the big thing. That holds the family together that's the drive to hey, we have to go get our grandfather.

Aissa: And what do you think your superpower is in real life?

Terance: Intelligence.

Aissa: Intelligence, that's a good one. So if you could choose a superpower what would you choose?

Terance: I think the ability to control minds.



Aissa: Control minds, so you'd control people, would you do good with that would you change people for the better?

Terance: For the better, not to make things change. I Think about Professor X, you'll be doing something, he'll do that then you'll be doing something else.

Aissa: What positive impact do you see Mahalia and Malcolm making on young readers.

Terance: I think kids being able to see themselves. And you see kids of color as superheroes. It starts with them just at home they were sitting at home just having dinner and all of a sudden boom a big explosion happened. And they were forced into this. Or they knew they had powers but the whole time they were taught how to control their powers, and this one time they needed to use their powers to help out. To see two kids similar to them with superpowers. But not that the superpowers are the main thing. Again, it goes back to the family and the love aspect of it.

Aissa: What do you hope your work will achieve?

Terance: The book will achieve? I hope honestly one day it ends up as a movie, animation, or live-action film. And people across the world will read. People have already read it and just love it and can't wait for the second one. And so that's the thing that excites me about it. And the second one's already written we just have to make some changes. But we're ready.

Aissa: What do you hope to accomplish within the next five years?

Terance: For my team to grow. Hopefully, we get to a point where a\the bookstores are buying our books and putting them in there. And we're across the country, I go to Walmart, I see my book in Walmart. Again, maybe in five years, we'll see the book on television, that's my goal.

Aissa: Do you think that television reaches a broader audience?

Terance: It definitely does. Television and especially the movies I used to be an assistant manager at the movie theater. Movies do something to us that no other medium does. I think it allows us to escape, it allows us to be someone else, it allows us to see other stories. Television can do it, but it's nothing like sitting and seeing something on the big screen. Movies are special.

Aissa: And I asked your wife this, but I'm going to ask it again why you named the family the Robinsons when there's other Robinsons.

Terance: After Jackie Robinson. He's one of my heroes, number 42.

Aissa: Okay, well that's all of my questions is there anything you'd like to add?

Terance: A lot of people ask me if we're going to have new authors, maybe after the first half of the year. After the first six months because right now we're busy. And when you bring someone in that's new, they have to realize I will promote you for the first month, after that you really have to promote yourself. I wrote a four-part blog, and every time somebody asks me about getting into the business, I send them all four parts. And let them know do you just want to publish a book, which is easy to do, or do you want to make this a career. There's a difference.

***

So that's the rundown on Team Shipman. I hope this gives new insights to all of those who have read the books. And if you haven't there's no time like the present.












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