When I saw this meme I immediately had to screenshot and share because it sums up my life as a 24 y/o perfectly (you can add in motherhood as well).
Meanwhile, these 2 young sisters Olivia Lauren and Alyssa Simone not only juggle school, music, athletics, modelling & acting (to name a few) but also founded Lauren Simone Publishing (LSP) House last year and write their own books as well.
Lauren Simone Publishing House’s mission is to "publish the works of diverse authors and illustrators, thereby creating literature for all to enjoy". It also aims to increase literacy and provide a platform for young talent. All LSP House books are co-written and illustrated by young creatives aged 10 to 25.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Olivia Lauren, Alyssa Simone and their mom Melissa about their past year. Check out the 'view below!
Starting a publishing company is impressive! What motivated you to create Lauren Simone Publishing House? How has the past year been for you?
Olivia Lauren: As a child model and actor, I get to experience a lot of different things that my classmates do not. For example in one week I did a model casting, a voice over audition, booked an acting gig. I met fashion designers, casting directors, audio technicians, sound engineer, producers, screenwriters, and movie directors. I wanted my friends to share my experience. So my mom and I came up with idea of writing ‘Occupations A to Z’. There are more to jobs than just doctor, lawyer, and police.
I also get to go to NY, Boston, Providence, NJ, and have been to London and Jamaica. Some of my friends have never left the state or been in any transportation other than a school bus or car. This inspired us to write ‘Olivia Travels’. People often ask me how did I become an actor. So we wrote ‘Guide to becoming an actor’. Then we decide to self publish so we created our own publishing company.
Melissa: It is very difficult for nontraditional authors to get their work published by traditional publishing companies. Self publishing is the way to go. But some people just want to write and not have to deal with the formatting, publishing, and marketing. That's where we come in. We offer independent and nontraditional authors an inexpensive way to publish children's literature that promote diversity, multiculturalism, and youth. The past year has been amazing in the sense we published 5 books and published essays in an edited volume. We have a website, social media, and over 500 followers in 7 months. We have done 3 book signings and 3 read alouds. The marketing, however, has been challenging. I am a teacher, researcher and writer. I don't have business training, but I'm learning.
You mentioned that you wanted to write stories to teach and empower children that look like you. Why is this important to you?
Alyssa Simone: I grew up experiencing Disney princess Tiana, having beautiful black dolls, and President Obama. So my experience is different from someone who never had a positive role model or images. I think we should learn to love everyone no matter what they look like, but first you have to learn to love yourself. In this way, representation is important.
Olivia Lauren: It's important to me because we all have stories to tell and some we can relate to and others we do not.
Melissa: I am a social psychologist working on a grant to design a curriculum for pre k students. The curriculum uses children's literature to teach problem solving and engineering design principles. I am also a mother of two daughters and value education. I was disheartened by the lack of books with diverse characters with main roles. In my psychology of gender class I have my students look at children's book and they, as well as, research conclusively show that most children's books have white boys or animals as main characters. Representation is important in developing healthy children.
You’re quite the busy bee! How are you able to juggle acting, modeling, school & being an author and publisher?
Olivia Lauren: School always comes first. Modeling only happens two times a year during fashion week (summer and fall). With my acting gigs, sometimes I am very busy and then some weeks it's slow. Also I don't go to every audition unless it something to boost my career. Being an author is convenient, we write anywhere: on the train, at home, or while waiting on set. This summer i'm also blogging about some of the books I read. Being a publisher is still new and we enjoy working with the Dowe Twins and are looking forward to new talent to join our team.
Melissa: When you do what you love it doesn't seem tedious. Being busy makes you feel like you are accomplishing your goals. But it's also important during the slow times to find rest. Few people have successfully achieved work life balance. My job as a professor allows me the flexibility to take my children to castings and bookings. I teach two classes and can work from anywhere writing lectures, exams, and research presentations, and articles. Because it's a family affair, we get to enjoy it together. Last summer, the whole family did I love NY tourism commercial. That was a lot of fun.
Who is your role model(s) and why?
Olivia Lauren: I have two role models: Michelle Obama and Skye Jackson. Michelle and Skye have accomplished a lot and are positive role models for young girls. Michelle encourages girls to be healthy, active and classy, "When they go low, we go high". Skye inspires me as an actor as she is funny, sweet, pretty and awesome. Also she wears her natural hair and shows girls to be themselves.
Alyssa Simone: My role model is Zendaya. She is a singer, actor, and has her own clothing line. I'm a student who acts, models, runs track, and plays violin. Girl empowerment is showing young girls we can do it all if we are willing to work for it.
Melissa: Hmm. I never quite thought of this before. I admire Terry McMillian as a writer. I admire Lisa Nichols as a finance guru. I admire my friend, Tashni Dubroy who has a PhD in chemistry and a MBA and at 36 became the president of Shaw University and now moving to Howard University, while co-owning a hair care line and hair salon. I admire film writer, Shonda Rhimes. I admire Nyandah Robinson and Shaneika Burchell-Kerr for leaving their stable full time employment to start her own business relying on their faith in Christ. I admire women who go back to college after starting their families. I admire women who start charities and are involved in philanthropic activities like my friends, Tanesha Mcken, who raises and donate money and goods to schools. I admire my sisters, Melanie Aiken, Alicia Angus, Alethea Angus, and Rose-Anne Uwague who serve each other as accountability partners. We check in on each other to make sure we read daily and make strides towards the goals we put on our vision boards.
I guess my role model is any African American woman who puts God first, works really hard, loves and cares for their families, maintains integrity, and gives back to their communities.
Out of the 3 books you've authored so far, which one has been the most fun to write? Are you working on any other books currently?
Olivia: ‘Olivia Travels’ is my favorite book. It is easy to read, has rhymes, and teaches lessons. It teaches homonyms and allows children to see spelling is important. Words that sound the same don't always have the same meaning or spelling. Also it is like a memory book of my life because most of the illustrations were taken from actual family pictures.
Alyssa: ‘Olivia Travels’ is my favorite. It's easy to read and Niquey did a great job with illustrations. I'm working on a teen novel.
Melissa: We have two books being illustrated. One is a multicultural approach on the things we wear and the other teaches children about ways we communicate and devices we use to communicate. We are also working on a book about animal habitats. In the curriculum I told you about I read a lot of books and didn't see diverse characters. This was fun to write. I watched Zootopia after writing it and thought a lot of kids probably missed that the names of the cities were biomes! I am scientist at the core, so I'm always looking for ways to teach children about STEM. My daughters, Alyssa and Olivia, and illustrators, Simonne, Zachary, Niquey and Leo are the ones with the talent to bring our stories alive.
I've seen that you have started working with other children authors like the Dowe Twins, what are some of your goals for LSP House?
Melissa: The Dowe Twins are a very important part of our journey. We actually met them on the set of Sneaky Pete. While the children did their scenes, the parents got acquainted. A.K. Dowe told me she wanted to publish children's books she had already written with her twins. I told her that was a dream of mine too. Her kids inspired me because they had a brand. This really influenced me to overcome my fears and help my children develop their brand. That's when our collaboration began. No more wanting and wishing, but acting and doing.
Do you have any advice for aspiring children authors?
Olivia: My advice is to keep on trying and not let others discourage you no matter how old you are. No one is perfect. Writing takes practice.
Alyssa: I started my book based on a dream I had. I guess my advice is write about the things you dream about.
I don’t know about you but I am simply in awe of how amazing these young girl bosses are! Not only have they started their own business and are showcasing their talents but are also creating opportunities for others to do the same as well.
I have no doubt that they will continue to do great and definitely looking forward to seeing them and Lauren Simone Publishing House flourish (and just like Taraji & Janelle, I'll be cheering them on)!