Tish Rabe has been working in children’s books since the 1980s, when she wrote “Bert and The Broken Teapot” for an episode of “Sesame Street.” During her career, she became a bestselling author, and wrote over 200 books for Disney, Nickelodeon, PBS Kids and Dr. Seuss. But after several unsuccessful attempts to get major publishing houses to print books with open-ended questions – a style of writing referred to as dialogic reading, which is study-proven to help children learn faster – she opened her own press, Tish Rabe Books, in 2014. In the tumultuous year that was 2020, she saw the need for creating books that would help children and their caregivers discuss topics that weren’t being handled by the major publishers. Today, the Mystic, Connecticut-based writer and entrepreneur is continuing to create and write untold stories for kids.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
My company is smaller, and our creative team is composed of professionals with extensive backgrounds in creating popular, educational children’s media. We are able to turn ideas into books, animations and songs quickly thanks to that expertise, and all our partners have been delighted with the results to date. Many large publishers take years to bring books from creative concept to print – our company can finish the same process in 18 months.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
Our book, “Sweet Dreams Ahead, Time for Bed.” It’s a restful rhyming storybook that features adorable animals children love, an easy-to-sing lullaby and tips for parents and caregivers to make getting ready for bed easy and enjoyable for everyone. It has been translated into Spanish and Ukrainian, and a teacher’s version has been created – one is big enough for daycare teachers to read to their students so they can see the pictures.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
For a decade, I’d simply write my words, then send them off to my editor. Someone else was in charge of hiring illustrators, editing the manuscript, choosing a printer, deciding how many copies to print, etc. I suddenly found myself responsible for the entire production process. So, I surround myself with an extraordinarily creative team who helped me figure things out along the way – it’s made all the difference.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
Sometimes I wish I could clone myself, so I could get everything done. Outside of work, I continue to sing professionally and have my own band that performs in Connecticut and New York City. I have four children and six grandchildren. I am a mom, a step-mom and a grandmother. There are times that juggling all that and running a small business can be overwhelming.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Take a class on how to run a small business! It’s important to know how to do things like setting up the books and paying personnel.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I am beyond proud of what my company is creating to help children and families navigate today’s troubling world. Every day, I think of another book I’d love to write – and then wonder if I’ll have time to do everything. When that happens, I try to focus on the book in front of me at present, which really helps.
What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days?
I started working in the music department of Sesame Street in 1973, during the show’s fourth season. I always loved singing “Being Green,” Kermit’s theme song written by genius composer Joe Raposo. It always motivates me – it’s not only a beautiful song, but it doesn’t have any rhyming lines, which I always thought was amazing.
Who is your most important role model?
Jennifer Perry. She is our executive editor, the director of audio books for Barnes and Noble, and the former vice president and publisher for Sesame Street Books. She joined my company on the first day, and has been instrumental in helping me shape our books ever since. She is consistently upbeat and encouraging. And even though she has a demanding full-time job, she always finds time to work on our projects. She has an inspiring belief that everything will work out – and I have found she is always right! ◼