Shirin Bridges’s belief that girls can do anything they set their minds to became the basis for the creation of Goosebottom Books and its first series, The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses, which includes six middle-grade titles by Bridges, illustrated by Albert Nguyen. The series launched in November.
Bridges, who was a creative director in advertising for 20 years before starting Goosebottom, considers herself a feminist writer and integrates that philosophy in her storytelling. “There’s a way for girls and women to be determined and creative without being confrontational,” she says. “Most of my writing is about girls who manage to do what few people think is possible.” The princesses in her Thinking Girl’s series, including Isabella of Castile, Nur Jahan of India, and Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman, all had to overcome barriers in order to achieve their goals. The 24-page hardcover books are priced at $18.95 and illustrated with photographs, maps, and Nguyen’s watercolor paintings.
As a publisher Goosebottom, which is based in Foster City, Calif., is set up more as a cooperative than a traditional business model. “We’re our own little like-minded club of individuals,” Bridges notes. Her team includes developmental editor Amy Novesky, formerly with Chronicle Books and Bridges’s editor on Ruby’s Wish (2002, illustrated by Sophie Blackall); and designer Jay Mladjenovic. “I gave myself two years to find my bearings with Goosebottom,” Bridges says, “and things are pretty much on schedule.”
She chose to write the first six books herself, but in the future Bridges will enlist the voices of other writers and scale back that part of her commitment to the company. “The more authors we have, the more freedom I’ll have to actually run the business,” she says, adding that she is currently focusing on publicity and promotion. The print run of the first six books was 5,000 copies each; Goosebottom is available through Baker & Taylor, Book Wholesalers, Inc.; and Follett Library Resources. Bridges is currently in discussions with PGW about a possible distribution deal.
Next up for the press is the Dastardly Dames series, all six titles to be illustrated by Peter Malone (Close To the Wind; Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf), which will release this October. The Dames will include Marie Antoinette: Madame Deficit by Liz Hockinson; Agrippina: Atrocious and Ferocious, which Bridges is writing; Mary Tudor: Bloody Mary by Gretchen Maurer; and Cixi: The Dragon Empress, by Natasha Yim. A third Thinking Girl’s series will launch in 2012.
Bridges will be speaking at Illinois State University as part of its Spring Speaker Series, the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, and the International Board on Books for Young People regional conference in Fresno, Calif. “We’re going to focus much of our publicity efforts around Women’s History Month in March,” Bridges says, “and I’ll be doing an East Coast tour of independent bookstores in Philadelphia, D.C., Rhode Island, Maine, and New York.” Goosebottom is also a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association, through which a 4,000-piece mailing will be sent to K-12 educators next month. In addition, a teacher’s guide to the Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses will be available for distribution in February.
Bridges, who is also the author of The Umbrella Queen (Greenwillow, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo), says that Goosebottom’s mission is to inspire girls with intriguing true stories about real woman, and educate them at the same time. “I’d like to have our young readers become part of our sneaky plan to empower thinking girls to rule the universe. I’m going to prove it myself!”