ATPE Teacher Spotlight: Martha C. Rico
Date Posted: 3/28/2023
Martha C. Rico, educator, author, and ATPE member from Ysleta ISD in El Paso recently published a children’s book titled This Is the Library. It is available on xlibris.com and through Amazon and Barnes & Noble in two formats: softcover and eBook.
ATPE sat down with Rico to talk about her first book, her love of reading, and what’s next in her journey as an author.
Tell us about your book, This Is the Library.
The book is about visiting the public library and the people you meet there. It was mostly written from memories I have of riding the bus from UTEP to the public library as a college student. There was always a variety of people there.
What inspires you to write?
Having read many, many books over my career as an elementary librarian and kindergarten teacher, I felt like it was something I could do as well. Talk to any librarian, and most will tell you they have a book idea or two floating around in their heads! And of course, the love of reading is an inspiration in itself to become a writer.
What is your writing process like?
It’s hard to say, as this is my first writing experience. One day, I started writing some lines down for what eventually became This Is the Library. As an elementary librarian, I had read several books with a similar format, and I knew that is how I wanted my story to turn out. During COVID-19, I decided I needed to finish the story and get it published. I found an editor online, then moved to finding an illustrator. I asked several “artsy” friends, but everyone had other projects to work on. Just by chance, I found Mr. Limon [illustrator Jorge Limon] through his wife, a colleague of mine. We met several times over the course of about a year until we finally had a finished manuscript.
What was it like working with an illustrator?
It was a bit rough, only because each of us had full-time jobs at the time. Mr. Limon has since retired from the U.S. Border Patrol. His first career was as a teacher and soccer coach. He was very easy to work with and came up with the concept for the type of illustrations we used. It was exciting to see the words I had written come together with his digital illustrations!
Can you tell us about your experience getting published?
I was a bit hesitant about sending out the manuscript to big publishing companies, so I decided to go with an independent publishing company, Xlibris. I found it online among many other companies. When the package I thought would fit my needs was on sale, I went for it!
What is your favorite childhood book?
That is a tough question because I have so many. I really enjoyed reading Beverly Cleary’s books growing up. I still have a few books from my childhood. My parents would give us books for Christmas, and we always made trips to the public library, especially in the summers. One of my favorite books from that time is Snoopy Come Home and A Sesame Street Cookbook.
I have many favorite book characters, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Madeline, Frog and Toad, and Corduroy. I enjoy Lois Ehlert’s and Lucy Cousins’ stories—mainly for their simplistic and colorful illustrations.
Do you have any other writing projects in the works?
I have a title for the next book already. It will be called The Many Faces of Martha” or Martha’s All-Around” I am envisioning a nonfiction book about famous and not-so-famous Marthas from history. You don’t hear about too many women named Martha, so I figure it will be an interesting subject to write about.
Do you have advice for other educators that would like to get published?
It sounds cliché, but do your homework! Do a bit of research on children’s books or
whichever genre you are interested in writing about. Get advice from other authors or join an
online forum or in-person group. This is something I wish I had done prior to publishing my
book, but I guess I was too stubborn and maybe a bit shy about my story.
Fun fact: Anyone who knows Martha knows that she has a bit of an obsession with the Peanuts characters, especially Snoopy! If you look through her book, you might find him hidden somewhere.
Congratulations, Martha—we look forward to reading your next book!