As published by Reel Girl

After Jezebel posted about Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013 and the general lack of narratives for kids with strong female protagonists, I received a Tweet from In This Together Media. That’s a publishing company founded by best friends Carey Albertine and Saira Rao, with a goal to put out smart, funny Middle Grade and Young Adult books starring complex, believable, female protagonists.

Intrigued and excited, I interviewed co-founder Carey Albertine.

clausWhy did you create In This Together Media?
We started In This Together Media to publish better quality books for and about girls– stories where the main character’s whole reason for being isn’t to be kissed, or the other extreme, to be some kind of superchick. We wanted to broaden the narrative possibilities, and that comes from more layered, nuanced characters.

 What is the mission of ITTM?
First and foremost, we publish GREAT stories. And we strive to show the girls’ and women in our books– and their relationships with each other– in an authentic way. Organizations like Miss Representation and The Geena Davis
Institute are doing fantastic work to raise awareness on the issue of gender representation in the media. We see our part as putting out better content.

How many books are available now?

We have three books out right now– Soccer Sisters: Lily Out of Bounds, Mrs. Claus and the School of Christmas Spirit, and Playing Nice. We have another 10-15 in development for 2013-2014. Most are for Middle-Grade and Young Adult audiences but we also have an Early Chapter book series in development.

Where can you buy them?

Both the print and digital versions are available on Amazon. Very soon, you will be able to get them on all the major platforms. Plus, supporting local
libraries and independent bookstores is very important to us and we are broadening our presence in both.

How are they selling?

We are thrilled (and humbled) by how well things are going so far. Soccer Sisters is a middle-grade series that is catching on with soccer playing and
non-soccer playing readers alike. The author and the series’ spokesperson, Brandi Chastain, were on The Today Show not long ago promoting the book and
we get emails regularly begging for the next installment.  Mrs. Claus was the #1 Christmas Kids’ Books on Amazon for most of December. And Playing
Nice has over 70 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Teenagers love it but so do 30 somethings who can relate to the travails of high school!

Do your books have a consistent theme or characteristics?

We like all kinds of stories from Adventure to Contemporary Fiction to Fantasy. But I think the one thing that ties all of our books together, besides the female characters, is humor. We like books and writers who make us laugh.

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How did you and your partner come up with the idea for he company? You both had several other jobs in media. Did your previous professional experience help you to see the need for ITTM and is ITTM your full time job now?

It all started when Saira asked me to meet up for drinks to discuss conceiving of the next Dora the Explorer.  Yes, we realize how hubristic that must sound!  One year and a thousand iterations later, In This Together Media was born. It is hard to imagine anything more fun than sitting around and coming up with stories with one of your oldest and dearest friends.

We’ve both had a few different careers on the way to figuring out what we wanted to be when we grow up from stand-up comedienne to lawyer to television news producer to published author. Strangely enough, these different experiences have given us the tools we needed to be successful. And being mothers hasn’t hurt either. We share a deep love for reading and  writing and stories.

Where do you see ITTM in 5 years? Do you plan to expand beyond books into
TV, movies, toys, apps, clothing?

World domination. Just kidding.  But seriously, we create stories that we think can live and grow on a lot of different platforms. So, yes, we expect to expand into movies and TV, toys and maybe things we can’t even dream about today. We think BIG. We could definitely be accused of having delusions of grandeur!

Do you see a lack of strong female protagonists in MG and YA books?

I think YA and MG books have more female protagonists than television or movies. And there are great examples of interesting, strong girls in some of these books. But I am troubled by the YA trend of innocent naif meets worldy-beyond-his-years young man made famous by a certain Vampire series. I don’t think Romance has to be THE driving plot of every YA book. I also find that the way female relationships are portrayed is not authentic to my own experience. I have met few mean girls– mostly, my friends have been the most important support system in my life. We don’t want to whitewash or show perfect girls and relationships. We just want them to feel real.

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I love this question and response from your site: “Do I have to be a girl to read your books or a woman to write with/for you? Absolutely not! Our stories are compelling thrill rides that appeal to girls and boys alike. And we welcome writers with a Y Chromosome to join our team.” One challenge with the “girl empowerment” community, on line and elsewhere, is that many parents assume it’s not about boys at all. But until parents read their sons books with girls and take them to movies about girls, gender segregation will continue and so will stereotyping, along with myths that girls will watch movies about boys but boys won’t watch movies about girls etc. How do you market ITTM and what is your plan, if any, to deal with the gender segregation challenge so intensely aimed at kids today?

Thank you thank you for bringing this up!  It is very important to us to challenge this notion that boys are not interested in stories about girls. How absurd! It would be a sad world if half the population is not interested in the other half. We refuse to accept it. My son loves “boy” stuff but also adores My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake. We hope we can help dismantle the whole notion of “girl” stuff and “boy” stuff.

What are your favorite YA and MG books?

The classics– Roald Dahl and Madeleine L’Engle for Middle-Grade. “Proud Taste of Scarlet and Miniver” by E.L. Konigsberg was one of my favorite books as a girl. And Rick Riordan and the Percy Jackson series deserves every bit of accolades it has received– so good! We have a book club of 4th and 5th graders and they tell me what to read. They are on top of it. I just started S.S. Taylor’s “The Expenditioners” and it is great. For Young Adult, I am about to start “The Fault in Our Stars”. John Green is the man.

Visit in In This Together Media to learn more.

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