In May 2011, back when the economy was a bit bleaker than it is today, Marissa Klein was stuck at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Klein, a Hoboken mother and professional headhunter, was a bit down in the dumps; after all, it was both her job and her passion to place people in jobs they loved, but no one was hiring. Furthermore, she was an eight hour delay and 500 miles away from her daughter, to whom she constantly needed to explain the importance of work, and especially working in a job you love.
Another mother at the same terminal was struggling to keep her own kids calm, and so Klein began talking to them, at first about whatever it is kids talk about, but then, like with her own daughter, about work, why we work, and why we try to work in areas we want to work in.
“It wasn’t a time when I was very optimistic about anything, but talking to these kids was really wonderful,” said Klein. “They were so energetic about the different things they wanted do.”
By the time Klein was back in Hoboken, she had formulated the first installment of a children’s series, “The Dream Big Academy.”
“Rosie Wants to be a Fireman,” which she recently self-published and will be promoting at several events throughout Hoboken in the coming months, is the first book in the series.
Rosie’s story, told in rhyme and beautifully illustrated, revolves around her discovery of a fire truck. Soon, Rosie goes to sleep, and dreams of helping the local fire chief rescue a cat. The chief tells her that she can be whatever she wants when she grows up, and she believes him.
The moral of the story, Klein says, isn’t exactly about being a firefighter specifically, but about putting in the work to be whatever you want.
“Rosie is kid like any other,” said Klein. “Tomorrow she could want to be a dancer, and the day after that she could want to be a chef. I want children to read this and think, ‘Hey if I work hard and I have a plan, I can do whatever I want.’”
Fulfilling her own dream
Klein described her childhood as multi-faceted, in terms of her own dreams. At first, she wanted to be in business, an odd but admirable goal for a young child. Then she wanted to be a news reporter, which she did for a while during high school in her native Bergen County. She eventually entered the world of fashion, and now helps others enter that same industry. But her secret dream, she said, was always to be an author.
“I always thought I’d write a novel,” she said. “I never thought I’d write a children’s book.”
As a child, Klein said she read everything that she could get her hands on, and would often walk around the house reading, something that made her parents nervous.
But when she finally wrote “Rosie,” she found the world of publishing to be significantly less easy to navigate than she previously thought. For two years she pitched the story to publishers and agents, with no results. Finally, she decided to self-publish, and with the help of some Hoboken business owners and the Hoboken Mommies community group, she succeeded. She posted the project on Indiegogo and compiled investors.
Jen DeMarco, the owner of Local Barre, a fitness club and dance studio around town, and Todd Bailey, who owns Cugini Kitchen on Washington Street, each contributed $500 to the effort (hence Klein’s plan to have Rosie’s next dreams be to become a dancer and chef), and the Mommies pitched in some publicity.
Klein hired an illustrator she often collaborates with in her day job to put Rosie’s story into pictures, and soon enough, she has secured her first reading, at a preschool on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
“And just as we got to the part about the fireman, there was a fire drill, and a bunch of firemen came inside,” she said. “It was perfect. I couldn’t have scripted it myself. The kids went bananas.”
Inspired by the run in with New York’s Bravest, Klein is trying to woo members of the Hoboken Fire Department into attending her first hometown reading, which will take place at Local Barre, located at 1180 Maxwell Lane, on Saturday, Oct. 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Readings will be held at 9:15 a.m., 10:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m., and 12:15 p.m.
Following that, Klein will read at Kidville, located at 1202 Shipyard Lane on Oct. 9, during a pajama party that will be held tentatively at 4 p.m. Finally, she will read at Big Fun Toys, at 602 Washington Street, on Oct. 23 at 3:30 p.m.
“Rosie Wants to be a Fireman,” is available for sale on Amazon.com.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org