When Marisa Kossoy taught seventh graders in Saddle Brook, she used to ask them to write their own books. The activity was so popular that years later, former students who run into her tell her, “I still have my book!”
She eventually gave herself the same assignment, and in the process ticked an important item off her bucket list: She wrote a children’s book. Kossoy, now a longtime educator with experience as a teacher and a principal, titled it “Principal for a Day” and says she hopes the story helps readers make good decisions — while also having fun.
“Principal for a Day“ features Jackson, a troublemaker who’s known for knocking down chairs and playing pranks on his teachers, and who enters a principal-for-a-day lottery. Jackson doesn’t have any hopes of winning, but — surprise! — his name is chosen. Now this troublemaker has to discipline other troublemakers, unruly lower-graders and hall-walkers.
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Kossoy, who recently moved to Teaneck, dedicated the book to her nephew, Jackson. “I love him so much,” she says. “He’s my sister’s first child. I hope that when he goes to school, he makes good choices. But most of all, I want him to love school.”
Finding joy in education is one of Kossoy’s defining features. She knew she wanted to be a teacher at age 6, when she played the game of school with her sister. In middle school, an English teacher introduced her to different literary genres and ignited the spark that made her want to be a writer. “I cannot see my life outside of education,” she says. “There’s nothing else I want to do. I love making a difference in kids’ lives. I never feel like I’m going to work.”
Being an educator and author simultaneously created some challenges for Kossoy. “I didn’t realize how much goes into writing a book,” she says. “There’s the word count, figuring out how many pages it should be, and how the book needs to be laid out.”
She was also paired with an illustrator who lived in the Philippines and spoke English as a second language. “Sometimes I’d have deadlines I wanted to meet, but there was a 12-hour time difference,” says Kossoy. “I had to set deadlines that were good for both of us.”
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She also adjusted her schedule to make way for other priorities. “I give myself a few more hours in the day to get things done now,” she says. “I have to go to the gym at 4:30 am, because after work I’m doing the book.” But she has no regrets. “I’m always about jumping on good opportunities, because you never know where they’ll take you,” Kossoy says.
The opportunity to write a children’s book has taken her to the position of being a two-time author: Her second book is coming out soon, she hopes by the end of December. It will also feature Jackson, along with a couple of other recurring characters.
The publishing experience has been an education in itself. “I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of my first book,” she says. “I thought it would be a one-and-done deal.”
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