Did you know we have a New York Times bestselling author living right in our own backyard? We do, but his journey to writing success was no quick read.
Ed Masessa spent his early days in Middlesex, New Jersey, reading The Hardy Boys and Alfred Hitchcock mysteries. Little did Ed know his books would one day share a shelf with those bestsellers.
Fast-forward to 1989, when Ed, his wife, and three daughters moved to Oviedo. That’s when his career took a crazy turn. After being laid off as a purchasing manager at Alfa Romeo, Ed found himself struggling to make a living.
“I got my license to drive a truck, and I was delivering Tropicana orange juice,” recalls Ed. “I was bagging groceries at Publix, operating a forklift – I was doing anything I could to put food on the table.”
It was serendipity, he recalls, when a friend who worked at a printer asked Ed to help someone market a children’s book.
“I knew nothing about children’s books,” says Ed. “I had a sharp learning curve. I started putting the pieces together.Eventually, it began to click – there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about this.”
In 1996, Ed accepted a job in the Scholastic Corporation operations department and, within a few years, he transitioned into the product department, where books are selected to become part of the popular Scholastic Book Fairs at elementary schools across the country.
“I went from purchasing automotive parts to this really cool job,” says Ed, who began to study the craft of children’s literature. “I remember walking through the warehouse, taking books off the shelves, reading them at night and bringing them back the next day. I read a few series and thought, ‘Anybody can write this,’ but then I found that no, they can’t.”
Ed admits he had no experience in writing. With a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in marketing and finance, “English was really one of my worst classes,” Ed says with a laugh. But he pushed on. When he finally decided to try writing his own books, Ed was able to submit some of his work to editors he met through his role at Scholastic.
“I was getting a lot of constructive feedback,” Ed says.
A friend recommended that Ed join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
“That’s when I learned how long people have been trying to get published and all the effort that it takes,” Ed says. “It was the beginning of my long journey to getting published. It took me a long time to get an agent. So, for a lot of my early work, I did a lot of work for hire. I was writing just to keep writing; I found that I really liked it.”
Ed received encouragement from Alan Boyko, president of Scholastic Book Fairs, and when Alan presented Ed a writing project, he dove in.
“Alan saw some of my early writing and thought it had some potential,” says Ed.
That project became The Wandmaker’s Guidebook, which spent nine weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers list, with two weeks in the #1 spot.
“I have the moniker as being a bestselling author, but it was a joint effort,” says Ed. “It just came together well.”
Ed has also written and published a picture book called Scarecrow Magic, a few easy readers, two nonfiction books about puppy breeds, and follow-up novels to The Wandmaker’s Guidebook called Wandmaker and Wandmaker’s Apprentice.
“Through my job at Scholastic and through the SCBWI, I learned so much and met so many people,” Ed says. “People thought that I had an advantage working for Scholastic, but my advantage was meeting people, especially authors. I’m reading their books, and I think they’re gods. To sit down and have a drink with these folks, I would think, ‘What am I doing? How did I get so lucky?’”
In October 2016, after 20 years with Scholastic, Ed retired, but he’s still writing. His next book, Pumpkin Magic, a follow-up to Scarecrow Magic, is set to hit shelves in fall 2020. Ed is also working on a new trilogy, and he spends time doing school visits. He writes, always outside, between traveling with his wife and spending time with his daughters and two grandsons.
Looking back, Ed admits he never saw this coming.
“I’m having such a good time,” he says. “This has been a nonstop roller coaster of fun for the past 20 years.”
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