• Mark Garcia-Prats explains how his mother managed to raise ten sons, land on Oprah, publish three parenting books, and launch her own publishing company.
• An appearance on Oprah helped get exposure for Catherine Garcia-Prats’ book Good Families Don’t Just Happen, which has sold more than 55,000 copies so far.
By Mark Garcia-Prats
Catherine Garcia-Prats never dreamed of writing three books sharing the story and wisdom of her life. She never expected to become a nationally and internationally recognized speaker or to be projected into the local and national media. She never contemplated starting her own publishing company. Why, might you ask, is her life in books and publishing a surprise? For many years, Catherine Garcia-Prats was focused on other important things. She is the mother of ten sons. (Hi Mom!)
How, then, did a woman, with a mountain of responsibility caring for her ten children, who had no experience writing books, and no ambition to open a publishing company, find herself knee-deep in the choppy waters of the publishing world?
My mom, Catherine Garcia-Prats, moved to Houston in 1973 with her husband Dr. Joseph Garcia-Prats, a neonatologist. She worked happily as a first grade teacher for two years before she and Joe had their first child, Tony. Within a year of Tony’s birth, she had her second son, David. One thing led to the next (definitely an understatement), and over the course of the next sixteen years, my mother gave birth to eight more sons, myself included. To say the least, my mom and dad had their hands full.
In 1995, the now defunct Houston Post ran a story on our family as the cover of their Sunday Lifestyle section describing how my parents met the daily challenges of raising ten sons. In the article, my parents shared their parenting philosophy and some practical tips they had learned over the years. The story created a buzz throughout the city. For weeks, my mom received phone calls and mail from Houston parents who admired our family’s story and who often had many parenting questions of their own. She began to be invited to speak to parenting groups and church communities to share her parenting experience.
During these speaking engagements, audiences often suggested that Catherine should write a book sharing her parenting wisdom. Catherine recalls, “At first, I thought that suggestion was kind of funny… because I had ten children… (ages 1 to 18 at the time) and that was a lot of work! So Joe and I initially just laughed these suggestions off, joking that we would call the book In My Spare Time.”
You have to imagine the demands of ten healthy, growing boys. Just think of the day-to-day cooking, shopping, cleaning, homework, bills, sports, etc. (When all ten of us boys were living at the house, we were going through, on average, 20 gallons of milk a week…) There was a daunting range of physical and emotional needs to be met, from diapers and sharing toys to college applications and teenage dating, and everything in between. All ten of us boys were competitive athletes and active in our schools and neighborhoods. My parents were no strangers to emergency rooms, late night grocery store runs, early morning cartoons, endless appetites, weekend soccer games, etc.
But you would have been surprised at the calm of our house. “Organized Chaos”, my mom would call it. Both of my parents truly love children — my mom was a teacher and my father, a pediatrician — and are even-tempered, patient people. Each night my mom or dad would cook a hot meal, and each night the entire family would sit down and eat dinner together. They helped each of us with our homework and read stories to us most every night. Cathy recalls, “As we kept having more and more children, Joe and I had to become more and more organized.” And organized they were. There were file cabinets with documents, organized by child and years. In the middle of the kitchen, we had a giant calendar where all of the family’s appointments and schedules were maintained. There were schedules for cleaning the dishes, mowing the lawn, cleaning our rooms, and doing the laundry. For a house filled with twelve different personalities and agendas, it ran amazingly smooth.
Eventually, the fuming demands of dirty diapers did dissipate (22 years of diapers to be exact), and Catherine did find spare time — however slight. Two years after the Houston Post article ran, Timmy, the youngest, was attending preschool for three hours a day, three days a week. This meant nine precious hours of quiet a week.
With the prospect of writing time, my mom began to consider a book. Since the initial Houston Post article, other newspapers and magazines, both local and national, had run stories, which continued the demand for her speaking. “The more I did speaking engagements, the more I realized that a book was a probably a good idea — to put down what we had learned over the course of our parenting and share it with people. We saw how much of a demand there was.”
With a growing platform of interest, she went to Austin with a friend to attend a writers conference in search of an agent. Catherine found an agent there and after submitting the first two chapters of the book to different publishing companies, she settled with a publisher out of Boston.
“For the most part, I wrote the book during those three quiet hours a day. Sometimes if the kids were napping I would write, or before I went to bed. It took a great deal of focus and discipline to get the most out of those few hours…And it did take me a while to write the book” — a year and a half, in fact.
In 1997, her fist book, Good Families Don’t Just Happen was published by Adams Media and a year later our entire family was invited to appear on Oprah — something that helped the book go on to sell some 55,000 copies. In 2001, her second book Good Marriages Don’t Just Happen was published by Ave Maria Press from Notre Dame, IN. And in 2009, she self-published her third book, Good Sons Don’t Just Happen, which recently won the “2009 Mom’s Choice Award” for excellence in family-friendly media.
In 2003, Adam’s Media was bought by F+W Media. Though the book was still selling, the new company decided it no longer wanted to sell Good Families Don’t Just Happen (to the great surprise to herself and her agent). So in 2004, Catherine decided to take publishing into her own hands and launched her own publishing company, Bosco Publishing. She took back the rights to her first titles and republished them through Bosco Publishing.
At present, Bosco publishes her own three books, but as her home quiets down (Timmy is now a junior in high school), she has hopes to begin publishing children’s books as well.
As a publisher and author, Catherine is facing the same challenges as many others in the rapidly shifting industry. She is learning about the advantages of social networking, turning her books into e-books, recording them as audiobooks, and is even translating the titles into Spanish.
To many people, my mom’s success as an author is an astonishing story. But to her sons and husband, our mom’s success comes as no big surprise. After fruitfully facing the challenge of raising her ten sons, the challenge of writing and publishing was a walk in the park.
Mark Garcia-Prats was Publishing Perspectives’ summer intern. We’d like to thank him for his numerous contributions and hard work.
DISCUSS: Is having children an unexpected path to publishing success?