Dr. Morissa Schwartz uses her position as a young bestselling author, digital entrepreneur, and media personality to advocate for the new generation. She is the owner of GenZ Publishing, a thriving publishing company with over 50 authors signed and multiple bestsellers. She also has the best professional writing team in the business, top rated by thousands of happy clients, at Dr. Rissy’s Writing. Morissa’s mission is to change the world one word at a time positively. She also works with young people and aspiring entrepreneurs and makes them leaders through her talk ‘The Modern World of Work: Why a 9-5 is No Longer Your Only Option,’ where she encourages others to follow their passions and talents to succeed. She also hosts her radio show, The GenZ Podcast, where she interviews innovators, artists, and business people. She has also been highlighted on television programs and many publications. Morissa graduated as the president of the Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society from Drew University with a B.A. in English (with a concentration in Law, Literature & Film) and a minor in writing in 2015. She completed her Master’s Degree at Monmouth University in corporate and public communication and earned her Doctorate in literature at Drew in 2019. Lastly, she is an accomplished singer/songwriter, featured on MTV. She was also highlighted on Spotlight NJ for her singing, as well as some other programs. Her song “A Hunting We Will Go” was featured in the trailer for New York Times bestselling author Maggie Shayne’s book trailer. Her version of Paranoid for Girls Life Magazine went viral with millions of views, and her rendition of Battlefield earned her a feature spot in Jive Records/Six Flags’ artist showcase. Her collaboration with celebrated composer and pianist, Ian Green, is a single that she wrote called “The Sweetest Sound.” Morissa sings the National Anthem for professional sporting events and performs at concerts, shows, and events across the US.
MORISSA AT DREW
Morissa was born and raised in NJ and was attracted to Drew because it had a beautiful campus, was a small school, had great programs, and everyone seemed very friendly. She majored in English because she always had a passion for reading and writing. She self-published her first book in high school and wanted to follow that passion. “When I first started at Drew, I actually thought I was going to be a science major. I had graduated from the Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences, I thought I was to continue that path, then I decided I wanted to be a lawyer and I started on a pre-law track at Drew and then I decided, no, I can write, and started writing weekly and went further down the writing path.” At Drew she was an executive member of the student conduct board, president of Sigma Tau Delta, and she sang at many of Drew’s events. She was a Baldwin Scholar and Dean Scholar and was a head writer for The Drew Acorn. She had several mentors at Drew, including Dr. Wendy Kolmar, “who was fantastic. She was my adviser and just always somebody I could count on. In grad school, my mentor was Professor Robert Butts who was a phenomenal professor and taught classes that are unique; with him you learn something that you didn’t even know you could learn.” One of her challenges at Drew was that she commuted to school. “I wanted to be as involved as possible, so I was commuting 90 minutes each way, every day and would often stay on campus until 1:30 am involved in activities, socializing, or studying at the library. In the end, I was able to balance everything and commuting really didn’t impact my social or academic life, but at the beginning, it was a struggle.” Some of her favorite memories at Drew were the competitions. She won the Chapman prize in poetry twice. “That was a highlight, for sure. I also enjoyed our parties and dances, the Halloween one was so fun. We did Bingo, that was fun, and Double Dare 2000.”
MORISSA AND WRITING
You had your first article published when you were 12 years old and a book published when you were 17. Can you talk about these early writing experiences?
When I was 12 years old, I had my first article published in Discovery Girls magazine. It was about my struggle with Lyme disease and I started getting letters back from other little girls saying how much that story inspired them and I realized if I can inspire people through my writing I wanted to continue to write. I’ve always loved games and competitions, so when I was 12, I wrote a book that was a guide to entering and winning contests and I self-published this book when I was 17.
You were also a bestselling author at 21 years old. Can you talk about that book?
At age 21, I had my first book traditionally published by VIPA Publishing. It was a memoir called, Notes Never Sent where I wrote about my experiences in school and how they shaped me as a person. I wrote letters to all the people I wanted to thank, who helped shaped me. Letters to people, that they would never actually see, but that were good for me to express. That book resonated with young adults, the same way that my Discovery Girls article resonated, because it was relatable to a lot of young people.
MORISSA AND PUBLISHING
You started a publishing company when you were still a student which is very impressive. What inspired you to do this and what were your biggest challenges and rewards?
I was inspired to start my publishing company after I had Notes Never Sent published. I saw what the publishing company was doing right, but I also saw some places where I would have done things differently. I also saw that a lot of publishing companies do not tend to publish people who are under the age of 40. Chuck Palahniuk was one of my favorite authors of all time, but he even said, you shouldn’t publish until you are at least 40. I don’t like that way of thinking; I think young people have a lot to say. So I wanted to create a company that would provide a platform for new and young authors to express themselves through writing. My biggest reward has been being able to publish these incredible voices because books start great dialogues. Also, I’ve employed several people from the Drew community, which is amazing… to give back. I am in the position where I am providing an opportunity to do internships when just a few years ago, I was at Drew, seeking internships myself.
How does an author get published by Gen Z Publishing? What do you look for in a book?
If an author is interested in getting published by Gen Z Publishing, they send us a query letter and three sample chapters, and our board will go over that query and decide whether or not we want to publish it. Most publishing companies do not respond if they reject your book; it’s just radio silence. I submitted my book to a hundred places and only heard back from a handful of them. It’s really disheartening to not hear back so we make sure that whether or not we publish a book, we respond to the author. If we decide not publish a book, we tell the person why we are not publishing it and how they can improve their book. What we look for is a well written book with innovative ideas.
Gen Z Publishing is a book publishing company. We have published about 100 titles, some have become best sellers and we are proud of every single book. Dr. Rissy’s Writing is a 360 marketing company. We do Social Media (SEO), Ads and Public Relations. We are ranked in the Top 2 Social Media Experts in the New York, New Jersey area. We have been featured in Forbes. We work mainly with small to mid-size businesses. Being a “Digital Entrepreneur” means that I own online businesses, I have a team of 30 and we all work remotely. It’s amazing to be able to work with people all around the world and in my backyard every day, from the comfort of my home office.
BREAKING A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD
You broke a Guinness World Record by creating the world’s longest chain of bracelets. Tell me about that experience.
I created the world’s longest chain of bracelets to promote my first book about contests. I thought the ultimate contest would be breaking a Guinness World Record since it was on my bucket list of things I wanted to do. I started making bracelets when I was only 12 years old as part of my physical therapy from Lyme disease so I already had a bunch of bracelets lying around. All I had to do was film myself chaining them together, and send them out to the Guinness World Record people. I also needed witnesses, including my principal, my school, and the editor of our local newspaper to verify that it was legitimate and there weren’t any video tricks. We had a notary sign it and that’s how it became official. I now have my Guinness World Record certificate on the mantle of my fireplace.
MORISSA AND SINGING
How long have you been singing? Do you write songs or play an instrument?
I’ve been singing my whole life though I actually started out as a dancer. My parents put me in dancing lessons when I was only 1-year-old; it was a baby tumbling class. I started dancing competitively at age 3, when I went to Atlantic City and did my first dance competition and won first place for my age category. At age 11 I was all set to dance at a pageant but because of the Lyme disease, I was in too much pain to dance so I decided to sing. I sang and I won the pageant and then I actually shifted more towards being a singer. I’ve been singing ever since. The highlight of my singing career was making it to the Top 5 of an MTV show that was like The Voice. Also, I opened for Johnny Maestro, in one of his very last performances, before his passing. It was amazing to hang out and talk to him back stage. I’ve also sung a lot locally and even on campus. I write songs and I play piano but I think I’m a much better singer than songwriter and musician.
DR. MORISSA SCHWARTZ
What made you come back to Drew to pursue a Doctor of Letters (D.Litt). Please tell me about your dissertation/book and what attracted you to that subject?
I am a lifelong learner and It has always been a goal of mine to have a doctorate. I loved every minute of it. My dissertation is about Neolistic Libertarianism in popular culture. I was attracted me to this subject because I realized that a lot of the literature and films I’ve seen, deal with characters who are Anarchists. Professor Jonathan Rose, spoke about the decline of community in favor of individualism and it inspired me to think about how our pop culture reflects this. After a lot of research and work I wrote my dissertation.
What is the key to your success?
I just go for things and believe in myself. I understand that it is better to go for it than regretting not going for it later.
What do you think is the most important characteristic of a successful person?
It’s definitely confidence but it’s also being humble. It’s an interesting combination. You should absolutely believe in yourself but if you get too cocky, it’s going to bite you in the butt.
You have accomplished so much at such a young age. What else would you like to accomplish going forward?
I would like to continue growing my businesses and making an impact.
ADVICE FOR STUDENTS
What advice would you give a Drew student who is interested in becoming an entrepreneur? Believe in yourself and do it. A lot of people don’t think it’s possible to become an entrepreneur full-time. Even today, I have people who say to me, “oh, it’s a nice thing for now but what is your real job going to be?” It’s funny because what I do is a full-time job and I love it. Don’t let anybody tell you, you can’t do it or put any doubts in your mind. Being an entrepreneur is a very legitimate thing to do.
What advice would you give a Drew student who is a writer and would love to be published? Just keep writing. Professor Robert Carnavale at Drew said that writer’s block is a symptom of thinking that everything you write has to be perfect, except that everything you write is not going to be perfect, so just go for it. I love that!
If you could attempt any other career other than your own, what would it be?
I can’t see myself doing anything other than the Arts, but maybe a medical doctor, because I would love to help people.
If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow (either a place you have visited or not) where would it be?
I would go back to LA. I used to go almost every year to California. I love Universal; I enjoy the beach and all the fun experiences that California has to offer.
Could you share a few fun facts or hobbies?
I have a rescue dog- a Yorkie poo named Mo who is named after me. He is Mo Jr. I thought if guys can name their sons, Junior, why can’t I name my Yorkie, Junior. I live next to a farm and our neighbors are alpacas and cows which is pretty neat. I also love games of any kind, whether its board games, arcade games, VR games or video games. If it’s a game, I love it.