WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT, INSPIRATION, INFORMATION
What a joy it is to connect with those in the kidlit community! I’d seen Melissa’s name as a participant in many of the challenges. I’d read her comments on blog posts. And when I discovered she had a new chapter book series launching, I knew I’d want to invite her to be my guest.
Melissa Stoller is the author of the debut chapter book THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND (Clear Fork Publishing, July 2017); the debut picture book OLIVE’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Clear Fork, March, 2018); and THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: THE LIBERTY BELL TRAIN RIDE (Clear Fork, April 2018). She is also the co-author of THE PARENT-CHILD BOOK CLUB: CONNECTING WITH YOUR KIDS THROUGH READING (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). Melissa is a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, an Admin for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, and an Assistant for Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy. Melissa writes parenting articles, and has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy. When not writing or reading, she can be found exploring NYC with family and friends, travelling, and adding treasures to her collections.
ME: I’m so thrilled to welcome you to Picture Books Help Kids Soar, Melissa!
MELISSA: First, I’m so honored to be chatting with you on your Will Write for Cookies Blog, Vivian! I’m a huge fan! You are the sweetest cheerleader for the KidLit World and I love your #50 Precious Words Writing Challenge. Also, I have benefited from your excellent critiques. I hope to meet you in person one day soon!
ME: I really appreciate your kind words, Melissa…and I’m sure we will meet…maybe at a conference one day soon!
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
MELISSA: I had so many favorite authors and books when I was a child! I loved the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories by Carolyn Keene, and Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (I still love a good mystery). I also enjoyed The All-of-a-Kind Family books by Sydney Taylor (I still enjoy inter-generational family stories) and Eloise by Kay Thompson and Hillary Knight (Eloise is the classic precocious imp! My children and I loved the Eloise Tea at The Plaza in New York City). And of course anything and everything by Judy Blume! All these stories and more informed my own writing style.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
MELISSA: I wish I knew that writing is a game of “hurry up and wait.” Whenever I write a new draft, I’m so excited to revise and finish it and send it out. But usually it needs many more rounds of revision and polishing before it’s ready to venture into the world. When I first decided to try writing picture books (in 1997 when my oldest daughter was one-year-old), I thought the process would be much quicker. I received so many rejections back then. I put creative writing for children on hold to focus on writing parenting articles and publishing a resource book for parents about organizing and conducting a family book club. I did keep writing, even if in different genres (and I kept my SCBWI membership active all those years!). Several years ago, I decided to get back to writing for children – and I’m so glad I did. If I could go back to my younger self, I would say, “Don’t worry. Stick with it. Your time will come. And ps – one day . . . you will be featured on Vivian Kirkfield’s blog!”
Also, I wish I knew there was so much marketing involved in this writing life. I was an international government major with a French minor, and I went straight to law school. Looking back, I should have taken some marketing courses!
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
MELISSA:I can write anywhere! My favorite spot is in front of my laptop, at the large counter/workspace that separates my kitchen from my living room in my New York City apartment. I have three daughters (the oldest will be a senior in college, the middle is starting college mid-August, and the youngest is 12) and I’m happiest writing while they do their homework at a nearby table.
And I’m also very adept at writing on the go . . . using my IPhone or IPAD to write at volleyball games, swim meets, or during play practice. In the summer, I write on my phone while sitting under an umbrella at the beach!
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
MELISSA: I write at absolutely any time! The bulk of my work gets done while my girls are at school. That work can be brainstorming, writing, revising, or just thinking random thoughts that hopefully make their way into my stories. Long walks in the city during the year or on the beach during the summer usually produce my strongest ideas. And sometimes, my best revising and problem-solving comes during the times I’m working on something else. I always carry a pad to capture my thoughts because if I don’t write something down, it will be lost forever!
ME: Why do you write for children?
MELISSA: I write for children for many reasons. First, I loved reading as a child and I’m delighted to contribute my ideas as an author. My parents told stories and read to me, and I spent many happy hours in libraries and bookstores finding just the right book. I also wrote (and illustrated!) my own stories. As an adult, I still love stories: books, plays, and musical theatre are my favorite forms of entertainment. When I wrote my family book club resource guide, my underlying philosophy was that parents and children should connect through books. In our very fast-paced world, it’s so easy for kids to get distracted by TV, video games, and their phones. But books have the power to captivate imaginations in very different ways, and as a parent I tried to take advantage of that by organizing many family book clubs with my children and other families. Our book club discussions form the backdrop for some very happy memories.
On another level, I write because I have ideas to share that I hope will resonate with young readers. I can’t wait to start doing school and library visits and book signings so I can meet children and perhaps inspire them with my words to become life-long readers and writers. And I hope they will enjoy traveling with me on many adventures through my stories!
ME: Also, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, writers, librarians might want to hear. 🙂
MELISSA: My thoughts for aspiring writers – keep honing your craft! Join SCBWI. Take online classes through groups including The Children’s Book Academy, attend SCBWI and other conferences if possible, and participate in KidLit writing contests. Join communities like the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, ReFoReMo, STORYSTORM, KIDLIT411, the Chapter Book Challenge, and The Debut Picture Book Study Group, to name but a few. There are many free or low-cost opportunities and scholarships available. The motivation to keep writing and the friendships I have formed in the writing community are invaluable. The KidLit family is incredibly supportive – writers cheer on writers and help lift each other up!
As far as my own projects, I still can’t believe that my debut chapter book, THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION – BOOK ONE: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND is out in the world! The words “children’s book author” apply to me! It’s such an amazing feeling to hold the book in my hands and to hear from other people that they are reading and loving the story! Book two, THE LIBERTY BELL TRAIN RIDE, will steam down the tracks in April, 2018! And my debut picture book, OLIVE’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, will debut in March, 2018. My books are all published by the very talented Callie Metler-Smith at Clear Fork Publishing/Spork. And I’m so lucky that Callie is also illustrating my chapter book series.
I think parents, grandparents, educators, and librarians will enjoy the book’s Family Book Club Guide (I had to include a Guide!). It includes questions for discussion, a recipe for apple crisp (a treat enjoyed in the book), an easy snow globe craft project, family connection projects, and research links about snow globes, Coney Island, and trolleys.
And finally, my buzzword for aspiring writers is “perseverance.” Keep going! I look forward to reading your stories one day soon!
-WOW! Thanks so much, Melissa. I really appreciate you stopping by and sharing your journey. I 100% agree that PERSEVERANCE is the key in this whole process!
MELISSA: Thank you so much for chatting with me on your blog, Vivian!
To connect with Melissa and her books:
Find Melissa online at www.MelissaStoller.com, MelissaBergerStoller (Facebook), @MelissaStoller (Twitter), and Melissa_Stoller (Instagram).
And now we get to the sweet treat that you’ve all been waiting for! Take it away, Melissa!
Recipe — Easy Apple Crisp
In the book, Emma and Simon enjoy Nana’s Apple Crisp:
4 apples (we usually mix McIntosh and Granny Smith apples)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour (regular or gluten-free)
1) Peel, core, and cut the applies into small slices
2) Layer the apple slices on the bottom of an 8 or 9-inch baking dish
3) Melt the butter stick
4) In a bowl, mix the sugar and flour with the melted butter
5) Pour the mixture over the apple slices
6) Add cinnamon on top to taste
7) Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes until the apples are soft and the topping is crisp
YUM…Apple crisp is one of my husband’s favorite desserts…I will definitely try Nana’s recipe!
Thank you so much, dear readers, for stopping by and spending a little of your precious time with us here. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Don’t forget to leave a comment on the Perfect Picture Book Friday review of THE SNOWGLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND in order to be entered in the giveaway.
And one more thing. We talk about where inspiration for our stories comes from. Here is a photo of the original Jessie and Jack, Melissa’s grandparents who met on a trolley to Coney Island, just like the Jack and Jessie in her book.