Author Spotlight: Melissa Stoller
Nov. 9, 2018
We are pleased to feature picture book author Melissa Stoller and her two picture books, SCARLET'S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, illustrated by Sandie Sonke (Clear Fork Media) and READY, SET GORILLA! illustrated by Sandy Steen Bartholomew (Spork).
Enter to win signed copies of both and book swag!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I have always loved reading and writing, and most of my career experiences, including working as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer, and early childhood educator, have led me to writing for children. Currently, my favorite genres are chapter books and picture books, but perhaps I’ll attempt a middle grade novel one day! I really enjoy author visits, where I share my writing journey and hopefully help inspire children to follow whatever dreams they have set for themselves.
Congrats one not one, but two, picture books, SCARLET'S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH and READY, SET GORILLA! Tell us about these stories and what inspired you.
I’m so excited about both these picture books! I was inspired to write SCARLET'S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH while admiring a Monet painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I imagined having a magic paintbrush to paint like Monet. Then I started asking all kinds of “what if” questions, such as what if I painted perfect pictures with a magic paintbrush? What if I lost the brush? What if I found it again? From there, the story was born. I love the beautiful artwork that illustrator Sandie Sonke brought to this project!
The idea for READY, SET, GORILLA! came to me as I was walking along a street in NYC, and saw a billboard that read, “Ready, Set, Go!” I imagined a little gorilla in a race, yelling, “Ready, Set, GOrilla!” And then I thought about a little gopher who would challenge that gorilla by yelling, “Ready, Set, GOpher!” The story idea took off from there. Illustrator Sandy Steen Bartholomew brought her unique vision to the story and I love her vibrant illustrations!
I’m so glad that Callie Metler-Smith at Clear Fork Publishing loved both these stories. Also, I’m thrilled that Mira Reisberg, Founder of the Children’s Book Academy, is the editor and art director at Clear Fork/Spork who worked with both these books. It was an amazing collaboration on both projects.
Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?
My road to publication was long and windy! I joined SCBWI in 1997, when my oldest daughter was a year old. I had stopped practicing law and left my job at a law school, and I decided to try writing children’s books. Well, I amassed a pile of rejections! Looking back, those early manuscripts definitely weren’t ready! I went on to other writing projects, including parenting articles and a resource book for adults about organizing a family book club, plus two more children! Then, about five years ago, I decided again to pursue my dream of writing for children. I signed my first contract for my chapter book series in 2016!
What projects are you working on now?
Right now, I'm working on a sequel for SCARLET'S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH. It’s tough to get a sequel just right but I’m trying! And I’m working on book three of my chapter book series, The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection. Book Two, The Liberty Bell Train Ride, will chug down the tracks in 2019!
What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?
My advice is to keep going! It generally takes a long time to become a published KidLit author. Work on craft, take classes, participate in workshops and writing challenges like the 12x12 picture book writing challenge, Storystorm, and Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo), attend conferences, read tons of KidLit books, join SCBWI, and connect with the writing community through groups like KidLit411.
Also, join critique groups. My critique partners have been immensely wonderful and helpful along this journey. And I love the #Epic18 group of 2018 debut picture book authors and illustrators. Writing can be a solitary business so it’s really helpful to have friendship and support from the community along the way.
What is something most people don't know about you?
Many people know I have a large collection of snow globes. But I also collect shells, sea glass, ocean rocks, key chains, pins, coins, and other treasures to remind me of my travels or time at the beach.
Where can people find you online?
Connect with me online at:
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Book One: Return to Coney Island and Book Two: The Liberty Bell Train Ride (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017 and Spring 2019); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork, Fall 2018). She is also the co-author of The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009).
Melissa is an Assistant and Blogger for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, an Admin for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, and a volunteer with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators/MetroNY. Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. Additionally, she is a member of the Board of Trustees at The Hewitt School and at Temple Shaaray Tefila. Melissa 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, traveling, and adding treasures to her collections.a Rafflecopter giveaway
These look so cute! I'd love to share them with my students!! :)ReplyDelete
Thank you so much, Kristin! I occasionally do free Skype visits with classrooms so contact me if that might be of interest!Delete
Thank you so much for sharing your road to publication. Writing for kids is tough and rejections can be discouraging, so I appreciate hearing about your journey. And your books are so fun!ReplyDelete
Hi Jolene - thanks for stopping by! I agree - rejections can be discouraging . . . but we all just keep going! The prize of sharing our stories with the youngest readers is great inspiration!Delete
Melissa, I didn't know you were a New Yorker! My youngest daughter lives in Manhattan; been there almost two years. I totally get all of the ideas that abound in NYC. Congratulations on both books..I can't wait to read them!ReplyDelete
Hi Traci - yes, NYC is a great place for observing people and hearing little snippets of conversations! I hope I run into you one day when you're visiting your daughter! Thanks for commenting!Delete
Your writing is so lovely and accessible to all kids. Thanks for sharing more about your writing and publishing journey. Can't wait to see what is next for you, Melissa!ReplyDelete
Thank you for your kind words, Sandra! That is definitely one of my goals . . . to write stories that kids will find accessible and that they can relate to on many levels! Thanks for commenting!Delete
It was so much fun to work with you on GOrilla! I hope that you do decide to do a sequel (with Cheetah!) ;-)ReplyDelete
I loved our collaboration, Sandy! Thank you for your amazing vision and artwork on GORILLA! And I'm thinking of some extra fun adventures for Cheetah!!!Delete
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There seems to be a buzz for this author, and I keep hearing about both books! Congrats :)ReplyDelete
I love the idea of a magic paintbrush, and a gorilla and gopher competition. Both sound like fun books. Good luck with the sequel opportunity!ReplyDelete
These two books are certainly quite different! --But both appear to have illustrations that very colorful!ReplyDelete
Hooray, Melissa! Both books sound really fun. You are on fire!ReplyDelete
Great interview, Melissa. Congratulations on all of your wonderful books!ReplyDelete
I enjoyed your interview today, especially when you shared your inspiration for these books. I'm inspired that you were able to turn everyday things into picture book ideas. Congratulations on your success!ReplyDelete
So excited for you! Congrats on the picture book debuts!ReplyDelete
Melissa, congratulations on two picture book releases. Wow! You are soaring. Enjoy and hopes for much success to follow.ReplyDelete
What an exciting pair of books! Thanks so much for the chance to win them!!ReplyDelete
Melissa, congrats to you! These both sound like fun books. I'm anxious to read them!ReplyDelete
These both sound like a lot of fun. Congratulations and I'm anxious to read both of them.ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing--so helpful to hear how authors get their ideas.ReplyDelete
Lovely interview. I'm so looking forward to reading both of these books and am always interested in hearing about an author's journey. Thanks so much and congrats on both of these fun books!ReplyDelete
What a fun idea for a book. Gorillas are awesome.ReplyDelete
Fun! I love hearing how you were inspired for the GOrilla and GOpher! Congratulations!ReplyDelete
Congratulations on your books debut Melissa!And thank you for sharing your writing journey.It's very encouraging for us in the trenches!ReplyDelete