Today I’m delighted to have fellow picture book author Melissa Stoller as my guest. Last year Melissa released her first chapter book, The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return to Coney Island and her debut picture book, Scarlet’s Magic Paint Brush is about to release! Please join me in welcoming her as we celebrate the upcoming release of this charming new book with an interview and I’ve chosen to write my questions in lovely teal to match the cover. Let’s get started.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Melissa. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become a writer?
Thanks so much for hosting me on Laura Sassi Tales! You know I adore Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, and I look forward to adding Love is Kind to my picture book collection! (Thank, you, Melissa, for your kind words.)
My writing journey has many twists and turns! I am a lawyer and also worked as a legal research and writing instructor and law school career counselor. When my oldest daughter was born twenty-two years ago, I tried writing picture books and amassed a huge folder of rejection letters. I took a break and wrote a parent resource book titled The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting with your Kids Through Reading. I also concentrated on writing parenting articles. Around five years ago, I decided to get back to writing for children. I took many classes, participated in lots of workshops and writing challenges, and attended several conferences to concentrate on craft. Also, I joined several critique groups as well, and I have been a member of SCBWI since 1997! I’m so happy that my debut picture book, SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, will be in children’s hands very soon!
That’s an amazing journey, with lots of twists and turns, but I can see you were following an inner map that led you to this point. I’m glad you kept at it!
The premise of Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush is – what happens to a child’s creativity if a magic paintbrush suddenly disappears – is adorable. What inspired you to create this story? Do you, perhaps, own a magic paint brush?
Thanks, Laura! I am so excited about my debut picture book, Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush, illustrated by Sandie Sonke (www.SandieSonkeIllustration.com) releasing October 16th with Clear Fork Publishing. Sandie’s illustrations are incredible and it was such a joy to see how she brought her vision to this project. I sometimes wish I owned a magic paintbrush or even a magic pen! The inspiration for this story actually floated into my mind when I was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where I live. I was gazing at my favorite Impressionist paintings, a Monet specifically. I remember thinking, “What would it be like to paint like Monet? I wonder what would happen if I had a magic paintbrush?” From there, I started thinking of all the possibilities about painting with a magic brush, and then I wondered about what would happen if the magic brush disappeared.
I love that you were inspired by visiting the Metropolitan! I think visits like that to museums are wonderful sparks for all sorts of creativity.
What would you like readers to take away from this story?
I hope readers will leave thinking about how they can foster their own creativity. And I hope they realize they don’t have to be perfect, but instead they can create their own masterpieces. Also, hopefully readers will love the sweet illustrations and will relate to Scarlet. Finally, I hope they enjoy the magical touches throughout the story!
I am most certain they will!
Teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?
I’m a big advocate of making connections through family book clubs. On my website, (www.MelissaStoller.com), I’ll include a parent-child book club discussion guide where I’ll offer discussion questions, an art project, suggested snacks, and related enrichment activities based around the themes of the book.
What a terrific resource!
Finally, can you give us the inside scoop on some of your current projects? What’s a typical writing day like for you?
In a typical writing day, I write or revise. I like to work in drafts so my stories always have many iterations. Aside from my picture books, I also spend time on my chapter book series. My debut chapter book, The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return to Coney Island, released one year ago. Book two, The Liberty Bell Train Ride, chugs down the tracks in February, 2019. Currently, I’m working on writing book three of the series, which takes place in Washington DC and features the Library of Congress. Also, I’m very excited about my second picture book, Ready, Set, GOrilla!, illustrated by Sandy Steen Bartholomew (also published by CFP). I love Sandy’s style and I’m so excited about how she’s adding her amazing vision to this story. It’s about a little gorilla who likes racing with his pals but really loves winning. When a gopher comes to town, the race is on! I really enjoy tackling many different projects in any given day. And of course, I am always observing, trying to think of new ideas and new inspirations. Also, I enjoy spending time reviewing the work of my wonderful critique partners. I learn so much from commenting on other stories and working with my critique pals to strengthen my own words. Finally, I try to leave time every day for connecting with others in the KidLit community, whether online or in person. It’s so important to me to foster these amazing friendships.
Thank you so much, Laura! I enjoyed answering these questions and I’m so happy to be featured on your blog today!
It has been my pleasure! Best wishes with the release of the book!
And readers interested in learning more, please check out Melissa’s bio as well as the many ways you can connect on the web.
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 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 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 SCBWI/MetroNY. Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy. When not writing, she can be found exploring NYC with family and friends, traveling, and adding treasures to her collections.