Hello and welcome back to KidLit Oasis -- the place to refresh your spirits, recharge your creativity, and get a literary mood boost!
We continue the Chitchat series with another awesome creative. It's my pleasure to welcome my friend and wonderful author, Melissa Berger Stoller! I can't wait to hear about Melissa's journey, her new projects, tips on revising and much more.
Melissa is also generously giving away a picture book critique AND a copy of her new book so be sure to enter the giveaways! We will have two lucky winners with this interview!
Now, without further ado, here's Melissa. . .
Welcome, Melissa! Thank you for joining us on the blog. Please briefly describe your journey to publication.
A: First of all, thank you for welcoming me to your blog, Rosie! I’m happy to be here and enjoyed answering these thoughtful questions! :)
My journey to publication has been long and windy. The short version starts with my career as a lawyer and legal writing instructor, moves to my work as a freelance writer and editor, and also early childhood instructor, and lands on my dream job: children’s book writer. I have four books published so far. All my books were inspired by observations in my world, questions I asked, or family connections. SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH stemmed from a question I asked while standing in front of a Monet painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC (my favorite museum): What would it be like to paint with a magic paintbrush? READY, SET, GORILLA! was inspired by a billboard I observed in Times Square that said, “Ready, Set, GO!” - I imagined a little GOrilla racing a GOpher! And my chapter book, THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND, and my latest picture book, SADIE’S SHABBT STORIES, were both inspired by family history. I have many wonderful storytellers in my family including my parents and grandmother, and these books honor the stories I cherished growing up and beyond.
SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES is really the story of my heart. Lisa Goldberg’s gorgeous Chagall-like illustrations brought the characters and scenes alive in such a beautiful and moving way. The book is about Sadie, who loves hearing her Nana tell stories about their family heirlooms, relating to the candlesticks, Kiddush cup, and challah cover they use to celebrate the Jewish Shabbat. Sadie longs to find her unique voice and tell her own special stories, just like Nana. When writing, I also thought about my three girls, and I wanted to depict Sadie as a strong girl growing and using her voice. I’m so thankful to Callie Metler-Smith at Clear Fork Publishing for believing in this book, and to Mira Reisberg for her amazing editing and art direction.
Q: What do you find most challenging in this business, either on the creative or publishing side of things? What do you find most rewarding? What helps you stay motivated?
A: I find most challenging the waiting we all do in the publishing world. From sending out queries to agents and editors, to waiting for the finished book to appear in our hands, it’s often a long wait at every turn. But when I share a book with children at school visits, the smiles, head nods, questions, and comments remind me that it’s always worth the wait! Connecting with readers is one of the most rewarding and motivating parts of the publishing world, aside from the moment you hold a finished book in your hands for the first time. That is truly a moment to take a deep breath and celebrate!
Q: Could you share any craft tools or techniques that you find most helpful to you when working on a project? What does your revision process look like?
A: When working on a project, there are many craft techniques that are helpful. I always pay attention to pacing and page turns in picture books. Good pacing ensures that the reader will want to turn the page. I often use sticky notes on blank pages of paper and I move text around to capture the perfect page turn. Also, I write a mission statement/pitch at the top of every manuscript and also list mentor texts. I keep an eye on the mission statement to ensure my manuscript is moving in the correct direction in terms of plot and theme (and sometimes I change the mission statement if the story is moving in a different and better direction!).
When revising, I try to make sure that the story has enough heart, humor, or whatever the voice is. Heart is always at the center of every story. Of course, my critique partners are so vital to the process. They comment on big picture and small picture items, and always spark revision ideas. Sometimes during revision, I may totally change the point of view or add or subtract characters. Anything can happen!
Q: What's coming up for you next? Please tell us about any new releases, exciting news, upcoming events or anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
A: I’m so happy that RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH will be releasing in 2021. It’s the sequel to SCARLE’T MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, and it’s all about friendship and second chances. It also includes colors and nature – both STEAM themes. The illustrations I have seen so far from artist Sandie Sonke are amazing! Also, I’m collaborating on a project with Callie Metler-Smith and Shirin Shamsi – a new picture book series. The first book is PLANTING FRIENDSHIP – PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM. It’s about three girls from different faith traditions who find friendship while cultivating plants at school. Callie, Shirin, and I are from the same faith traditions as the girls, and we have had so much fun sharing ideas as well as our unique heritages while writing the story together. I can’t wait for this book to be out in the world as it celebrates kindness, cultures, and kids.
Thank you so much for chatting with me, Rosie! I can’t wait to add your latest book, SUNDAY RAIN, to my picture book collection!
You're very welcome, Melissa! Thank you for your continuous support of my work and thank you for being my guest on KidLit Oasis! I hope you will be back to chitchat about your future releases, too.
Readers, please support our featured authors/illustrators by following them on Twitter, requesting their book through your local library, posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and of course, purchasing their books.
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To enter the giveaways, please leave a comment and indicate your preference of critique or a book.
Connect with Melissa Berger Stoller:
*Click on the book cover to order a copy of Sadie's Shabbat Stories
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Return to Coney Island (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush, Ready, Set, GOrilla!, and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories (Clear Fork, 2018 and 2020). Upcoming books include Return of the Magic Paintbrush. Melissa is a Blogger and Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a Moderator for the Debut Picture Book Study Group, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys theatre, museums, and long beach walks.
G I V E A W A Y!!!
Leave a comment below and let us know if you're entering for a book or a critique.
If you'd like to support my work and get a signed copy of Sunday Rain from my local indie bookstore, order it HERE
About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a
award-winning children's author, speaker, and writing coach on a mission to inspire children not only to read and write more, but to use their creativity, follow their passions, dream big and believe in themselves.
Rosie visits schools and shares her inspirational journey as an immigrant from Bulgaria and how she became a published author, encouraging kids to persist, push through rejections, and hold a high vision for themselves.
Rosie's upcoming picture book, Sunday Rain, will be released in March 2021. It's a story that celebrates imagination, the love of books, and new friendships.
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jessica Schmeilder of Golden Wheat Literary.