Since Horrible Hurricane Harvey decided to pay an uninvited visit to Houston, I have been trying to keep my head above water (pun intended). I was stuck in flood mode for a long time, but happily last weekend, I went to the N. Texas SCBWI conference and met so many wonderful people, including my friend, Melissa Stoller. Melissa and I have been online friends for a while, but getting to give her and, so many others, a hug in person was definitely one of the highlights of the conference. So, without further ado, please take a minute to read about this talented and wonderful lady.
Here’s Melissa…… 🙂
First, thank you so much for including me on your blog, Ellen! I love having you as a friend and Spork Sister! And I was so thrilled to finally meet you in Dallas at the North Texas SCBWI Conference!
- I know there is a family connection to your Coney Island stories. Please explain.
Yes! My debut chapter book, THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION – BOOK ONE: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND, is special to me in many ways. First, it’s my debut children’s book! But even more important is that it’s the story of how my grandparents met on the Coney Island trolley when my grandmother Jessie threw peanut shells on my grandfather Jack’s lap to get his attention. My middle daughter is named Jessie after my spunky grandmother! The original Jessie (as we call her) was a terrific storyteller. I would always ask her to tell me a story and she always spoke about her magical childhood in New York City. And her favorite story was about how she met my grandfather. I’m so happy that I finally put this story into book form!
The book is about twins Emma and Simon who think they are going on an ordinary sleepover at their grandmother’s New York City apartment. But when they shake one of the snow globes from her giant collection, they’re transported back to Coney Island in 1928. According to family legend, that’s when their great-grandparents met on the Coney Island trolley. After a series of adventures including a ride on the famous Cyclone roller coaster, the twins must help their great-grandparents meet, otherwise they may never be born. It’s all about time travel, adventure, and connecting with ancestors.
- Are you a planner or a pantster? (Flying by the seat of your pants).
I am definitely a planner! I love to plan most things in my life including very detailed vacation itineraries. So it makes sense that I would plan out my stories as well. For my chapter books, I outline the chapters and fill in parts of the stories that I decide to work on. So sometimes I don’t write in a linear way, instead I go back and forth between sections of the book. I find the middle of stories to be challenging so sometimes I write the beginnings and the endings first and then go back to fill in the middle. Of course, for me, the best writing happens in the rewriting. I can revise chunks of work and then I get down to polishing it up. And the most important thing for me is the first draft. Once I have a first draft then I know I can continue.
- What are some specific things that you feel helped you with your journey? (FB groups, meeting such lovely Spork Sisters, etc.)
So many factors helped me with my journey. My critique partners are the best! I rely on them to help with revising, of course, but we also bounce ideas off each other and we’re there to support and cheer for each other. I participate in MANY online KidLit communities and have taken many picture book and chapter book online writing classes. Also, I’m a long-time member of SCBWI and a volunteer with my regional group, SCBWI Metro New York. It’s so important for me to connect with my fellow writers since writing can sometimes feel like a solitary pursuit. But I click on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to feel completely connected to the KidLit writing community.
Also, as you know, our Clear Fork Publishing/Spork group has been incredible! I love how we gave ourselves the name “Spork Sisters” (even though there are now some men in the group!). When I joined CFP, I didn’t realize how close our group would become. We support each other, share marketing strategies, and cheer each other on! We formed an instant publishing family!
- You signed with a small press. What drew you to CFP?
I was drawn to Clear Fork Publishing because of Callie Metler-Smith! She is so hardworking and dedicated to her publishing company. I pitched my story to Callie as The Magic Tree House Book Series meets the Back to the Future Movie Series – and lucky for me, she wrote back saying she loved time travel stories and asked to see more! I really enjoy working with a small press. Callie includes her authors in every step of the publishing process and works closely with us throughout. I am particularly fortunate because Callie made her debut as an illustrator with my chapter book series. Her beautiful illustrations really capture the heart of my story, and I love how she portrayed the look and clothing styles of Coney Island in the late 1920s. I also love her cover – she conveys the Cyclone Roller Coaster inside the snow globe, and if you look closely, you’ll notice she also depicts the Cyclone as the background. She’ll carry this idea through in all the chapter books making the covers very unique and cohesive.
- Tell us a bit about your personal life…your background, your family, other jobs, etc.
All my previous careers have led me to be a children’s book author! I’m a lawyer and I also worked as a legal research and writing instructor, a legal career counselor, and an early childhood educator. I co-wrote a book about organizing and conducting a family book club, and I write freelance parenting articles. Also, I’m an extremely active volunteer in my community. I’m a wife and a mom to three girls and a puppy as well! We live in New York city, and try to take advantage of all that New York has to offer . . . from theater and museums, to parks, excellent restaurants, varied neighborhoods, landmarks, and street fairs. I feel that while it has taken a long time to arrive at the status of “published children’s book author,” all my life experiences and jobs have led me to this point! I love meeting new people and learning about other cultures and places. I hope to convey many more adventures as my chapter book series continues and my characters travel to different places and connect with more ancestors. And I will happily travel to the cities that form the backdrops of the stories (research is so important and fun!).
- Please add anything else you’d like!
I love reading advice from members of the KidLit community so here are a few tidbits of my own advice:
- Persevere – don’t let rejections get you down. Keep writing and revising!
- Hone your craft – work on your writing by taking classes, attending conferences, joining a critique group, and participating in writing challenges.
- Connect with the KidLit community! The more you give to this supportive community the more you will learn and grow.
Thanks so much for featuring me on your blog, Ellen! I look forward to reading your upcoming books and I’m so happy we are traveling on this writing path together!
Thank YOU, Melissa! I love your book, and I’m sure others will too!
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 SCARLET’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, traveling, and adding treasures to her collections. Find Melissa online at www.MelissaStoller.com, MelissaBergerStoller (Facebook), @MelissaStoller (Twitter), and Melissa_Stoller (Instagram).
Buy THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND at www.ClearForkPublishing.com, www.Amazon.com, www.BarnesandNoble.com, and Indiebound.com.