Thank you for joining me for my inaugural interview on KidLit Coffee Talk! I’m thrilled to introduce you all to the super talented Melissa Stoller. Melissa and I first met through the 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. Now, we have become critique partners, Clear Fork Publishing sisters, and more importantly, friends. Melissa and I sat down and chatted over coffee about her debut chapter book, Return to Coney Island. This is the first book in The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection Series, illustrated by the equally talented Callie Metler-Smith and published by Clear Fork Publishing.
I’m drinking my usual Dunkin Donuts cold brew iced coffee. What kind of coffee (or tea) are you drinking right now?
First, thanks so much Jenna for hosting me on your blog! I love your blog title and I’m honored to be a featured guest, as well as to call you my friend, critique pal, and Spork Sister!
I also love coffee and tea. I only drink decaf, but I love a warm drink in the cooler months or a huge iced drink all summer! My friends are used to seeing me walk around New York City with a large decaf non-fat cappuccino. I also love chai tea with almond milk, and mint tea after dinner.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing journey.
My writing journey can best be summed up in two words: patience and perseverance! Over the years, I have worked as a lawyer, a legal research and writing instructor, an early childhood educator, and a freelance writer. When my first child was born in 1996, I tried writing picture books, and I received drawers full of rejections! (Looking back, those early drafts weren’t publication ready at all!). I joined SCBWI way back then but after I while, I put creative writing on hold. In the meantime, I co-authored The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009), and I wrote many parenting articles. So I always kept my hand in writing and editing. A few years ago, I decided to try writing for children again. I started attending more conferences, took several excellent children’s book writing courses, and joined many groups including the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge and the Chapter Book Challenge. I also got more involved as an admin in The Debut Picture Book Study Group, as a Regional Ambassador for the Chapter Book Challenge, and as an assistant in a Children’s Book Academy class with Mira Reisberg. Also, I can’t say enough about the wonderful critique partners I am lucky to work with. I learn so much from them! Anyway, I wrote several PB drafts and got even more drawers full of rejections! And I wrote a chapter book draft. After a lot of patience and perseverance, I sent out more drafts, and one house I queried was Clear Fork Publishing. You can imagine my delight when I got a positive response from Callie Metler-Smith about my chapter book, that led to a submission of a full draft, then lots of back and forth, and then finally an OFFER! So I always tell writers to put in the work of honing their craft and also to be patient and have perseverance.
That’s so inspiring! Tell me about your latest book.
I am thrilled that my debut chapter book, The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection – Book One: Return to Coney Island, was just released! It’s the story of nine-year-old twins Emma and Simon, who think they are going to their grandmother’s house for an ordinary sleepover. Instead, they shake one of the snow globes from her collection, and are transported to Coney Island in 1928. After many adventures, including a ride on the famous Cyclone roller coaster, they encounter their great-grandparents. The twins must make sure their great-grandparents meet as they are supposed to on the Coney Island trolley . . . otherwise the twins may never be born!
My inspiration for this story is the real-life meeting of my grandparents. My grandmother Jessie always told me stories of her childhood, and I begged for her to repeat the story of how she met Jack on the trolley. In the author’s note to my book, I explain how that meeting took place, and thank my grandparents, because if they had not met, I would not have been born, and this book would not exist today!
And this book is extra special, because my publisher, Callie Metler-Smith of Clear Fork Publishing/Spork, is also the book’s illustrator! I’m so excited for everyone to see how her beautiful illustrations bring the characters to life!
I can’t wait for my copy to arrive! What else are you working on?
I couldn’t be happier that my debut picture book, Olive’s Magic Paintbrush, will be released by CFP/Spork in March, 2018. It’s a fun story about art and creativity. And I have many other manuscripts that I am revising and polishing (and as one of my trusted critique partners, you have been such a joy to work with in that process!). I’m also working on the next book in The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection series . . . it’s called The Liberty Bell Train Ride, and it features Emma and Simon shaking another snow globe from their grandmother’s collection. This time, they travel to Philadelphia and San Francisco, to help the Liberty Bell get back on track. I can’t wait to see where else this time travel adventure series takes me!
Awesome! Speaking of picture books, what’s one picture book you loved when you were little and a recent one you love now?
Wow, that’s a tough question because there are so many! When I was young, I loved The Little Engine That Could (looking back, I think I enjoyed the optimism it represented); Make Way for Ducklings (those little ducklings were so adorable, and who can resist sitting on their statues in Boston’s Public Garden?) and Madeline (I loved to take my three girls to the Madeline Tea at the Carlysle Hotel in NYC when they were younger). Recently, I have been loving all the great picture book written by my Spork Sisters!
I completely agree, I love the books on Spork’s list. As an avid reader, I love finding out what others are reading. I’m currently reading An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. What are you reading right now?
I belong to two book clubs. I started the first with a few friends when our oldest children were in pre-school together – and now our kids are 21! We have been together for 17 years! My other book club is also a long-standing group at my children’s school. Over the summer, I like to read light beach books, but I have to get started on my book club books! A few great books I read recently: All the Light You Cannot See, Last Days of Night, and The Underground Railroad.
Thanks for having me here, Jenna.
Thanks so much for joining me, Melissa!
If you want to learn more about Melissa, you can find her at www.MelissaStoller.com (and check out her blog about Stories . . . Creativity . . . and Connection at www.MelissaStoller.com/blog). Connect with Melissa on Facebook at Melissa Berger Stoller, on Twitter @MelissaStoller and on Instagram @Melissa_Stoller.
Now, it’s GIVEAWAY time!
You have the chance to win a copy of Melissa’s book, Return to Coney Island! And in keeping with the coffee theme, I’m also going to throw in some Starbucks gift cards. To enter this giveaway, simply comment on this post and share it on Twitter. Then, click on the Rafflecopter below. A winner will be chosen at random on Monday, August 7th. Good luck!