Tuesday Debut – Presenting Melissa Stoller!

Hello, Everyone, and welcome to another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!

First, just a quick note: The Halloweensie Contest finalists will be announced for your reading and voting pleasure on Thursday.  Since I wasn’t able to get them up before the weekend, and I already had today’s Tuesday Debut and tomorrow’s Would You Read It scheduled, I thought it was best just to wait until Thursday when we could have an uninterrupted stretch of days for reading and voting.  The winners will be announced on Monday.  I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting so long, and truly appreciate your patience.  The judging was extremely difficult, and kept getting interrupted with family stuff and work deadlines and other things of that nature which have a tendency to suddenly appear out of nowhere when you’re trying to get something done!  If by some chance you’ve been under a rock and not seen the Halloweensie Contest entries, hop on over and have a look – well over 200 amazing stories await your enjoyment!

Now then, allow me to introduce today’s Debutess, Melissa Stoller!  She shares her first picture book with us, but has a series of chapter books already to her credit (The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return to Coney Island and The Liberty Bell Train Ride) as well as another picture book forthcoming any minute (Ready, Set, GOrilla!)

MELISSA: I’m so happy to be included in your new blog series, Susanna! You know I am a huge fan of your Making Picture Book Magic course and of your books!

SUSANNA: I am thrilled to have you, Melissa, and you are very sweet to say such nice things.  There will be a little extra something chocolate for you in your holiday celebrations this year 🙂 Now then, let’s have a look at your beautiful debut picture book!!!

Written by Melissa Stoller
Illustrated by Sandie Sonke
Clear Fork Publishing/Spork
October 16, 2018
Fiction, Picture Book
Ages 4-8


Scarlet paints perfect pictures with her magic paintbrush until the brush is lost, and she fears she’ll never be able to paint again. When the brush is found, will Scarlet’s own magical creativity emerge?


SUSANNA: LOVE that gorgeous cover! 🙂 Where did the idea for this book come from?

MELISSA: The idea for SCARLET came to me when I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City gazing at my favorite Impressionist paintings. Standing in front of a Monet canvas, I wondered what it would be like to have a magic paintbrush and paint like Monet. Over time, I thought of other questions: Would the brush would help me paint everything perfectly? What would happen if I lost the brush and then found it later? And what would I do if I wanted to paint something and the brush wouldn’t let me? These questions became the basis for my story.


Melissa at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in front of a Monet


SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?

MELISSA: It took several months to write this story. My mother is always my first reader! And then my children and husband weigh in as well. I have trusted critique partners who helped me dig in through multiple drafts to focus on the theme and underlying layers. And I also had a professional critique as well. Through it all, I kept refining and shaping the story.


SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

MELISSA: I like to write in many drafts, making large and small changes as I go along, so my work always has many iterations.


SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

MELISSA: I knew my manuscript was ready when my critique partners all came back saying “this one is done!”


SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

MELISSA: My publisher Callie Metler-Smith from Clear Fork Publishing was already publishing my chapter book series, The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection. Turns out Callie and I both love Impressionist paintings so I pitched her my art history-based idea and that manuscript became a book!


SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

MELISSA: I definitely celebrated with my family and there were lots of smiles and tears of gratitude!


Melissa’s dog Molly who sits patiently next to her when she works (and was no doubt part of the celebrations! 🙂 )


SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

MELISSA: This was my second contract with Clear Fork so I knew what to expect.


SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

MELISSA: Mira Reisberg is editor/art director at Clear Fork/Spork. I know Mira well from many Children’s Book Academy courses and I was thrilled that she loved the manuscript and would be editing and art directing. We did several critiques and Mira offered many excellent suggestions during the editorial process. And I know that she worked closely with Sandie Sonke on the art. I am so proud of the final book!


SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process?

MELISSA: Mira selected the amazing artist Sandie Sonke as the book’s illustrator. I couldn’t be happier with this collaboration. Sandie’s vision surpassed my expectations. I just love all the details she added in the illustrations and I love the expressions on Scarlet, the magic paintbrush, and the adorable animals. One benefit to working with a small publisher is being involved throughout the process. Mira and Callie consulted me about the illustrations and I saw the art at various stages which was very exciting.



SUSANNA: Did you include any art notes with your manuscript?

MELISSA: I didn’t include art notes with this manuscript. In fact, Sandie created a cute story line with the dog appearing in many illustrations that I had not even contemplated. I do include art notes in other manuscripts if they are integral to an understanding of the story.


SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

MELISSA: I signed the contract in November 2016 and the release date is October 2018.


SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

MELISSA: I am in the process of having a book trailer produced, and I have lots of swag including bookmarks, stickers, postcards, magnets, and a t-shirt. Kids love swag! I’m also having an educator guide created for teachers and librarians by Deb Gonzalez.


SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

MELISSA: I started on this KidLit writing journey in 1997 when my oldest daughter was one! Seriously! I joined SCBWI that year and attended many workshops. And I have a file drawer full of rejections. After that initial burst, I worked on many other writing projects, including parenting articles and a parent-child book club resource book. About five years ago I got immersed again in writing for children. I started taking more classes and joined several critique groups. I started submitting picture books and ultimately signed my first contract for my chapter book series. My next picture book is Ready, Set, Gorilla!, illustrated by the very talented Sandy Steen Bartholomew.

SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

MELISSA: It’s so amazing to hold the finished book in my hands! My message to pre-published writers is to keep going. Work hard; study your craft through in person or online courses (like Susanna’s Making Picture Book Magic which I took twice!); attend conferences; participate in writing challenges and workshops; make connections with other creatives; establish relationships with trusted critique partners; and just write and submit!

I’m so happy to be featured on your blog, Susanna! Thanks, again for chatting!



Melissa Stoller, Children’s Author

Find Melissa online at:


Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Melissa!  We are all very grateful for your time and expertise and wish you the very best success with ALL your books!

Readers, if you have questions for Melissa, please post them in the comments below and if Melissa has time I’m sure she’ll respond.

You may purchase Melissa’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)


We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂


Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

84 thoughts on “Tuesday Debut – Presenting Melissa Stoller!

  1. tina shepardson says:

    Congratulations Melissa and Sandy ! A joy to watch parts of the process along the way and such a beautiful and relevant story for children ! Happy Book Birthday !!

  2. https://katiewalsh.blog/ says:

    Wow! This sounds like a magical story and I love that it’s focused on art. Thank you for sharing your writing journey, Melissa and congratulations to you, too!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Thanks for stopping by to read, Candice! I love that Melissa was inspired to write about art in this way. It’s one of my favorite things about writing – that we all find different things interesting and inspiring! I’m afraid if I wrote about art, it would be about how my mom used to drag me to the Met when I was a kid and I lagged along behind her just hoping it would be over soon! I had NO appreciation as a child 🙂

      • Melissa Berger Stoller says:

        Just seeing this now, Susanna! I am laughing. Next time you’re in NYC let’s meet at the MET and maybe you will enjoy it!!!

  3. Traci Bold says:

    This is a thoughtful and wondrous new series Susanna! I have to go back to your first one and catch up.

    Melissa, congratulations again on your PB debut! I look forward tor reading it. And thank you for letting us into your world.

    • Melissa Stoller says:

      Thanks, Traci. And I agree . . . Susanna has put together a wonderful resource with this new series! Thank you for visiting my world!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Thanks, Traci! I’m glad you like it! Here’s how I think up stuff: I ask myself, what do I wonder about and what do I want to know? And then I assume that if I’m curious about those things, someone else probably is too. Sometimes I’m right, and sometimes it appears that my mind follows a path not frequented by others 🙂 But Tuesday Debut seems to be a good one 🙂

    • Melissa Stoller says:

      Thank you, sweet Vivian! My second book in the Enchanted Snow Globe Collection series will be out spring 2019! I can’t wait! It’s set against the backdrop of 1915 Philadelphia and stars the Liberty Bell! And I am excited for you – 2019 here you come!! xox

  4. yangmommy says:

    You surprise me with every blog, Melissa–each one I learn something new about your process with this story! 🙂 I love this story & wish you all the best with its success

    • Melissa Stoller says:

      Oh, that is so lovely. Thank you! I’m glad to hear that I am not too repetitive LOL! But seriously, it really means a lot that you took the time to comment.

      • yangmommy says:

        Ah, you’re welcome! I wish I had time to comment on many blogs, but then I wouldn’t be able to work, LOL! Small steps 🙂

  5. authorlaurablog says:

    Wonderful interview and I love hearing about the inspiration for a story and then the journey it travels until it’s a real book! I’ve ordered your book from my library and received notice that it’s been purchased. The next email will be letting me know I can come get it!

    Congratulations on this beautiful book!

    • Melissa Stoller says:

      Thank you so much, Laura! I am so happy to hear that. Libraries are the BEST! Please let me know! And also what state you are in! I hope the children who use your library love the book. So appreciate this!

  6. Debora says:

    Melissa, I am delighted to *meet* you and your darling book about a girl and her magic paintbrush! I hope to find the book someday so I can spend some time in that world. 🙂 Great interview–thank you for sharing your process and for being so encouraging to other authors. I’ve saved this post so I can refer to it during my own journey. All the best to you! And Susanna, thank you for all you do here for fellow writers and illustrators in the children’s literature realm!

    • Melissa Stoller says:

      I am so happy to meet you as well, Debora. And I’m really glad you found this interview helpful. I have saved a ton of blog posts over the years and I do refer to them! Thanks for letting me know! All the best with your writing!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      It is my pleasure, Debora! And I’m grateful to the debut authors who are willing to take the time to share their experience so that we can all learn from them. When you aren’t published yet, there’s a lot you don’t even know you don’t know! 🙂

  7. Debbie Sexton Lee says:

    Congratulations Melissa! Thank you for sharing your writing process with us-it is so encouraging to hear about how a story is “born”! Can’t wait to read it! (and I am now looking forward to having my own drawer full of rejections!) 🙂

  8. Melissa Stoller says:

    Thanks so much, Debbie! Yes, I also love to read about how authors get their ideas . . . they really come from everywhere! And yes that rejection drawer is such a big part of this process, isn’t it? Good luck with your projects!

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