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