I was lucky enough to meet one of Brooklyn's finest through my neighborhood mommy-group, online. (Mommy groups are another one of reasons why Brooklyn is awesome).
Melanie Hope Greenberg is the author and illustrator of many must-have books, including Mermaids on Parade, A City Is, and Good Morning Digger. You can also collect her beautiful artwork by visiting her original art sale blog. While you're online, you should also visit her Student/Parent/Teacher Blog. Did I mention that it was selected “100 Best Book Blogs for Kids, Tweens, and Teens?" You can also visit her webpage, and even become become one of Melanie Hope Greenberg's Facebook Friends!
I had the opportunity to interview Melanie, online. Check out what she has to say about being a writer.
Me: You’ve illustrated some lovely children’s books, most recently Mermaids on Parade. What projects are you currently working on?
Melanie: Right now I am juggling various book projects to sell and publish. Even though I have published before, there is no guarantee that I will publish again. Markets change, trends change. I am trying to do my best and hope my ideas fly with a publisher.
Me: As an author/illustrator, what do you think makes a really great picture book?
Melanie: My belief is that art is always subjective and there are too many people to try and please. I do not think there is a real answer when it comes to loving art and words. Maybe it's the winning combination of talent, skills and where the public is at when that book comes out. I'd much rather go with an overall formula of good writing skills, a story that can be read over and over without it becoming stale, child friendly art, universal human appeal and heart.
Me: Do you have a few favorite children’s books?
Melanie: From my childhood I remember, Lottie and Lisa (the original Parent Trap), Little Witch, Dr. Seuss, and Golden Books. I was exposed to many books at the New York City Public Library-- the Classon Point branch in the Bronx. I hardly look around now since I try not to follow trends but to be true to my own inner visions and stories.
Me: What do you find is the hardest part about writing and illustrating?
Melanie: Waiting... Rejection...Hustling for financial balance while I create....Lack of exposure so that my books are not as popular as they could be or that my original art does not sell and sits dormant in my studio. Quite frustrating.
Me: How is the process of writing the story related to the process of illustrating? Do you write the whole story first, then illustrate—or do you start from an idea for the artwork and let the story develop afterward?
Melanie: I usually start with an idea and a 32 page thumbnail grid "map" on 8 1/2" x 11" paper. Then I can see the whole 32 page book in front of me. The grids are boxes that represent each spread and how the book pages will turn. They are labeled 4/5, 6/7, 8/9 etc. I begin write in the scene sequences with a few notes in each box. Once the story has a basic "spine" I write to fill in the details. Then I add the visuals by sketching larger boxes to create storyboards. Once I like the storyboards I create a 32 page book dummy. The dummy is what an author-illustrator must present to an editor. We are actually creating the whole book (without final art) before we even present it to an editor.
Me: What strategies do you use when you are stuck for ideas for your art or your writing?
Melanie: Research, looking at things other than art to feed me stories about real life, taking a break, putting the project to the side then coming back to it. These things refresh my creative juices. Also marketing my older books while I work on new ideas keeps my name fresh in the public eye.
Me: What can parents do to encourage children to be lifelong readers and writers?
Melanie: Start reading to them while they are very young to develop the discipline of listening and being quiet in order to go inside the imagination. Parents can instill that books have value and to treasure them. Parents can instill the value of listening to one's inner voice, and from that place art and words arise. To honor that place within and to express thoughts and ideas and the authors and artists that show the way.