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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - Michelle Schaub

I'm happy to showcase my #SeenIn19 writing pal, Michelle Schaub, on the blog today. I absolutely love her new picture book poetry collection, FINDING TREASURE: A COLLECTION OF COLLECTIONS. Michelle shares her thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection -- including her amazing creative word art project. Thanks for joining us, Michelle!

Stories - Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.

I’m a poetry and a nonfiction gal, so I’m always on the lookout for fascinating factual topics that lend themselves to verse. The inspiration for FINDING TREASURE came when I was participating in Storystorm (which was called Picture Book Idea Month, or PiBoIdMo, at the time.) In this challenge, started by author Tara Lazar, writers come up with one picture book idea a day for the entire month. Toward the end of the month, I was running thin on ideas. I began to peruse my office, wondering if any of the eclectic items on my bookshelf would lend themselves to a story. My eyes landed on a row of my grandmother’s seashells. My grandmother had been a collector, and I started reminiscing about all of the interesting items displayed around her house: tea cups, butterfly figurines, giraffe statues.

I started writing some poems about her collections. Eventually the individual poems coalesced into a collection of poems that tells a story. The protagonist of this “poetry story” is a girl who is tasked with bringing in a collection for a class project. The only problem: she doesn’t collect anything. The girl seeks out friends, family, and even the mailman, hoping to be inspired by just the right items to collect. What does she end up collecting? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Creativity - How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?

I minored in graphic design in college, and while I never pursued this as a career, I’ve always loved to tinker with visual arts. When I encounter writers block, I find it helpful to give the wordy side of my brain a break and fire up those visual/spatial neurons. I put my graphic skills to work in creating book trailers, designing and maintaining my website and blog, and developing promotional materials for my books.

Last spring, I gave myself a specific creative challenge. I’ve been a collector of words for quite some time. When I encounter a word that strikes me as particularly tangible, I write it down in my journal -- a habit I probably share with many writers. I decided to take one of those words each week and turn it into a piece of art. I did this by drawing the letters of the word in a way that showed the word’s meaning. I showcased this “word art” on Instagram as a way to cut my teeth on that social media platform. Now, whenever I’m stuck on a writing project, I pick a word from my collection and play with turning it into a picture.

Connection - How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?

One exciting way I connected with readers this past year was by participating in the #kidsneedmentors program. I was paired with a second-grade class in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. I live in the Chicago area, so I wasn’t able to visit the class in person, but we Skyped about once a month. I also sent the class some of my favorite picture books mentor texts, and we exchanged letters. Throughout the year, we shared thoughts on writing, told stories, and developed a relationship around a love of reading, writing, and learning.

In addition, staying connected to the dynamic and supportive Kidlit community is definitely a priority for me. I do this through social media, but I also think it is important to connect in person. I look forward to attending my regional SCBWI event, Prairie Writers Day, each year to touch base with writing friends and learn about current publishing trends. I also attend Highlights Workshops when I can, especially if they are focused on poetry. Highlights workshops are a wonderful venue to meet kindred writing spirits and revive your own writing passion.

Michelle's Bio:

Michelle Schaub is a children’s author, veteran teacher, and poetry in the classroom advocate. She is the author of the picture book poetry collections Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market (Charlesbridge 2017), Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections (Charlesbridge 2019), and the upcoming Dream Big, Little Scientist (Charlesbridge, 2020.) Her poems appear in several anthologies, including The Poetry Anthology for Celebrations and Great Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud. When she’s not writing or teaching, Michelle loves hiking, biking, collecting words, and exploring farmers’ markets.

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