Melissa Abramovitz has been a freelance writer/author for 30 years and specializes in writing nonfiction magazine articles and books for all age groups. She is the author of hundreds of magazine articles, more than 40 educational books for children and teenagers, numerous poems and short stories, several children’s picture books, and a book for writers titled A Treasure Trove of Opportunity: How to Write and Sell Articles for Children’s Magazines. Melissa graduated from the University of California San Diego with a degree in psychology and is also a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature. She is a member of SCBWI, NABE, and The Working Writer’s Club. Visit her website at www.melissaabramovitz.com
Thank you for joining us today, Melissa. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself? I’ve been writing professionally for about thirty years and love being a writer. Most of the work I do is writing books for educational book publishers, but I also write magazine articles for all age groups, some fiction, poetry, and children’s picture books. So I’m what you call an eclectic writer since I don’t stick to one type of writing or one genre. In addition to working full-time as a writer, I enjoy volunteering regularly at my local animal shelter – yes, I’m an animal lover and really enjoy doing something that makes a tiny positive difference in the world. And I spend as much time as possible with my family. I have two grown sons and three beautiful grandchildren!
When did you first get bit by the writing bug? I have enjoyed writing all my life. As a child I used to write stories and poems all the time, and the first thing I ever had published was a poem I wrote when I was in high school. The poem won some sort of competition and was featured in a local school district publication. Believe it or not, I even enjoyed writing term papers in high school and college because I liked finding new ways to express myself through writing. But I never envisioned having a career as a writer until later on. I got my degree in psychology and planned to become a clinical psychologist, but that never came to be. When my children were small, I was lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom, and I decided to take a writing class to explore the possibility of starting a part-time career in writing that I could fit in around my main role as a mom/homemaker. I sold the first magazine article I submitted to a publisher, and I was on my way! But it wasn’t all smooth sailing – like all writers, I received and still receive lots of rejections. But being a writer has proven to be a perfect career for me.
Why did you decide to write stories for children? The first writing course I took was through the Institute of Children’s Literature, so I learned a lot about writing for children through that class. I also write for adults, and enjoy that too, but there is something very special about writing for kids. Not only do I like creating stories and books that kids will want to read, but writing for children has restored my child-like wonder about the world because it helps me see the world through childrens’ eyes.
Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience? Absolutely. Some people think it’s easy to write for children, but it’s much more difficult than writing for adults is. Every word and idea must be age-appropriate for children. The word counts for childrens’ books and magazine articles are typically much more stringent than for adults, and this is also challenging. It is incredibly difficult to present a story or nonfiction piece in 100 to 500 words, which is a typical length for young children.
What is your favorite part of writing for young people? I really like knowing that something I wrote has the potential to get kids excited about reading or that it can motivate them to become better people or do something good in the world.
Can you tell us what your latest book is all about? Helping Herbie Hedgehog is an interactive picture book/early chapter book about a clueless hedgehog who needs help figuring out how to get places and go about doing other things in his day like chores, shopping, exercising, and other activities. Amusing rhymes invite kids to help Herbie make decisions such as whether to ride his bicycle or take a sailing ship across the ocean, or whether he should buy a hat or a shoe to wear on his head. As the book blurb states, “Herbie has places to go and things to do. But he needs some help ‘cause he hasn’t a clue! If you’ll help Herbie decide what’s right and wrong, he’ll be busy and happy the whole day long!” Recommended for children ages 2 to 7, Helping Herbie Hedgehog helps kids learn about everyday things while having fun.
What inspired you to write it? : Most of the books, poems, and magazine articles I write are educational in some way. I’m always looking for ways to make learning about concepts or other ideas fun for kids. Many years ago, knowing how much small children enjoy being right, I got the idea to write a series of funny poems about animal characters that need to figure out how to get places and do other things. I decided to engage young readers in helping the characters decide what to do, given some silly choices. I ended up incorporating all the poems into a book that featured a single character, Herbie Hedgehog.
Where can readers purchase a copy? It’s available at Amazon www.amazon.com/Helping-Herbie-Hedgehog-Melissa-Abramovitz/
and at the Guardian Angel Publishing website: www.guardianangelpublishing.com/herbie-hedgehog.htm
What is up next for you? I’m always working on new educational books, and plan to continue to do that. I’ve also completed several more picture books and hope to find publishers for these books. I’ve been thinking that the best way to go about this may be to hire an agent, even though I’ve never used an agent before. So many publishers have closed their doors to unagented submissions these days. So I need to invest some serious time in finding the right agent. And of course I’m looking forward to doing more promotions for Helping Herbie Hedgehog!
Do you have anything else to add? Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share information about Herbie Hedgehog and myself. I’ve been thrilled by the positive reviews and feedback I’ve received about Helping Herbie Hedgehog since it was released, and hope this book continues to be a source of laughter and fun for those who read it.
Thank you for spending time with us today, Melissa. We wish you much success.