Monday, May 18, 2009

Stella Michel

Today for The Unread, I'm interviewing someone who isn't totally unread, but she hasn't had a book published--yet. Stella Michel is one of my fabulous critique partners. She always gives her honest opinion, and she knows her stuff. Stella is a children's library media specialist and has an amazing feel for the poetry of words. I always look forward to what she tells me about my work and to reading whatever she writes.

I really want to know, Stella, why do you write?

I write because I love story and the process of crafting other worlds. I love being transported to another time, another place, and delving into the lives of characters, both real and imagined. It’s exciting to create something where once there was nothing. I also enjoy the music of language. I can’t sing – I just don’t have the voice for it – so writing is, in a sense, my own way of singing, or at least trying to.

(Stella has a beautiful writing voice, even if she says she can't sing.)

How many manuscripts have you written?

I’ve written about 4 picture book manuscripts, scads of poetry, several short stories and am still working on my WIP, Winging It. I hope to finish that this summer then let it rest a while before deciding what to do with it –revise it or chalk it up to writing experience.

(My vote is for revising, not just chalking it up!)

What have you done with the stories and poems you've written?

Most of them are saved on floppies (Floppies! That's old school! Stella you rock!) and are still going through revisions. I’ve had a few poems published (she won the SCBWI "June Looms" contest!) and, most recently, an article published in the SCBWI Bulletin. (See, she's not totally unread. Her article, Verse-atility, in the Bulletin this month is awesome!) I’m a member of an online critique group called the Poet’s Garage, as well as Loose Change, and last year two leaders of The Poet’s Garage, Laura Wyncoop and Jennifer Judd – both very accomplished and talented poets, began subbing out a collection of our spooky poems to various publishing houses. We called it simply, Project Spooky. They received many many rejections but also a few notes of encouragement. At long last, one publisher – Marshall Cavendish – offered to publish our work. We’re thrilled. Our book will come out in 2010 and will be titled The Eyeball In My Garden, after Bill Peary’s poem by the same title. The book will consist of 44 of our poems, accompanied by illustrations. We knew this was an unusual project and weren’t sure what to expect or if we should expect anything.

(That is such great news! I hope I can do a group interview. Hint hint.)

Tell us about your work-in-progress.

Winging It is a middle grade fantasy about impulsive 14 year old Esperenza, an aspiring fairy godmother with an aptitude for trouble, who bungles one spell too many. As punishment, Mirelda, the fairy queen, forbids her from using her wings or her wand until she can prove one thing – that she can help somebody without the use of magic.

(That Esperenza has alot of spunk! She's in such trouble right now I can't wait to see how she manages to get out of it.)

How long have you been writing and what keeps you going?

I guess I’ve been writing on and off since college, but loved it even at an early age. I remember writing poems in my early teens and stories as a grade school student. I began writing more seriously for children in 2004.

How do you make the time?

I write during the summer, after work (if I’m not totally exhausted) and on weekends. It’s easy to find excuses not to write but I’ve decided that if I really wanted to do this, I had to stop making up excuses and find the time instead.

(Stella works with kids all day, then she comes home and writes for kids. She's amazing!)

How does your family feel about your writing?

I think there are times when my husband wishes I didn’t write, then the garden would be planted and the house a little cleaner, but he’s come to accept the fact that it’s important to respect my creative urges. I also draw and paint. My boys recently left the house to strike out on their own but when they were kids, I really didn’t have any much time to write. I started writing poetry during my son’s high school wrestling tournaments, which went on all day – sometimes all weekend – as a way to pass the time and found I loved the challenge.

(Now that's a challenge--writing at a high school wrestling match!)

What are your writing goals and what have you done to further them?

My writing goals mostly consist of writing the best stories and poems I can. Maybe somebody will want to publish them, maybe not, but I just want to craft the best stories and poems I’m capable of. I’ve attended some writing workshops, joined two critique groups, the SCBWI and read several great books about writing, all with the hopes of improving my writing skills.

How far would you go to get your book published?

If I really believe I have something worth publishing, I’ll persevere with it until I run out of options and finally stick it in my junk drawer.

And I love the answers I get to this question, so, if you could live in any book which one would it be and why?

I’ve always loved fairy tales and wouldn’t mind living in Shannon Hale’s book, The Goose Girl. I love the characters and the setting, the story and the language, and the magic, of course – everything about it really.

How did I know that you would want to live in a fairy tale?
Thank you, Stella, for letting me interview you. I can't wait for THE EYEBALL IN MY GARDEN to be released!
You can read more from Stella at her blog, Shore Lines.


  1. Thanks, so much Heather (but can't you make that picture a little smaller - eek!).

  2. Great interview! Stella does, indeed, rock!

    Stephanie Theban

  3. Great interview, Stella! I can't wait for The Eyeball in my Garden!