Scarlet's Magic Paintbrush by Melissa Stoller

We're delighted to welcome Melissa Stoller to the Six Pens blog to share about the process of writing her new picture book, Scarlet's Magic Paintbrush, illustrated by Sandie Sonke. Read on to learn more about Melissa and her beautiful book!

By Melissa Stoller

I’m delighted to be here with you Lisa, to discuss my magical debut picture book, SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Clear Fork Publishing, August 2018). Illustrator Sandie Sonke ( is an incredible artist and I’m thrilled that we’re collaborating on this book.

Gathering the Idea and Writing the Manuscript:

Here’s a bit of background about the book’s journey. Although I’m not an artist, I love art history and spending time in museums. A few years ago, I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, gazing at paintings by my favorite artists, the French Impressionists. I wondered, what would it be like to paint like an Impressionist? And I thought to myself, I wish I had a magic paintbrush so I could paint like that. And the idea for SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH was born.

I remember brainstorming the idea. I asked myself many questions:

What if a little girl really did have a magic paintbrush? What would she paint? Would the paintings be perfect? How would she feel about that? And then, what would happen if she lost the magic paintbrush? Could she ever paint again? Would her creativity take over? And, what if she found the magic paintbrush?

In answering these questions, I wrote my first draft. Then I revised, revised, revised. I firmly believe that the true story is revealed during revisions. My critique partners were invaluable throughout the whole process. And several classes along the way were also truly helpful as I developed my craft, including The Children’s Book Academy “Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books,” “Making Picture Book Magic,” and “Inked Voices” workshops.

From Manuscript to Book:

Time passed, and I found myself in another museum, The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. I was enjoying a special day with Callie Metler-Smith, founder of Clear Fork Publishing, who published and illustrated my debut chapter book, THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND. I mentioned that I was working on a picture book inspired by my love of art and art history, and Callie liked the idea and ultimately the manuscript!

Enter the marvelous Mira Reisberg, founder of the Children’s Book Academy and Editor and Art Director at Clear Fork Publishing. Mira, aka the Picture Book Whisperer, is my incredible editor and art director for this project. And she brilliantly paired me with the very talented illustrator Sandie Sonke, who is bringing this story to life.

I’ve had several sneak peaks into Sandie’s process and I can’t wait to share the whole book. I just love the cover - it is truly enchanted! I hope children enjoy the story and the art and I know the book will sprinkle a bit of magical creativity throughout the world.

Thanks again Lisa, for allowing me the opportunity to showcase my debut book and Sandie’s beautiful cover!

Melissa’s Bio:

Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Book One: Return to Coney Island and Book Two: The Liberty Bell Train Ride (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017 and Summer 2018); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork, Summer and Fall, 2018). She is also the co-author of The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). 

Melissa is an Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, an Admin for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, and a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY. Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. Additionally, she is a member of the Board of Trustees at The Hewitt School and at Temple Shaaray Tefila. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy. When not writing or reading, she can be found exploring NYC with family and friends, traveling, and adding treasures to her collections.

Connect with Melissa:

Writing: A Focus on Intent

By Gloria G. Adams

As a freelance editor, I find myself increasingly asking clients, “What is your intent for writing this book? What is it that you want to say and what do you want your main character to be like at the end?” 

For some books, it’s obvious. But I’ve edited a lot of them for which I was unsure of the intent. Enough to make me realize how important it is and how often it’s not been thought through.
Though there are many areas where intent is something to address, such as target audience or fitting into a niche market, I want to concentrate on two that I think are most important in the writing of the story. As a writer, I know that I want to answer these two questions for every story I write:

  • What is my intent for my main character?
  • What is my intent for my reader?

The main character travels on a journey through books and stories, whether it is physical or emotional. In order to make this journey meaningful, the writer needs to be aware of who his character is at the beginning of the book and who he wants him/her to be at the end of the book. Will he be more confident, empathetic, learn a lesson, make amends for mistakes? 

Create a picture of your character in your head; write it down in a notebook or on note cards or in Word or Scrivener…whatever works for you. The most important thing is to understand and maintain focus on the end goal for your characters and to make sure you fulfill that goal.

The other concern is that you know what you want your reader to take away from your story. Clarify this in your head and keep asking yourself, “Am I giving my reader what I planned? Is it enough to keep him reading?”

J. K. Rowling supposedly wrote the ending to the Harry Potter books long before the first one was published. She knew where she wanted to take the story.

When you are thinking about your intent for the reader, these should be the most important goals:

  • To keep the reader engaged in the story.
  • To make the reader care about your character and about your character’s journey or goals.
  • To deliver on promises you make. (Solve the mystery, resolve the love triangle, etc.)

Because it’s always about the reader. Without readers, we have no audience for our work. We must make sure we are writing with the intent to satisfy the reader and to give him or her a story worth reading and characters to whom he/she can relate.

Are you writing with intent?

In addition to writing for children and contributing to this blog, Gloria is co-founder with writer, Jean Daigneau, of Two-4-One KidCritiques, a critique editing service that offers two critiques for the price of one.