Exclusive Interview with
Michelle Medlock Adams
When did you start writing?
When I was in first grade, Mrs. True made an announcement that would forever change my life.
“We’re having a poetry contest this week,” she said, “so use today and tomorrow to come up with your best poem.”
We had just studied the various types of poems, and I decided I really liked the ones that rhymed. In fact, I had checked out every book of rhyming poetry I could find from our school library, and I’d read them all—twice.
As my classmates wrote about their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, I carefully crafted the words to my poem: “I Love Penny.”
Penny was my 7-year-old wiener dog and my best friend in the whole world.
My poem went a little something like this: “Penny is my very best friend. I’ll love her to the very end. She’s a very special wiener dog. I love her though she smells like a hog…”
OK, so I wasn’t exactly a first grade Dr. Seuss, but my poem was good enough to earn first prize. (I guess the other first grade poets must’ve been really bad.) At any rate, I won a few sparkly pencils and the honor of going first in the lunch line that afternoon. Mrs. True also displayed my poem in the front of the room for all to see. I stared at my winning poem all afternoon, and in my mind, I was already coming up with a follow-up rhyme.
That’s the day I became a writer.
I wanted to write all the time, and so I did. I wrote during recess while other kids played tag and climbed on the monkey bars. I completely fell in love with words.
What makes writing your passion?
Creating stories for children—stories that teach, entertain, encourage and inspire—it’s a noble calling. It’s a calling I don’t take for granted. I truly love what I do.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was in first grade...but professionally since I graduated from Indiana University with a journalism degree. That's when I secured my first job in the industry as a newspaper reporter.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
I felt so excited, accomplished, and a little bit nervous. I remember going to Barnes & Noble and seeing my picture book, "Conversations On the Ark" on the endcap. I took lots of pictures, and yes, I cried a few tears of joy.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
For my book, "Dachshund Through the Snow"...
I’ve been a dog lover for as long as I can remember. So, after writing and publishing more than 100 books, it only makes sense that I’d finally write a story about my favorite breed of dog — the dachshund. (I grew up with a shorthaired red miniature doxie named Penny. And, since then, I’ve loved Max, Maddie Anne, Freckles, Miller, and our current cutie Mollie Mae.)
But, “Dachshund Through the Snow” was inspired by Miller, our longhaired miniature dachshund who loved to dig and dig and dig! He is in heaven but his memory lives on through Crosby in my book, "Dachshund Through the Snow".
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
I think it's the "Hurry up and wait" timeline that goes along with publishing. We stress and work and sweat to meet our editorial deadlines, only to encounter delays at the printer or to discover our books are stuck on a ship somewhere...it's just part of it. Over the years, I've learned to trust the process and believe they are simply "divine delays."
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
Write something every single day. I always have several projects going so if I'm not "feeling it" on one of them, I'll simply switch to a different writing project, and that will often "unblock" my creative flow.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
This isn't proper English but "I can't not write." I love what I do. I love to write. I love to teach writing. I love to brainstorm new book ideas and celebrate book launches with my writing colleagues and friends. I can't imagine life without writing...it's not just what I do, it's part of who I am.
Never give up! Believe in the call. Keep learning. Keep getting better. Keep creating stories that make a difference.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Enjoy the journey--every single moment of it.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
Yes, and of course, it's hard to get a 2-star review on a book on Amazon because the buyer was mad the book arrived later than it was supposed to. That, obviously, had nothing to do with my writing but it affects my overall ranking on Amazon. Those are the worst! I try to learn from the less than stellar reviews, but sometimes, the person simply didn't get what I was trying to accomplish, and that's Ok. We can't please everyone, but we should always strive for excellence.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
Good reviews always make me smile.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
I have in my picture books. "Sister For Sale" is totally based on a true story when my oldest daughter wanted to sell her baby sister in our yard sale. lolol.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
Since I write mostly for children and nonfiction books for women, I’m not sure I have based any of my children’s book characters off of me, but I definitely draw from childhood experiences to create engaging copy for my readers. Even though fads come and go and trends are always changing, the emotions we feel as children are universal and timeless. So, I definitely try to connect with the little girl inside me and write from that emotional place.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
It absolutely is! It’s especially true when you’re talking about children’s picture books. If your cover is bad, it’s the kiss of death for your book. In a sea of books in a bookstore or Walmart or Target or Sam’s, our eyes scan the genre of books we’re there to purchase, right? So, the beautiful covers are the ones that will jump off the shelves and beckon you to buy them. I can’t stress enough the importance of a great cover. I have been very blessed to work with great artists over the course of my career, and I’ve really had lovely covers. I’m grateful.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I know a lot of writers are introverts, but I may be the exception. I am an extrovert in every way! I love to connect with my readers at book events, book signings, writers conferences, etc. I also love speaking to children in school convocations and encouraging them to follow their dreams. When COVID hit and closed all of those opportunities, it was so hard for writers to connect with their readers in a tangible way. I started doing Facebook Live events and chatting with readers via comments. I also started “Storytime with Michelle” and brought my stories to the kids at home. I think, as writers, we need to make every effort to connect with our readers through story, through social media, at events—in every way. It means so much to them, and it’s so encouraging and enlightening to us! We can learn from our readers. I do every day!
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
Of course, it’s delightful. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get excited every time I win another award or am recognized with a good review. But we can’t be moved by the praise any more than we can be moved by the negative reviews. We can learn from both, but ultimately, you’re either called to write or you’re not. If you are, you write no matter what. You tell the stories you’ve been given to tell. And you do it unapologetically. 😊 (I hope that doesn’t sound too sassy, but I feel very passionate about that!)
Who is your favorite author? Why?
I have always loved Shel Silverstein’s work because it’s so funny and often unexpected. I grew up loving his books; my own children loved his books; and now my grandkids love them! His work continues to delight…that’s so awesome! I only hope that my books will be popular for as long as his books have delighted readers.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
dream of mine to acquire, develop, and be part of publishing my own imprint of children’s board books and picture books. To be like Margaret K. McElderry who has her own line of children’s books: Margaret K. McElderry Books, a boutique imprint of Simon & Schuster. To see the idea come full circle, to be part of the birthing of each story that I would get to hand select…what a rush! I’ve done acquisitions for publishers. I’ve edited for publishers. I’ve judged many writing contests. But to have my own imprint and champion other writers across the finish line? I think that’s my biggest writing dream.