Monday, December 10, 2012


Want a chance to win a free copy of Melissa's book?  Leave a comment on this post.  I'll be picking one commenter at random to receive Baby Penguins Everywhere!

Congratulations are in order for Melissa Guion, whose first children's picture book, Baby Penguins Everywhere!, hit the shelves on December 6.

I first met Melissa Guion at Book Court in Brooklyn.  We were both there to hear children's literature expert Leonard Marcus read from Listening for Madeleine, his new treatise of A Wrinkle in Time author Madeleine L'Engle.

In her friendly way, Melissa reached out to me and asked what my connection to children's literature was.  In the course of our chat, she shared the exciting news that her first children's book was soon to debut.

Over the course of coffee and bagels, I learned more about Melissa and her fascinating journey to becoming a first-time book author and illustrator.

Melissa started our chat with a surprising fact: She used to be a hedge fund manager.  "People's eyes sometimes glaze over when I share that info," said Melissa, explaining that it's a big mental leap to process a move in between such different lines of work. 

In truth, Melissa has been writing and making art all her life.  Her work history reveals her ongoing dedication to the arts.  She has been a photographer and a member of an improvisational theater company.

So what exactly accounts for the move from hedge fund VP to children's book author/illustrator?

"All along, I was making art for myself, my friends, and my friends' children," shares Melissa. "At some point, a friend who was a former literary agent asked me 'Have you thought of doing children's books?"

Melissa got busy building a body of artwork and creating a website to make it public.  Her friend sent a link to Melissa's website to an agent at Writers House. The agent phoned Melissa and expressed great interest in her work. He suggested she try to come up with a story, then turn it into a rough 32-page picture book dummy. Melissa found it difficult to make progress on the task at hand after giving birth to her daughter, but eventually renting a studio space up the street made it easier to focus, as did receiving a modest art grant. 

Melissa's agent began making introductions between Melissa and folks in the world of children's book publishing. It was a promotional mailing initiated by her agent that got her art noticed by a wider audience.

"I had worked hard in isolation for a lot of years, so it was good for me to have this promotional postcard be so well-received," Melissa revealed.

It took a bit of time for Melissa to complete Baby Penguins Everywhere, but she did it!  And now Melissa is painting the town red as she visits different bookstores to do readings. 

My personal takeaway from Melissa's story?  It's never too late to go after a creative dream.  

I wish Melissa much success in her continued work in the world of children's literature!

Click HERE to find a listing of dates and places where Melissa will be reading her new book!

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