|Mel with The Pigeon|
Why do you write for children?
I write for children because it’s what feels natural to me. I attended the University of California, Davis to get my BA in Studio Art and spring semester of my junior year I had this crisis moment when I realized that everything I made was very one-dimensional, that all of it was just something to hang on a wall. I (very luckily) happened to begin my Intro to Children’s Literature class that semester and as I began looking at the picture books a sort of light bulb went off in my head. I decided then that I wanted my artwork to be accessible on a different kind of level, that I wanted it to be a part of something bigger. As someone who had always taken an interest in English and was pursuing an English minor at the time it was like being smacked in the face with the solution: picture books. Writing YA came a few years later and I think it stemmed from wanting to tell darker stories surrounding existentialism to people who were experiencing the same feelings as my characters. I firmly believe that children can grasp difficult concepts at an early age but writing for young adults offered me an opportunity to examine those concepts from a more mature point of view.
What's the most difficult part of crafting a story?
I think the most difficult part of crafting a story is that eventually the story is out of your hands—at some point the characters take over and it’s all you can do to keep up. No matter how intent I am on my novels or picture books going in a specific direction, the characters inevitably take hold of the story and start making their own decisions. It makes writing trickier but you learn so much more about what your characters are capable of and how they learn and grow.
How does your writing offer something new to the children’s literature world?
I’d like to think that my stories and illustrations offer something new in the sense that they become an amalgam of what I’ve admired in other stories and illustrations. I’ve spent twenty-five years reading, writing, and illustrating, but mostly I’ve spent that time absorbing and learning. My stories and illustrations are interpretations of the messages I’ve gathered from a long line of children’s literature and convey what I feel is important to creating a story for a child. So really, my offering is my experience and what I’ve learned.
Mel Schuit is currently an MA/MFA candidate in Children’s Literature/Writing for Children at Simmons College in Boston and she received her BA in Studio Art from the University of California, Davis in 2009. Although most of her free time is taken up by her chatty cat Toothless, she is also working on a picture book about a pineapple named Penelope and a young adult novel about a grim reaper. Feel free to find out more about Mel at melschuit.wordpress.com or to follow Penelope on twitter @spiky_penelope