Melissa Northway is an award-winning author of three children’s books, two of which are also storybook apps on iTunes. She’s also the founder and editor of Dandelion Women, an inspirational lifestyle site to support women as they follow their dreams and provide expert tips on parenting, recipes, beauty, and fashion.
She’s mom to a little redhead who is the inspiration behind everything she does, including Project Kindness where she showcases individuals, corporations and non-profits who spread seeds of kindness in our communities and world. Project Kindness has supported such organizations as a grass-roots non-profit looking for children’s books to start a much needed library in the Dominican Republic and the Always Like A Girl Campaign that encourages girls to believe that they can do and be anything they want.
Melissa was one of the first in the children’s book industry to support Geek Club Books. She helped me begin to build our community and spread the word about our mission to profoundly change how the world views autism. This August, her new children’s book comes out so I thought I’d catch up with her to find out more about the book and use it as an opportunity to introduce you to this remarkable woman.
We are so excited about your next book, Clarence and the Traveling Circus! Can you share a synopsis of the story?
Sure! I think a review/quote from illustrator Steve Bjorkman provides the perfect synopsis of Clarence!
Everyone wants to be special and noticed for something unique. Melissa Northway has written a story about every person’s deepest wish, and in this case it comes in the form of a boy named Clarence. While he is naturally clumsy, and feels the embarrassment of the results, he does have a talent that sets him apart. He can juggle. What child doesn’t wish to find that special something that makes them unique? Melissa cleverly shows Clarence as simultaneously brave and a little self-protective. I loved the way his shyness and insecurity were ‘masked’ until just the right moment. Clarence found a way to grow through his fears, and don’t we all want to do just that?
Steve Bjorkman, Illustrator of over 100 children’s books
What inspired you to write it?
That’s actually a funny story! My husband was off on a golfing trip with some friends and my daughter was staying over at her grandparents. I rented a movie called Is Anyone There? featuring Michael Caine, as Clarence, who is a retired magician who comes to stay at a retirement home run by a family. The young boy, Edward, befriends Clarence and is obsessed with finding evidence for the afterlife. I was fascinated by the idea of an ex-magician and by the end of the movie I had my premise for Clarence and the Traveling Circus. It has been a long process as I came up with the idea when my daughter was in preschool and she is starting 2nd grade next week! I guess my point is that these things take time but just keep plugging along!
Who’s your illustrator and why was she perfect for capturing the spirit of your book?
I met Carolyn Le at the very first Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Editor event I attended. I really liked her work and we kept in touch over the years. When the story was finished, I contacted Carolyn and asked if she would like to collaborate on this project together. She said yes and I must say her work is just amazing! She really brought to life Clarence’s personality – his fears and accomplishments.
Who is the ideal reader and how do you see the book being used?
This book is best for ages 4 to 10 years of age. We included some ‘Fun Facts About the Circus and Juggling’, plus reading strategies developed by a Board Certified Teacher and aligned with the Common Core Standards. So home educators and teachers can use this story in the classroom or home.
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading the book?
Move forward towards your goals and dreams…even if you are afraid.
Where can we buy the book?
The book will be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble by mid-August.
You’ve written two other children’s books, Penelope the Purple Pirate and Gerry the Giraffe. What are the overall themes of these books?
Apparently I do have a recurring theme in my children’s books which didn’t come to me until after they were written! All of my characters persevere and move forward past fears, disappointments and overcome by working hard and trying their best!
Penelope likes to go on adventures and her magical coat tree allows her to transform into any adventure she likes—depending on what outfit she places on it. In Penelope the Purple Pirate, she places a pirate outfit on her coat tree and her bedroom transforms into a gigantic pirate ship and she meets up with her friends—all have physical disabilities.
In Gerry the Giraffe, Gerry is sad because all the other giraffes never choose him to play volleyball—because of course all young giraffes love playing volleyball! When the rest of the team heads off to volleyball camp, Gerry works hard all summer long to be the best player he can be.
You also have the Dandelion Women web community…tell us how it celebrates motherhood.
I created Dandelion Women in order to provide a platform for women to share their thoughts, dreams and wishes. I encourage women to submit articles about ideas, thoughts and things close to them. We feature inspirational moms who inspire us to go after our dreams as they are living theirs!
Our Dandelion Women Project Kindness is all about spreading seeds of kindness out into the world and helping others when we can. Kindness is sort of underrated in my opinion and I like to feature groups, individuals and businesses helping make our world a better place.
Thank you Melissa. You certainly live up to your definition of a Dandelion Woman…beautiful, strong, and resilient. And I just want to go further and add creative, talented, and amazing!
Thank YOU Jodi! Always a pleasure working with you!
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