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Life and Work with Michelle Nott

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Nott.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Michelle. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Although I’ve loved writing most of my life, studied creative writing in college, and published some poetry in small literary magazines, I believe my strongest jumping off point happened while living in Belgium. I had been teaching French in New Jersey when my husband’s job took us overseas in 2004. While our daughters were still toddlers, I noticed the bookshelves mainly stocked with French books. As wonderful as they were, if we wanted the girls to be bi-lingual, we needed more English stories. So, I decided to write some bedtime tales.

Considering how often my husband, and many other spouses, traveled and missed out on reading stories at bedtime to their children, I started a blog called Good Night, Sleep Tight where I posted a story almost every week. I wanted to create a resource for parents to find a story wherever they were and to be able to call or Skype home to read to their children. I also included anecdotes of living an expat life and raising Third Culture Kids.

During this time, I also started writing freelance travel and lifestyle articles. My articles appeared on another blog I managed called Belgian Trips, as well as in print and online magazines based in various countries. This experience led me to freelance editing jobs for a number of organizations and companies in Brussels, as well as to a position as Senior Editor for an online lifestyle magazine published by the American Women’s Club of Brussels.

Fast forward to 2015, our family moved to the Houston area for my husband’s job again. All this time, I continued writing picture books and eventually middle-grade manuscripts as my daughters grew older. My first early reader, Freddy, Hoppie and the Eyeglasses came out in 2016 by Guardian Angel Publishing. My second early reader, Dragon Amy’s Flames, will also be published by GAP later this year.

While all that was happening, I continued sending query letters to agents and eventually signed with Essie White of Storm Literary Agency. Thanks to her, my debut picture book Teddy Let’s Go! will be published by Enchanted Lion Books in fall 2020.

Has it been a smooth road?
It’s hard to find an entirely smooth road. No matter where you are going, there will always be bumps, cracks, and potholes with, fortunately, occasional stretches of seamless pavement.

The main struggle that comes to mind was, and is, time and energy management. Although every household is different and child-rearing duties are much more shared these days, I do still believe that being a mother and a creative is a delicate juggling act.

I don’t have set and strict working hours to which someone “higher up” is keeping me accountable. I’m not commuting to an office that holds my attention away from cooking and running the kids where they need to go (which I am happy to do). So, I have to set my hours and stick to them. I have to ignore the beeping of the dishwasher and arrange to carpool… all the while keeping “mommy guilt” at bay for not being 110% available to my family at a moment’s notice. It takes planning and understanding from the whole family to make any sort of freelance or self-employment situation work.

My advice is to not wait to call yourself a writer until your first publication. A dear friend once told me well before I had any book deal, “If you are writing, you are a writer.” The sooner you take yourself and your craft seriously, the sooner everyone else will. That mindset will allow you the space to improve and to reach your goals.

And in doing so, I would also encourage anyone interested in writing for children (or in any profession) to join professional associations. I have found valuable support, knowledge, and friendship through national and international groups such as the Children’s Book Insider (CBI) and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). But also, local groups like Houston Writers Guild and Writespace are great resources.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
Although my freelance work was going quite well, time constraints made it difficult to write for others and to follow my passion for kid lit. Writing for children is such an exciting and rewarding path. Similar to how I felt teaching, showing up in young people’s lives is important and essential to making the world a better place. Whether in a classroom or on a page, there’s a kid out there who needs to be heard and who needs to be part of a particular story. I’m proud to be part of the kid lit community and to be surrounded by so many outstanding people who constantly lift each other up… because we realize how important the work is.

As with anyone, what sets my work apart from any other author are my experiences and my voice. We each bring to the page lots of research, but most importantly our individual lives, the emotions we’ve experienced, the places we’ve visited or lived, the joys and sorrows we’ve cried over. I do feel that living abroad, traveling to dozens of countries, raising my children in a culture different than my own, and being bi-lingual (English and French) with dual citizenship (American and French) enrich what I can bring to the table for the characters I create and in the worlds I can build for them. I do wish I knew more languages well enough to soak up its literature. But having access and an understanding of francophone literature (the classics to current bestsellers) has definitely influenced the stories I write in English.

Who have you been inspired by?
There have been many. To list just a few, I would say:

Marie Curie, scientist and Nobel Prize winner – The first picture book biography I ever read as a child was about her. I was fascinated that she was a female scientist.

Madeleine Albright, diplomat and politician – I admire all of her experiences, wisdom, and her accomplishments in a time when even fewer women were in diplomacy. After hearing her speak in Houston this past year, I was even more impressed by her warm personality and humor.

Madeleine L’Engle, author – I am marveled by her imagination and talent in writing a novel such as A Wrinkle in Time.

Eglantyne Jebb, humanitarian, founder of Save the Children and who drafted the original Declaration of the Rights of the Child – She recognized the needs of children and their urgency in the world. She believed to her core that children are our future and did something about it.

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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