WHO SHE IS: Melissa Northway, Author of children’s picture books / Founder & Editor, DandelionMoms.com
WORK SCHEDULE: Early mornings & between school drop-off and pick-up
KIDS: Kate, age 7
SANITY VICE: Browsing clothes at our local resale boutique. It really helps me to zone out and I love to get beautiful clothes at a great price. Also, long walks with my family and dog.
How she got here: Ignoring the naysayers…
When my daughter was about two years old, the creativity bug was rearing its head and I just had to “do something” to tap into this part of myself. We would go to our local independent bookstore and read picture book after picture book. That was when I decided I wanted to write children’s picture books. I had no prior experience in this area, but once I made my mind up, I took measures to make it happen. My first story, Penelope the Purple Pirate, was inspired by my little girl who is a bit of a tomboy. There just aren’t many strong female role models for our girls, and I wanted to create a character who loves to have adventures – much like Pippi Longstocking.
Many fellow writers and those in the publishing industry told me that it could take years to get published, if at all, but I was determined to see it happen. I submitted my story (after a good year of having it edited by fellow writers) to a storybook app developer, PicPocket Books, and was so excited when I received an email saying they loved the story and would like to publish it on their platform. My illustrator, Paul Johnson, had about 5 pages of illustrations done at the time, so we had to work hard at finishing the rest of the story.
Penelope the Purple Pirate storybook app was released January 2011 and has won many awards. If I had listened to the naysayers about the proper way to get published, I would not have become so involved in the app and book industry — which really launched me into what I am doing today. Running my own publishing company, author site, and lifestyle site is a lot of work, but I really do like my job and love all the wonderful women and moms I have met because of it.
Prior to writing Penelope and starting Dandelion Moms, I had co-founded a non-profit and worked for an import/export business. I think it is important for women to go after what they are interested in — to think less about whether they are “qualified” to do it, and instead more about what they are passionate about. I had no prior experience in non-profits but started a successful one that raised $30,000 for women in Vietnam. I didn’t have a background in writing, but have now published two children’s picture books, am finishing up my third, and write daily for my websites.
My advice? Believe that you can, meet with others in the industry you are interested in, ask for help, and you can do anything you set your mind to!
5 Questions for Melissa
1. You also publish Dandelion Moms, a blog focused on inspiring women to go after their dreams. Why is this important to you?
I think many times, we put these dreams aside while raising our children, working at a job we don’t really enjoy, and letting outside influences (negative feedback from others, naysayers, etc.) get in the way of what we really want. Dandelion Moms offers a platform for women to tell their stories, and gives them the encouragement and inspiration to go after what they really want out of life. One of my favorite quotes is by Thoreau, “Live the life you’ve imagined.” It really sums up what I hope that Dandelion Moms inspires. We also created the Dandelion Moms project kindness because I think kindness, and acts of kindness, are far reaching and possibly life-changing. Each month we feature an individual, company or non-profit helping to make the world a better place, and we provide ways to get involved and help out. Some examples include collecting and sending over 125 books for a new library in a small town in the Dominican Republic. The founders of the library told me they only had 400 books and that the extra 125 would help complete their library!
2. What’s your favorite working mom time management tip?
Write. It. Down. I keep all of our posts written down in a yearly calendar, and write out what needs to get done for the week and month in my Erin Condren’s Life Planner. Her products are so colorful and fun — I actually enjoy writing down what I need to do. I like it when I finish a goal or task, and getting to cross it out! Another great resource for busy families is the free app by Cozi. This helps to keep the whole family in the loop about everyone’s schedule, and any member of the family can update it at any time from their mobile device.
3. What’s the media missing about working moms, in your opinion?
To not expect mom bloggers to work for free. I was talking to a fellow writer and he was telling me about having good content to share with mom bloggers. I mentioned that most mom bloggers ask for a fee to publicize an event or news, and his reply really surprised me. He said “why I would pay someone when many will do it for free.” I think he and many in the industry are missing the point – that many mom bloggers are helping to put food on the table for their families and just like when you go to work at a job outside of the home, we expect to be paid for our time and energy.
4. What’s your biggest challenge as a working mom and what do you do to address it?
One of my biggest problems is to know when to unplug. Since I work out to the house, I can get in the habit of doing just one more task or sending just one more email, when, in fact, it is time to take a break. There has been many-a-time where I realized I hadn’t moved out of my chair and away from the computer all day. I try to make a conscious effort to not do that anymore, and take breaks just like you would if you were at the office.
5. What advice do you live by as a working mom?
One of the things I try to live my life by is a statement I read years ago which says, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” I think many times as busy moms, we don’t think about how important it is to take care of our own physical and mental health. I learned this the hard way last year when I had run myself down to the point that I was hospitalized for four days and was given over 10 liters of fluids, vitamins, and minerals. They never did quite figure out what happened (they felt some virus attacked my heart – yikes!), but I do believe that my immune system was taxed and that I was more susceptible to getting some virus. Now more than ever, I make sure to eat a healthy diet and take time out for myself to refuel so I can be a better mom, wife and friend to those I care about.
Follow Melissa: @melissanorthway @dandelionmoms
Visit her author site: www.melissanorthway.com