Daily Inspiration: Meet Jodi Meltzer

Dec 20, 2022

Today, we’d like to introduce you to Jodi Meltzer, a multi-award-winning author who has also written extensively about grief, divorce, and parenting for various publications, including HuffPost, The Mighty, Scary Mommy, and Thrive Global.

Hi Jodi, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
I recently moved to Tampa from my native Boston in search of more sunshine, literally and figuratively. I swear, I didn’t stalk Tom Brady (though he is an undeniable Tampa Bay bonus); I needed a daily dose of palm trees and butterflies after a series of unfortunate events (i.e. divorce and death) hip-checked my resolve. Within months of my relocation, I launched my second children’s book, “Goodnight Star. Whoever You Are”, and the community was overwhelmingly supportive.

I will date myself with this reference, but I grew up in a Footloose type of town; if you blink while driving through the center, you will miss it altogether. It’s a quintessential suburban oasis anchored by a pristine lake that offers stunning sunsets, ideally situated a half-hour away from both Boston and Providence.

I was a stereotypical ’80s girl straight out of a Bon Jovi video — impossibly big hair shellacked by copious amounts of Aqua Net, electric blue eyeliner, and head-to-toe neon. My best friend from kindergarten, Jody King Camarra, was always by my side for all my antics, and that continues to this day. She lent her illustrative prowess to both of my books, “When You Lived in My Belly” and “Goodnight Star, Whoever You Are.”

Despite a somewhat idyllic childhood — two healthy (and hilarious) parents who divorced after high school, and a supportive brother who helped me stay out past curfew — the too-small town made me want to hightail it to Hofstra University in New York for college.

After I graduated, I worked on two films in Boston, for the syndicated news magazine “Inside Edition” in New York City, and in Burlington, Vermont, as a television anchor/reporter, among other positions. I was all over the place, working endlessly and tirelessly to get ahead. When I decided it was finally time to get pregnant at age 37, I shifted my career accordingly. I knew I would only have one biological child, and I wanted to take a couple of years off to be a mom.

The only problem was my mind never fully got on board with my plan. I am so grateful there are no thought bubbles above my head because my mind never shuts up. Even exhausted, I wasn’t the type who could sleep when my baby slept. All I kept thinking about was how badly I wanted to write about my experience as a mom…not in terms of logging feeding times (I was the worst at tracking that type of information), but how the new gig swallowed me whole.

I decided to launch a blog, Mommy Dish. I dished about family and food with a hearty helping of humor, and I gained some traction. Turns out there are quite a few moms who are unapologetically themselves, fluent in sarcasm, and unafraid to admit they’re hanging by the thinnest of threads. They are my people. I found them through writing.

As my readership grew, I was invited to guest post on other sites, boosting my credibility. I started pitching stories to large publications and websites to keep getting my name out there. My first big hit was a piece I wrote after the Boston Marathon bombing called “We Are Boston.” A viral post I penned for HuffPost followed shortly thereafter, “Top Ten Rules for Dating a Single or Divorced Mom.”

I have a commitment to myself, to be honest, and that effortlessly resonates with my readers. I don’t sugarcoat my life one bit. I have endured multiple heartbreaks, from illness to death to divorce, and I bare the unfiltered ugliness of it all to connect with others who may need to hear my truth.

I can’t adequately express how much it means to me when someone reaches out to tell me about a post or book I wrote that gave them hope or made them feel heard. It’s the reason I peel back the protective layers and expose my most vulnerable thoughts through writing. It’s often cathartic for me and healing for them at the same time.

When did you decide to start writing children’s books?
I knew I had to write a children’s book after my beloved mom died of ovarian cancer in 2013. It was always her dream to publish a children’s book, though I don’t think she made any real attempt to realize it. I scoured through half-written journals and miscellaneous scraps of paper filled with her perfectly passé cursive handwriting, and I didn’t find any evidence of brainstorming or sketches.

I do vividly remember fleeting late-night conversations when she would discuss her love of children’s books—she was an animated storyteller who delighted in reading to my son—and how much she would want to contribute to the genre. She just didn’t take that first step, so I knew I had to take it for her.

Still, I was trying to wade through the dense fog of crippling grief, which diminished my ability to come up with ideas. I spent countless hours thinking and researching possible children’s book angles, but I was stuck for months.

When my son finally gave me the winning idea by randomly asking, “What was it like when I lived in your belly?”, I devoted every minute of my free time to answer his question. “When You Lived in My Belly” gives children a glimpse into a past they can’t remember and takes moms back to a time they will never forget. It features kid-friendly descriptions of the developmental milestones babies reach in utero, coupled with the corresponding physical and emotional changes experienced by moms.

I wrote my second children’s book. “Goodnight Star, Whoever You Are”, after my son’s father died. It helps kids cope with grief, loss, and longing in an enchanting way, sparking meaningful conversations about the everlasting power of love. With an imaginative point of view, kids will discover that the connection they share with the person who died transcends the space between them.

We all face challenges; what were some of yours along the way?
I was living in New York City when I received a fateful call on a Friday from a television station in Burlington, Vermont. The news station was in the middle of a multimillion-dollar makeover, and management needed someone desperate enough to accept an unenviable contract.

After putting in my behind-the-scenes dues working on two films/for the syndicated news magazine “Inside Edition, “my I-need-my-first-on-air-job clock was ticking loudly. The station manager offered me a six-month anchor/reporter position with a pathetic salary to match — plus one additional caveat: I had to start on Monday.

I had two days to pack my belongings and move, sight unseen, to an area I had never visited. I didn’t know a soul. It was an intoxicating proposition for a free spirit who did not have any attachments. And it was ripe with bloopers.

On the first day, I arrived at work at 2:30 a.m. I had to write my scripts, tape them together for the teleprompter (I swear!), and edit videos for the broadcast. I was beyond amped up sitting in the anchor chair under the unforgiving white lights. I was literally shaking. Fittingly, I could not stop tripping over my words. A viewer called the station and asked a producer, “Is there something wrong with the new anchor?”

When I walked off set, my boss asked me to come into his office. Stat. I was certain I was going to be fired.

“You need to cut your hair,” he said matter-of-factly. “An appointment will be made for you today. It can’t be below your shoulders.”

That’s all he said. He did not critique my excruciatingly painful performance; he criticized my appearance. It was one of the first times in my young career that I felt objectified, and it motivated me to find my voice.

I had countless other mistakes on-air — forgetting my microphone, flubbing live shots, an earpiece flying out of my ear, you name it — but I made sure I was good enough to be judged by my performance from that point on.

When I left television and started pitching publications and books, I experienced a lot of rejection. There were times I struggled to keep writing, to keep dreaming, to keep going…but I could not silence my voice, the one I worked so hard to protect during the early stages of my career. And that resolve has finally paid off.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
As I stated earlier, I write for both children and adults. I am currently working on another children’s book for release in 2023. I also contribute articles about grief, divorce, and parenting to various publications, including HuffPost, The Mighty, Thrive Global, and Scary Mommy.

I am the type who thrives on work. I am constantly challenging myself to explore other genres of writing and tackle projects that make me a little uncomfortable. The space between comfort and aspiration is where real growth occurs.

I love showing my 12-year-old son, Alex, that learning is a never-ending process he should embrace. For example, I recently crammed a screenwriting class into my overpacked schedule. As an established writer, he was surprised I would opt to do classwork and homework. After a discussion, he understood that I have never completed a screenplay, so I needed to learn that method of storytelling to turn my idea into a script.

I also have a memoir on the docket and work as a communications consultant, but being a single mom is truly my number one job (and it is, by far, the most rewarding).

“When You Lived in My Belly” and “Goodnight Star, Whoever You Are” are available wherever books are sold online, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, Target, and Walmart. Please visit www.jodimeltzer.com for updates on all my projects.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
“If you wish to be a writer, write.” Honestly, that’s the best advice I received…not from the Greek philosopher Epictetus himself, of course, but his simple and profound message motivates me every day.

Aspiring writers often encounter formidable roadblocks to writing. You may feel insecure about your writing acumen. You may struggle to come up with ideas that will resonate. You may have a crippling fear of rejection. Believe me, accomplished writers can relate to every roadblock imaginable.

If you wish to be a writer, write, roadblocks be damned. A professor friend of mine would add that you should write and rewrite, as your first draft is never your best draft. It took five years and many drafts to publish “When You Lived in My Belly,” and I am in good company on that front. Ernest Hemingway rewrote the ending of “Farewell to Arms” 39 times!

Read everything you can get your hands on, start writing and rewriting, and invest in your own dreams. That’s a New Year’s resolution you can keep.

This post was written for and originally appeared on Voyage Tampa

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