Stories & Insights: Meet Jodi Meltzer

Aug 7, 2023

Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing 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. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation:

Hi Jodi, thanks for joining us today. Going back to the beginning – how did you come up with the idea in the first place?

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 answering 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.

My next title, “My Face Lights up the World,” will be released in early 2024. It’s designed to help children reframe their thinking about their insecurities–we all have them!–as a foundational part of their lifelong journey of self-acceptance.

Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.

Prior to motherhood, I worked on two films in Boston, for the syndicated newsmagazine “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.

Even exhausted, I wasn’t the type who could sleep when my baby slept. A master multitasker, I’d pen funny stories and brilliant mom tips—filing my baby’s nails on the “Daddy’s scratchy face” page of his “Pat the Bunny” book, for example. I decided 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 this new gig swallowed me whole.

I decided to launch a blog, Mommy Dish, 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 soon had bylines on many platforms, including HuffPost, Thrive Global, The Stir, Swaay, and Scary Mommy, among others.

As I mentioned, I only ventured into children’s books to fulfill my mother’s dream. During book tours and appearances, I have met many readers who have made an everlasting impression, and they fuel me to keep writing. A child told me he read “Goodnight Star, Whoever You Are” to his deceased brother at his gravesite. A mom pull me aside to thank me for helping her mend her strained relationship with her daughter through “When You Lived in My Belly”. Therapists and nonprofit organizations informed me that they rely on both of my books as treasured resources. As a writer, how could I possibly ask for anything more?

Any stories or insights that might help us understand how you’ve built such a strong reputation?

I always joke and say I could be voted least likely to become a children’s book author. When my first book was published in 2019, I was known solely as a snarky “mommy blogger.” Given my platform, expectations weren’t high for “When You Lived in My Belly.” Many believed I’d be a one-and-done children’s book author, but, deep down, I wasn’t one of them.

Throughout my unconventional career, which includes stints as a television anchor/reporter and spearheading communications for many companies and organizations, I have never allowed anyone to set boundaries on what I can accomplish. I am a scrappy, can-do type of person with an intense work ethic. If expectations are low, I show people why they are wrong to doubt me. I am the only person who can place limitations on what I can achieve.

As part of that overarching mindset, I am constantly challenging myself to tackle writing projects that make me a little uncomfortable. The space between comfort and aspiration is where the real growth occurs. People who have followed me since my blogging days often comment about how they feel like they’re a part of my evolution as a writer, as an author, as a mom to one biological and one bonus child, as a daughter who buried her mother much too early in life. I don’t sugarcoat my life one bit, and that not only resonates with my readers but also attracts new ones.

My willingness to share raw, personal stories in a fully transparent way is the main reason I have a small but mighty audience. I am endlessly grateful they are always asking about what’s next. I can’t wait for them to read “My Face Lights Up the World.”

In the meantime, “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.

Any fun sales or marketing stories?

I approached multi-platinum singer/songwriter Andy Grammer about writing a foreword for my second title, “Goodnight Star, Whoever You Are.” I figured I could get a hard no, I could be ignored, or I could get a yes. I’m a ‘you’ll never know unless you ask’ type of woman, career-wise…and it has served me well.

By approaching Andy, I showed I was willing to do some creative Guerrillia marketing to help kids like mine. Based on appearances and interviews, I knew we were in alignment on the importance of discussing childhood grief. Andy’s poignant and powerful foreword added so much to my book.

“My mother loved cake, so when my family and I miss her, we bake a cake in her honor,” Grammar wrote. “Whether it is finding that connection, looking at a shining star, listening to a special song, or eating a piece of cake, I hope this book helps give you permission to miss your special someone in your own unique way.”

“Goodnight Star, Whoever You Are” debuted number one in its category on Amazon.

This post was written for and originally appeared on CanvasRebel

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