About Robin Mellom
I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta in a town called Roswell. The one people always get confused about and ask, "Oh, the place with all those secret alien sightings?!" No, no that's Roswell, New Mexico. My Roswell is known for its Chick-fil-A and traffic.
My mother was the vice-principal at my elementary school, which meant kids were skeptical of me. I seemed nice, but was I secretly taking notes and reporting their foul language to my mother every afternoon in her nicely furnished office? (She had matching wingback chairs. Matching!) But I never was the type to tattle, so fortunately having a mother for vice-principal was a win-win because I got to have some friends and a bottled coke from the teacher's lounge every day at 3 p.m. Perks!
In fact, the only reason why I look so perky in this yearbook photo of me from first grade is because of excessive soda intake. Coke, of course. Because back when I was growing up in the south, even if you were drinking a Sprite or a Dr. Pepper or a Fanta--if it fizzed-- you still called it Coke. (And see the sunshine t-shirt I'm wearing? The other reason why I was perky. How could that shirt not make you happy? I want that shirt back.)
Another upside to being the daughter of the school's VP was that I got to be friends with lots of the teachers. Every afternoon I got to write all over their chalkboards, raid their top drawer for extra snacks (they let me, I promise!) and then eavesdrop on all their teacher gossip while they thought I was drawing on their boards and eating their snacks. (Nah, they didn't let me eavesdrop, that was just me being bad.) But it turned out to be for good because I think it was all that eavesdropping that led me to writing stories.
I was the girl who would take ten sheets of lined paper, fold them in half, then staple along the side to make a "spine" for my book. I'd draw a picture for my cover then number my chapters. I'd sit by the Mimosa tree in my back yard, drink sweet tea (in the south we drink our tea very sweet, like liquid dessert) and I would write stories. I didn't share them with anyone.
I knew from a very young age that I loved writing. My dream was to be a writer. And after spending so much of my personal afternoon time around teachers (no offense, they're fabulous people) I knew the LAST thing I ever wanted to be was a teacher.
So what did I do? I became a teacher. It was inevitable. My destiny. Fate. All that. It was also a job, one that paid... sort of. I say that because I taught seventh grade in New Mexico for a couple of years and wasn't paid much more than a waitress at Ryan's Steakhouse. No, it wasn't in Roswell, New Mexico but this story was starting to feel like it was coming full circle there for a moment, right?!
Fortunately, my fate had led me to a job I adored. Middle schoolers are the coolest people on the planet. And no one is physically forcing me to say that! I absolutely love them. And my favorite subject to teach was creative writing. I'd assign them a story idea, then sit at the front table and write right along with them. There were moments during creative writing time when the air was literally magical. It wasn't like I was a teacher in charge of 33 twelve-year olds. We were just people throwing all our energy into the words on our paper, doing our best and then sharing it with each other. It was the first time in my life I started sharing my stories. It felt AMAZING. (And I got paid to do that! Almost enough to get a ribeye at Ryan's!!)
When my son was born, I stayed at home with him and that was when I started writing for me. That first book was pretty cruddy because, let's face it, writing while sleep-deprived makes for lots of crud. But I was learning, and after a year I had enough written to join a local writer's group and start getting serious. That group taught me so much about writing and publishing — I felt like I'd gotten a master's degree just from sitting at their kitchen tables every other week and listening to their suggestions.
I didn't sell that first book. Or my second. Or my third. Years later, the book that finally sold and made me an "author" was my sixth book. It took tons of perseverance and perhaps a little case of the crazies to finally make it happen.
Fortunately, I feel like my cumulation of experiences--being the daughter of a vice-principal, becoming a teacher, teaching creative writing to middle schoolers--is what led me to this writing career. Becoming a teacher was my fate, but becoming a writer was my dream. I'm grateful to have experienced both.
Now I write full time and live on the central coast of California with my husband and son. In this state, we call a Coke a Coke and a Sprite a Sprite. We have amazing avocados.
But the tea just isn't as sweet. Darn it.
FREQUENTLY. ASKED. QUESTIONS!
* Why and how did you become a writer?
Since I was a middle school teacher, I became interested in fiction for kids that age. I read SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL out loud to my fifth graders and they absolutely loved it. They couldn't get enough "funny stories" and when I ran out of other ones to read, I just kept reading SIDEWAYS over and over. I must have read that book out loud 14 times my first year of teaching! And that's when it hit me that writing funny books for kids is something I'd like to do.
* Where do you get your ideas from?
Real life, dreams, and the line at the grocery store. Or wherever! Sometimes I'll hear someone say a funny sentence and it will spark an entire story idea for me. So I'm constantly observing. And eavesdropping. (Sorry.)
* Who is your favorite character you've written?
Trevor from THE CLASSROOM. He reminds me of so many kids I've taught. And just so you know, he's not based on any ONE person--just a collection of characteristics I've seen.
* Do you come up with the title first or story?
Usually the story comes first. Then somewhere during the writing process a lightbulb will go off and the title will suddenly appear. Apparently, titles--for me--are a magical thing.
* Any advice for aspiring kidlit authors?
Try lots of different types of genres, age levels, play around with format, style, first person, third person, whatever, who cares! Just basically don’t be afraid until you find your own unique writing voice. Then once you find it—that voice that it so authentically you—step on the gas and write like crazy. It’ll be the most fun you’ve ever had.