Our featured local author this month, Melissa Herz, has a self-professed love of all things creative.
“Art is my passion, and I cannot imagine doing anything else,” she said.
Herz works mainly with inks, composing dreamy symphonies of color. She teaches art classes and camps at the Creative Arts Guild and loves working with children to spark their creativity.
It is fitting, then, that Herz’s first book is one for children. Her vibrant illustrations pair naturally with the book’s subject matter: the life cycle of a butterfly. A collaboration between Herz and her husband, the book, “From Egg zum Schmetterling,'' has another interesting feature: It is bilingual.
In deciding to write a German/English bilingual book, Herz drew inspiration from her family and community. Her husband, Andreas, came from Germany, and they have raised their daughter, Leila, speaking both English and German. Leila also gets to use her German at school.
“It is important to us that she know German and be able to speak the language. We are fortunate to live in a community with great schools and so happy that Brookwood Elementary School has a German program that she can be a part of,” Herz said.
We asked Herz to share more about her current projects and creative process.
Question: Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas.
Herz: As an artist I always have a sketchbook close by so I jot down ideas and drawings pretty much everywhere and anywhere I go. In writing I start with illustrations first and then move on to the writing.
Q: What is your writing kryptonite?
Herz: My kryptonite is losing track of time while creating. I work a lot while my family sleeps so I may think I have been in the studio an hour when it has really been five hours.
Q: Do you believe in writer’s block?
Herz: As a creator I do feel that there are blocks along the way. I believe the best way to remedy this is to just create anyway and the rest will come. It is a process and I like to enjoy the journey.
Q: How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book?
Herz: My husband and daughter played a big part in creating my first book. My husband, Andreas Herz, helped to write and translate the bilingual book in German, and my daughter inspired us to write it as she learned about the life cycle of a butterfly from her school. It was really a family effort. We all had a toast to celebrate the release of the book with appropriate beverages, of course.
Q: What other authors are you friends with? How do they help you become a better writer?
Herz: In the age of technology I have been able to meet many authors online in Groups where we have shared ideas and supported each other.
Q: If you were given the opportunity to form a book club with your favorite authors of all time, which legends or contemporary writers would you want to become a part of the club?
Herz: Given the opportunity I would have loved to sit and chat with Shel Silverstein and Eric Carle. I always loved Shel's poems as a child and still have his books in my collection today. Eric Carle had a unique illustration style that I have loved since childhood as well and I am inspired by his work.
Q: How do you think the concepts such as Kindle and ebooks have changed the present or future of reading?
Herz: Kindle and ebooks have changed the accessibility of books for sure. I like to have a Kindle while on the go so I can have access to lots of books. Although, I will always prefer to hold a book in my hand. The smell of a bookstore is my favorite.
Q: Can you tell us about your current projects?
Herz: I am currently working on Guided sketchbooks, creative writing journals for children, and there might just be another bilingual book in the mix.
Q: Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
Herz: The advice I would give to aspiring writers would be to "Just create." This is my motto. The rest will come. Enjoy the journey.
You can find Herz’s picture books, along with her beautiful journals, children’s sketchbooks, notebooks and more, by searching “Melissa Herz” or “Herzart” on Amazon. Her book “From Egg zum Schmetterling” is also available in English as “From Egg to Butterfly.”
The Dalton-Whitfield County Public Library is currently open for curbside service and appointment-based browsing during select hours. Visit ngrl.org or give us a call at (706) 876-1360 to learn more.
Lizzy Gregory Stuckey is the youth services manager for the Dalton-Whitfield County Public Library.