Featured Author Scott Emmons

Featured Author Scott Emmons

We'd love to hear more about your writing journey. How'd you get started and what have you learned along the way?

I’d say my writing journey started with two things: a fascination with language and a love of humor. As a kid, I was a huge MAD magazine fan. When I grew up, my love of language drew me into an academic career at first. I briefly taught classical Greek and Latin studies at a liberal arts college, but I ultimately decided I didn’t want to commit to that for the rest of my life. What I really wanted to do was write humor. I started out by writing gags for cartoonists — something people actually did in those days! That enabled me to put together a portfolio of published work, which was a stepping stone to my job at Hallmark. It was there that I discovered I had a talent for rhymed verse. That became my specialty, which led naturally to my work in children’s books. 

How did you get connected with StoryBots and Hallmark?

I made some inquiries and found out that Hallmark had a dedicated humor writing staff, so I applied and had the good fortune to be offered a position. During my 16 years there, I started a humorous verse blog called The Daily Rhyme (since discontinued). The founders of JibJab, Evan and Gregg Spiridellis, discovered some of my work there and reached out to me. They were just starting to branch out into children’s books, and they thought my verse writing would be a good fit. I ended up working remotely for them over the next eight years. During that time, their children’s book project morphed into StoryBots, so I got in on the ground floor. That gave me the opportunity not only to write for the show, but to write all the books in the StoryBots series.

Tell us about your latest book and the inspiration behind it.

My latest book is a departure from my usual focus on humor. Hope and the Winds of Grief is a picture book for kids who are navigating their grief journey after a loved one has died by suicide. I wrote it in collaboration with artist Stacey Lamb, who creates uplifting cards and other products under her HAPPYtown brand. We consulted with Dr. Dana Wyss and Katherine Melton, two mental health professionals with expertise in children’s grief. The four of us worked together as a team to make sure we portrayed this particular grieving process in a way that would foster emotional healing. Dana and Katherine have also created a workbook as a companion piece to our storybook. Both will be available later in June from Amazon and hopeandthewindsofgrief.com.

What do you love about being a writer?

First, the feeling of discovery when writing. Something I once heard in an interview with the poet Gregory Corso has always stayed with me. “A poet is someone who’s seen something that no one else has ever seen before.” I think the same is true whether you’re writing poetry, a story, or even a good joke. I can’t say I’ve reached that height very often, but the feeling of creating something original is exhilarating. The other great reward is hearing from readers who’ve enjoyed my work. Even if it’s something that hasn’t sold especially well or gone viral, if I find out that it’s touched one person’s life, that makes my day.

What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have one. That may sound like heresy, but I don’t feel the need to lock myself into any particular process. When I’m working on a project I’m excited about, I can spend long stretches writing every day. Between projects, I often have days when I don’t write at all, except for the freelance writing that I do just to keep the lights on. I know some writers who set a goal of writing a certain number of words per day. If that process works for you, by all means do it! But I’d rather write 10 words I’m proud of than 1000 words just to hit a goal. I think we all need to discover the process that works for us, whether or not it includes a set routine. 

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

First and foremost, I’d say focus on creating really good work. A lot of beginning writers start with the question, “How do I break into publishing?” We all want to get published, but the first goal should be to write something of exceptional quality. Once you’ve done that, publishing will be a lot easier. I’d also recommend putting some of your work out where people can see it. A blog, a social media page, whatever works best for you. I got connected with JibJab because they found my work online, and that changed my whole career trajectory. 

What do you do when you are not writing?

Even though I left academia, I never lost my interest in languages. I’m currently studying Italian in preparation for a trip to Italy later this year. My wife and I have a son with autism, and we’re active in a family-run nonprofit that provides supports for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live independently. We also work as household servants for our two cats, Hector and Alex.

What's next for you, or what goals do you have for 2024 and beyond?

Two years ago I launched Brainytops Press, my own line of children’s coloring books with rhyming stories. I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with top-notch artists like Jeff Daly, Donna Van Hooser, Pete Whitehead, Matt Hawkins, and Mauro Gatti. I’m currently retooling and preparing to re-release one of my titles as a full-color picture book. I’m also co-writing a space adventure and working on a humorous rhyming book that addresses the issue of book banning. I’ve got a lot to keep me busy!