Welcome back, dear guest! I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and I am particularly grateful that you dropped by for this last First Stories interview of 2022. Today, I’m so excited to welcome Sheila Schmotzer to First Stories! Sheila used her experience as an airline flight attendant to craft a gorgeous picture book, Plane Party, that is available in time for the holidays. I’ll have more info on where you can snag a copy at the end of our chat. But now, let’s dive into her very first story…the one that got Sheila passionate about writing for kids!
Sheila Schmotzer is a former dance studio owner with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance. Currently, she’s a flight attendant with a major US airline. She resides in South Carolina and is based out of Orlando, Florida. A member of the World Animal Foundation she enjoys volunteering at her local wildlife refuge center and traveling. She’s the author of THE SNOW BALLET, featured in Little Thoughts Press’s Magical Winter issue. Sheila’s debut picture book, PLANE PARTY is available online and in bookstores through her own indie imprint, Wander Wall Books. An IMDb member, she’s appeared in Netflix’s The Do Over, as well as in the feature films Magic Mike XXL, and Baywatch.
Me: Hello, Sheila, and welcome to First Stories!
Sheila: Thanks so much for inviting me, Heather.
Me: I can’t wait to hear all about your First Story! Even though we’ve chatted online about other things, I’ve never asked about this. So, let me ask now – Tell me about your “first story.” The one that really pushed you to consider publishing. What inspired you to write it? What was it about?
Sheila: The first picture book story I ever wrote was about an airport mouse. I was outside of an airport…at 2 in the morning… the temperature was 8 degrees…SNOW completely covered the sidewalk. I spied a tiny little mouse, scurrying about in the thick heaps of snow. I was totally fascinated and intrigued by this little creature and his plight. A year and a half later driving into the same lot, I mentioned the little mouse and someone said to me that he sneaks into the doors and hides in a vending machine. That’s when I knew I had my first story. That magical moment of meeting that little mouse in the snow is what inspired me to become a writer.
Me: What a precious story! I love how inspiration is really all around – stories are everywhere – if we have the time to stop, take a look, see something from a new angle. Where is it now?
Sheila: It’s shelved. It went through professional editing and to this day has a huge place in my heart.
Me: I do hope that one day the mouse in the snow will come off your shelf and onto bookstore shelves. 🙂 Are there any themes in that story that you can see in your writing today?
Sheila: I really love to write stories with fun adventures in them. I hope my stories reflect that flying is fun!
Me: You bring such a unique experience to writing. Being a flight attendant has given you the opportunity to see so many places and meet so many people. All of these different experiences has probably provided so much inspiration! Looking back, what elements of that first story made it unmarketable? Did you receive feedback on that story? What did that feedback teach you?
Sheila: The feedback has been good. I believe there’s a huge market for fun stories with travel and humor mixed together. Now, more than ever, people are flying for the first time, and families are traveling together too. I’m happy to influence little readers in a positive way.
Me: I would love to hear about your book release – PLANE PARTY! What can you tell us about this book? How did you come up with the idea for it? Does it relate at all to your “first story”?
Sheila: When I entered the airline industry a few years ago…I would browse through airport bookstores and look at what picture books were available. I was shocked to find very few children’s books that had a flying or travel theme on the shelves. I came up with the title for PLANE PARTY first and decided to make all the passengers animals. *whisper* I once actually encountered a passenger that totally resembled Mr. Boompus, the frog character in Plane Party!
I was extremely fortunate to have Jennifer Rees, who edited Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games guide and edit PLANE PARTY. Once I decided to self-publish, I hired a fabulous illustrator and artist from Ukraine. Marina Skiba did a phenomenal job of bringing all these silly passengers to life, and she finished the entire cover and fourteen spreads around 6 weeks before the war in Ukraine began.
Me: Wow! What a story! You’ll have to give us an update on Marina in a Twitter thread! Anything else you would like to share about your writing journey?
Sheila: Along with writing stories that have a flying theme, I’m a former dance studio owner, and I love to write dance related stories. I especially love to write picture book biographies of historical and current dance industry legends that have been overlooked and are currently unrepresented in children’s literature.
Me: Sheila, thanks so much for joining me on First Stories today! Congratulations on the release of your picture book! Marina’s illustrations for PLANE PARTY are adorable!
If you’d like to pick up a copy in time for holiday travel, click HERE.
Sheila: Thank you for having me!
Me: Merry Christmas to each one of you and a very Happy New Year!
Sheila has generously offered to give away a SIGNED copy of PLANE PARTY! To enter this giveaway, please comment below OR retweet the post on Twitter OR share on Instagram. The winner will be posted next week on social media!