Behind The Story: Michelle Meadows on THE WAY THE STORM STOPS

THE WAY THE STORM STOPS by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Roseanne Litzinger (Henry Holt, 2003). In this every-beat-just-right debut picture book, Meadows crafts for young readers the beauty, excitement, awe, scariness, and comfort of a storm. Litzinger’s soft art is just right for a rainy day or night. Wonderful and rare multicultural pre-K book with a universal theme. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. This interview is conducted via email in 2003. Visit Michelle Meadows.

What was your initial inspiration for creating this book?

The story comes from my experience with my son Chase, who was about two and a half years old at the time. I woke up in the middle of the night because of a bad storm. The thunder was booming and the house was shaking. So I went to check on Chase. I wondered what he must be thinking with all the noise.

When I went to his room, I found him curled up in a little ball on his bed, peeking out from under the covers. I scooped him up, brought him back to the rocking chair in my bedroom, and rocked him, and sang to him. I could feel his little body relax, and soon he was fast asleep. I thought, “Wow—he feels warm and safe enough to fall asleep in my arms, even though the thunder is still booming. This is the way the storm stops for a child.” So that’s how I came up with the title.

Then the writer in me kicked in. So I put Chase down in the bed and grabbed the pen and notepad on my nightstand. The storm was still booming. I set out to capture the emotion of what had happened and to tell about a storm from a child’s perspective. And I let the sounds of the night guide me, which is why the text ended up featuring a lot of onomatopoeia. I wrote down a lot of the sounds that I heard.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I actually did what they tell you never to do–I didn’t hold on to it and revise it. Instead, I sent the manuscript off to publishers the day after I wrote it. Two months later, Christy Ottaviano, an editor from Henry Holt, called to say she loved it. This was the summer of 1999. I was thrilled. After that, the major events were receiving the various stages of art work such as the pencil sketches and mechanicals. The book’s publication date is October 2003.

What were the challenges in bringing it to life?

There were no challenges really. In fact, the challenge now for me is that I’m not sure another book will ever come out of me quite like that again. In that case, the text pretty much rolled out of me because I was so in the moment. And with other projects I’m having to do a lot of revising. I continue to read poetry and observe life, and I hope that I will have more books published!