daisy woodworm changes the world

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This is Micah Nichols’ inaugural blog post, an interview with author Melissa Hart on her book, “Daisy Wormwood Changes the World.”

You can listen to this interview via the “Unpacking Disability with Meriah Nichols” podcast, below, or on Spotify or Apple iTunes.

Melissa Hart wrote a book geared for teens:

Daisy Woodworm Changes the World
$14.99 $13.69

Thirteen-year-old Daisy Woodward loves insects, running track, and hanging out with her older brother, Sorrel, who has Down syndrome and adores men’s fashion. 


When her social studies teacher assigns each student a project to change the world for the better along with an oral report, Daisy fears the class bully—who calls her Woodworm— will make fun of her lisp. Still, she decides to help Sorrel fulfill his dream of becoming a YouTube fashion celebrity despite their parents’ refusal to allow him on social media.


With the help of her best friend Poppy, and Miguel—the most popular boy in school and her former enemy—Daisy launches Sorrel’s publicity campaign. But catastrophe strikes when her parents discover him online along with hateful comments from a cyberbully. 


If Daisy has any hope of changing the world, she’ll have to regain her family’s trust and face her fears of public speaking to find her own unique and powerful voice.

Daisy Woodworm Changes the World includes an author's note and additional resources.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/12/2024 07:00 pm GMT

Because this book was geared for teens and features a girl whose sibling has Down syndrome, Micah took the reins – who better to review the book and interview the author than someone who is also a teen, and whose sibling also has Down syndrome?

Daisy Woodworm Changes the World

This was Micah’s first interview!

He really gets rolling with Melissa about mid-point, they get deeper into subjects like youth changing the world, the accomplishments of people with Down syndrome, how Melissa gets into some indirect advocacy in her book…and more. They had a blast talking with each other.

And you can enjoy watching, hearing or reading their interview here!

Micah and Melissa

Interview Transcript

Transcript, Micah’s Interview with Melissa Hart, Author of “Daisy Wormwood Changes the World”

___________________________________________

Okay.

Okay. Okay.

Melissa: 

Hi, there, how’s it going? Micah?

Micah:

Oh, pretty good.

Melissa

I love black Cats.

Micah:

Yeah, Ik(k)i’s great

Melissa:

I’ve heard that they’re always the last to get adopted at shelters.

Because they don’t photograph well, in photos, you know, advertising, this could be your cat.

All you can see are the eyes right.

Micah:

Yeah I’ve actually had a bit of problems with that.

I like to take pictures of them, and uh, he had a cousin, and I took a couple of pictures of his cousins, and they – those were really good. I liked it.

Melissa:

Yeah, I wonder if you’ve photographed against a white, background. Then the black cat would stand out right

Micah:

We have, like screens here. So when they were walking by the screen.

Melissa:

Uh-huh.

Micah:

Like the screens are weird, like they catch the light when they show up so like when I took the picture looks like. It was sort of like a weird lit background.

And also or sort of fluoresces and stuff

Melissa:

Oh, I love that! That’s great huh!

Micah:

Yeah, really cool. 

Melissa:

Well, feel free to ask me. Anything.

I’ll answer anything.

Micah:

Okay, yeah, that might actually be a good way to start, yeah, so, how much of the book is based on your personal experience. And how much of it was just sort of I don’t know if made up as the right term.

Melissa:

Yeah. No, sure. That’s a great question. And actually nobody has asked me that thank you I’m very familiar with where I set the book. Although I didn’t say it outright. It’s set in Ventura, California.

Melissa:

Where I grew up. I don’t know if you know Southern California, but it’s between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and is a pretty lovely place to grow up all the parts about Cross country, and track are true I was as a track star when I was in my Freshman and Sophomore year of high school, not so much in middle school, I do have a lisp.

Melissa:

It comes out. More when I’m tired, or when I’ve been talking. The parts, about my brother, my my brother, does have down syndrome he’s my younger brother, my beloved mother, was incredibly overprotective, of him even though she really believed in full inclusion she also was terrified that he was gonna get hurt, abused. And so absolutely no social media.

Melissa:

She is really the inspiration for- for Sorrel’s and Daisy’s parents. She really took a hard line. Absolutely no exposure, although she would let him appear in the news in the newspapers, for special Olympics.

Melissa:

I’m trying to think of what else we had. Oh, we had a giant white house rabbit when I was writing the book and when I was revising the book and when it was going to print, our Bunny died of Fly Strike, which is all a Horrible Disease and then other than that I guess That’s about it, There’s a performance near the end of the Book of Indian, Dancing, and one of my daughter’s, Friends, held a benefit for her relatives in Kerala, India, in that way so I stole that. oh, and one more thing, the Teacher Mr. – Coach Lepinsky, based on one of the Teachers at my Daughter’s Middle School, and so far he hasn’t found out, but he will. He will.

Micah:

That’s- that’s pretty cool. Yeah, that was actually part of my 2 sort of next questions in specific.

Were there any people in your current or adolescent life that inspired people like Miguel, Poppy, Devon, or Mr. Lepinski,

Melissa:

Yeah, so again, Mr. Lepinsky is, I mean, I don’t know this teacher. Well, what I know of him, he’s super cool. He wasn’t my daughter’s teacher, but I worshiped him from afar, so he is definitely the inspiration for coach Lepinsky, and then the others I mean, there’s a lot of me in Daisy there’s, a lot of my brother, Mark in Sorrel- Squirrel. And the Peacock Car is inspired by a Peacock car, that an artist friend of mine, drives, and it’s an art car, that she painted herself other than that, no I didn’t take anybody else, except for the Rabbit from direct life

Micah:

Okay, and then sorry about this, furthermore, was- was the project that was the basis of the story’s conflict based on anything that you had, or maybe your daughter had.

Melissa:

I made that up, I made that up because I- I started looking at maybe I read an article in a Kid’s Magazine about tweens that were changing the world.

Melissa:

And I- I had never realized that people as young as 8 years old, can just wake up one day and say, I want to start on nonprofit to help the homeless people on the streets so that they have toiletries and snacks, I never realized an 8 Year old could be that ambitious and visionary, and the more I read about kids from 8 to 18 just launching these kinds of projects, as entrepreneurs, fighting for social justice, it it just knocked my socks off I feel like especially in the pandemic, kids felt so disempowered. They felt like you know I’m- I’m beholden to screens. I can’t even see- I can’t even go outside in some cases. I just, I just loved the idea of empowering young people to change the world for the better. I feel like my mom, when I was growing up, always made me feel like I could do that.

Melissa:

And so I started working on social justice issues pretty early on and just kind of wanted to share the love!

Micah:

Yeah, actually speaking personally, I recently had a social studies project that was pretty similar, but the teacher didn’t have enough time to put it together.

Micah:

So we couldn’t really do anything apparently in the past the people who have done that project like had enacted had like actually started bills that got feminine hygiene products like mandated, to be put in bathrooms for public schools.

Melissa:

Wow! 

Micah:

Yeah, it’s pretty cool!

Melissa:

Wow, I did want to give kids a blueprint. So you know, Coach Lepinsky has that BARAT acronym- Don’t don’t ask me to remember what it stands for right now.

Micah:

Brainstorm…

Melissa:

But I, brain- brainstorm, oh my gosh 

Micah:

Something. Something yeah, okay, I did see was triumph.

Melissa:

Thank you!

Melissa:

I wanted to give kids a blueprint for for how they could go about creating an actionable project that could change the world for the better because you can do it on such a local level, as well, even if you just want to, as I have put on an inflatable, T-Rex, costume, and fill little free libraries, which I did last Christmas, and that was a lot of fun

Micah

Actually like the little like? What are they, sorry, I don’t remember the exact name. We don’t really have them here, but I remember seeing them a lot in California where they were like. The little like corner side libraries with all the books

Melissa:

Yeah, yeah, little free libraries. Yeah, why don’t you have them there?

00:08:06.000 –> 00:08:12.000

I don’t know, it’s… Reading here is- it’s weird.

Micah:

I don’t know. Reading is a lot less sort of I don’t know. It’s weird, even a lot of kids in my honors classes, for English, have said that they don’t really like reading.

Melissa:

Yeah

Micah:

But reading is a bit of like a not taboo, it’s less encouraged. I don’t really know how to say it. It’s it’s not as common

Melissa:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it, yeah, I think smartphones have really taken the place of books.

Melissa:

Yeah, and not just for young people.

Micah:

I I like reading. But sometimes I just want to veg out and listen to random videos.

Melissa:

Yeah, exactly

Micah:

Yeah, moving on what actually inspired you to write the book. Sorry whiplash. Yeah. Sorry.

Melissa:

No… What? Inspired me? Yes. Okay. So I had to think about that maybe 4 or 5 years ago.

Melissa:

I read a story in the local paper that said that the Oregon chapter of Special Olympics had to cancel their summer Games because of Lack of Funds.

Melissa:

Since I had grown up watching my brother in Southern California.

Melissa:

You know, doing every special olympic sport that he could possibly fit into his packed schedule with the hope of competing in Summer Games. I realized what a blow this was to people in Oregon. And so I thought, what would that be like? If you you know if you had been training and and then you didn’t have summer games, and I think around that time his girlfriend broke up with him, I think she said, he was boring and so he was devastated, and his devastation, combined with Oregon, canceling, their Games Kind of gave me this idea for the book actually and I think somewhere in there, I had seen this really embarrassing truck driving through the streets of Eugene, Oregon and realized it was a dog poop removal service, so I knew I had to get that in there

Micah:

That’s really interesting. Yeah, public funding is, it’s unfortunately, not very strong, for certain things.

Melissa:

Yeah

Micah:

And it’s really annoying to me.

Melissa:

Yeah, I try to write, you know I’m a journalist, as well. So I try to write a lot of articles and a lot of profiles of people, who compete in Special Olympics, so that the general public realizes what a big deal it is, I mean there’s, somebody competing next June, Chris Nikic was the first man with down syndrome to finish an Ironman Triathlon. I don’t think I could do an Ironman Triathlon and and I want people to realize people with down syndrome are accomplishing incredible things

Micah:

Yeah, definitely, yeah, I don’t think I could do that either.

Melissa:

No Way.

Micah

It’s, yeah, it’s beyond me. But-

Melissa:

The swim, alone yeah.

Micah:

Swimming alone, Definitely, maybe the, run, maybe, they’re on but not all 3

Melissa:

Yeah, I could do the run and the bike. But I’m telling you what, the swimming would kill me.

Micah:

Yeah, I can barely get around a swimming pool.

Micah:

I honestly, super shameful. I live in Hawaii. We have all of the reasons in the world to swim, but I rarely do

Melissa:

I was gonna ask, is the water really warm there?

Micah:

It really depends. Where you go like we have one place called ice pond. It’s a really popular hangout spot, but it’s like, crazy cold! It’s like you’re just jumping into a pool of ice water.

Melissa:

What.

Micah:

But then, like, there’s like right near it there’s Onekahakaha, which has really warm water. People even joke that it’s really warm because all of the kids pee in it. It’s a really popular kids hang out spot because it’s got blocked off waters.

Melissa:

Wow!

Micah:

So it’s really safe for all kids. Yeah, there’s- it really varies.

Micah:

And then there’s this one beach, 4 Mile, which is like some parts are freezing, and then some parts are actually fine. Most of the freezing parts are fresh water that, like gets pumped in from, like restaurants and stuff (Captioner’s note: NO! It’s actually because of fresh spring water, not restaurants, I don’t know what I was on.)

Melissa:

Really!

Micah:

Yeah, it’s-

Melissa:

Really, that’s fascinating. Huh! I’ve never heard of that.

Melissa:

It’s just cold here in Oregon. It’s just universally freezing

Micah:

Yeah, I don’t think it ever gets to wet suit temperatures.

Micah:

I remember back in Northern California, if you wanted to swim in the Beach, you had to have a wet suit.

Melissa:

You have to. Yeah.

Micah:

But yeah, here never really gets to wet suit temperatures.

Micah:

It’s just like…

Melissa:

Huh. Yeah.

Micah:

Okay. Moving on. Sorry. Looking back, how do you feel about the novel like, do you really like how the novel was written? Or do you feel like- sorry, yeah.

Melissa:

I- no, that is a great- you’re coming up with really smart questions.

Melissa:

I, I really like this novel, you know my previous novel, Avenging the Owl also has a main character with Down Syndrome, and it has the Protagonist’s Father, attempt- attempt suicide, He’s clinically depressed and that alone, got that book not banned, but some teachers, and librarians decided attempted suicide of a parent was too heavy for middle schoolers, so that was problematic.

Melissa:

I don’t feel like there’s any scene like that in Daisy Woodworm Changes the World.

Melissa:

I mean, I know that a character has 2 moms, and so maybe in Florida, you know the governor’s gonna come unglued but other than that, I really like the Book and there are 2 things that I wish I had fought harder for when it was going to print. First of all, you know how Daisy’s father makes gingerbread bunnies? Gingerbread Rabbits.

Melissa:

I had the recipe in there, and the editor took it out. I think, they were trying to save space. That’s a darn good recipe.

Melissa:

The other thing is periodically, as Daisy and Miguel, and Squirrel discovered different famous people who have Down Syndrome, I had all sorts of profiles of these people. Just short, page long profiles periodically scattered through the book so people could start understanding all the accomplishments that people with down syndrome have made, and they cut those as well. They said, it broke up the flow of the narrative, and maybe it did, but I do wish those had stayed in and I’ve got to figure out a way to get those out to readers. So if you have any ideas, let me know!

Micah:

Yeah, that’s a. That’s a real shame. I noticed in the back,

Melissa:

Yeah.

Micah:

There was just like a list of people. Yeah, that- I’m assuming that’s how you tried to get it in anyways.

Melissa:

Yeah, well, yeah, in some ways. Yeah, you’re right. Yeah, I wanted to give readers resources in case they used the book for a book report, or you know, in case they know somebody with Down Syndrome, or they have a sibling with Down Syndrome, or you know, in my kids, case, an uncle, there were resources for that genetic condition, as well, as resources, for I think running, and I think there’s even insect resources, in there. 

Micah:

Eating Bugs for Breakfast, and How to like- Save the-

Melissa:

Such a good book. That is such a good book. Have you ever eaten a big

Micah”

Yeah, actually, one, time we were traveling in Cambodia, I believe and we we because like, it was basically like, you just stop on the side of the road to get a big bag of grasshoppers, and our Taxi driver, actually, did we he, was just like okay, stop sorry I gotta stop by for some bugs, and we were like, “let’s do it”

Melissa:

How were they?

Micah:

I remember they’re pretty good. My brother sort of freaked out about them, because, “Eww, bugs!” But I was like, “Mmm, bugs.”

Melissa:

Oh, were they salted? Did they have like-

Micah:

Yeah, they were like, with, like, chili, lime and stuff. They were pretty good!

Melissa:

Good for you.

Micah:

Alright. It’s interesting, because you gotta like, you hold it by the leg, and then you just eat the body. It’s weird.

Melissa:

Oh!

Micah:

Yeah, you don’t like, hmm. 

Melissa:

Where’s the head, where’s the head? 

Micah: 

Oh, you eat the head

Melissa:

You’ll eat the head, so you don’t eat the leg, or you do eat the leg. 

Micah:

I don’t think- I don’t remember eating the leg

Melissa:

I feel like this is on my bucket list now!

Micah:

It’s really interesting. I remember one time, also, we went to New York and they had like little boxes of like bugs they were a lot more like flavored and very clearly made for a more American Palette where they were like hidden bugs like they coat the bugs in like chocolate and cheese, flavoring.

Melissa:

Eww!

Micah:

Yeah, it’s weird. They worded-

Melissa:

You know what this reminds me of, this is kind of an old book now, but did you ever read the book, How to Eat Fried Worms?

Micah:

I don’t believe I have.

Melissa:

That was a great book, that’s very like sixth grade, fifth, or sixth grade.

Melissa:

It’s perfect for those, those kids. It was a great book, yeah.

Micah:

Maybe I’ll try and find it for my sister.

Melissa:

Well, how old’s your sister?

Micah:

She’s around fifth, fifth, or sixth grade. I’m sorry. I, yeah, sixth grade, right, yeah.

Melissa:

How to eat fried worms, remember it.

Micah:

Yeah, moving on, what was I think you’ve talked about this, a bit about this. But, yeah, what was your target audience?

Melissa:

Yeah. Oh, good question, so, yeah, well, obviously, middle schoolers. But also, anybody from say the ages of 10 to 14, as well as adults, who enjoy reading middle grade fiction, because there’s actually, a lot of adults that like- that prefer to read books, for kids and then as well, any special education teacher or Therapist, working with the intellectually disabled population, and especially kids who are growing up with a sibling who has down syndrome, or another intellectual disability like that I just wanted to assure them that they are heard and their stories are being told because when I went to look for books, with protagonists who have Down Syndrome, I found 3, and I don’t think that’s a-

Micah:

Yeah

Melissa:

I think it’s 1, 1 in 700 people is born with Down Syndrome, I believe. Where are the books that reflect that? And- and I have a theory about why those aren’t being published, but I just, I really wanted to put those out there.

Micah

Yeah, yeah definitely, there’s a major lack of a lot of representation in a lot of media. What was it? Sorry I can’t think of a lot of numbers right now. But just representation is at a rate where it should be higher, but nope, they want to write another story about Jack Smith, Mr. white, Everyman with it with a bit of a shadow and a tragic past. And, oh my god, it’s such a new character!

Melissa:

Right? Hey? What, what book would you love to see that hasn’t been written yet? What character? What setting, what plot line.

Micah:

I don’t know. I’ve always really liked sci-fi, sci-fi’s, my jam, I don’t know, I- I mostly just read books that are like oh, what was it either, I’ll get recommended them, I had this one book that was gifted to me by a family friend, and I started reading it, and I really like it, Murderbot, it’s a bit more on the probably- Reading Level is more, uh- it- it’s hard for me to categorize reading level because I was reading like, Lord of the Rings in fourth grade, so-

Melissa:

Oh, my gosh, really, yeah.

Micah:

Yeah. Kind of hard for me to like, classify reading level. I don’t know, high school reading level, but like, maybe a bit closer to the more, adult side of the young adult. But it’s really interesting!

Melissa:

You remind me. So listen to this, you know the Martian, the book by Andy Weir, what’s the newest book? 

Micah:

Project Hail Mary

Melissa:

Right, so I gave it to my husband. I was really excited to give it to him; he really didn’t like it. He couldn’t figure out why and last week, he- he figured it out.

Melissa:

I guess maybe the New York Times ran it through a reading level generator, and found that it was written at a third, grade reading level

Micah:

That’s- That’s really interesting. Yeah, that definitely does seem like it would maybe throw someone off like, this is written at third grade

Melissa:

Maybe I’d actually be able to understand it. I find sci-fi difficult. But maybe I better check this one out

Micah

Yeah, I- I really… Like I said, Sci-fi is my jam.

Melissa:

Yeah

Micah:

It actually kind of reminds me. I remember I was using this website for school, like they had like a required reading, or like you have to read like 20 min or something every week. for on this one program, or was it 20 min a day? I don’t know. But yeah, you’d have to read this much on- a day, and you’d have to be at your reading- this quantified reading level, Lexile.

Melissa:

Yeah, yeah.

Micah:

Or above, and it was really a shame, because I had like such a high reading level which means a lot of the books that were at or above my level, were like really boring, the only one that I actually kind of liked was the Iliad but like I wanted to see, if I could read Dune, because I got real excited cause, like you know,  the movie, and I was like, why not read it for school?

Melissa:

Right.

Micah:

And so I looked it up, and it turns out that it was like at a 800, when I was like at 1,800

Melissa:

Oh, gosh

Micah:

And I was like, wow! What’s the deal with that, this is like such an old classic, that’s like- very complex, and it’s always whenever I’ve heard about it, it’s like this book-

Melissa:

Yeah

Micah:

-Is super complex. It’s for really older readers. And so I asked my teacher, and he’s like, Yeah, the story itself is complex, but the writing, and language it uses is much more simple.

Melissa:

Right.

Micah:

 Which, to be fair, yeah, looking at Dune. It is a bit more simply written in terms of sentences, like, I don’t know it’s weird, and it really is a shame, because… eh, either way I got to read- I got to do it for school anyways I had to do a choose your own book. I- I got to be able to do it on a book report that I got to choose the book for which is really nice

Melissa:

Yes, that is nice, as it should be. Yeah.

Micah:

Students should be able to choose their own books.

Melissa:

You would think so, right 

Micah

I liked my teacher’s thing, it’s like it- was like, it’s so choose a book, but like, be reasonable about it like Dr. Seuss, don’t take a graphic novel, just take a book. And so, yeah, my class had a lot of really interesting books. And hmm, I forget I think there were a couple that I would like, oh, maybe I should read that that’s interesting

Melissa:

Okay. But listen, you can’t diss graphic novels.

Micah:

Yeah, graphic novels are great!

Melissa:

I used to. I had to write one. It’s not a novel, it’s actually non fiction, and it’s about media literacy for middle schoolers, teaching them all the ways that they can discern fake news. They can tell fake news from real news in newspapers, magazines, advertisements, movies, etc.

It was the hardest book I’ve ever written. It was so hard to distill these huge concepts into tiny speech, bubbles

Micah:

Yeah, that must have been really hard.

Melissa:

Oh, gosh! It was so hard. I had to, write, like 10 drafts of this book.

Micah:

Yeah, my bad. Yeah alright, yeah, I’m just I was sort of thinking more of like, ah, Hobbit graphic novel.

Melissa:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, I know.

Micah:

Like the Size of a Comic Book and-

Melissa:

I know. But if it gets people interested, maybe next year, they’ll pick up the actual book. The novel.

Micah:

Yeah definitely. Or maybe they’ll try and pick up the Lord of the Rings, which-

Melissa:

Yeah, right.

Micah:

Because I do think that the Hobbit novel, the illustrations, is really why I like it. Because it’s like, if I want to turn off my brain with a familiar story, I can just look at the pretty pictures

Melissa:

That’s a good idea. Yeah, you’re right. Huh! Well, ask me anything else that you want

Micah

Sorry, How do you feel this book will affect others? (and yes, sorry, tangents are hard for me.)

Melissa:

How that’s, ooh, let me think about that well, you know honestly, in my, in my idealized version of the world, teachers will pick this book up and use it in their classrooms, in conjunction with helping kids to start a project like the one Coach Lepinsky does I would love for this book to empower a whole, generation, of readers, to realize that they they do have power, especially when they cooperate, when they cross-pollinate, they actually do have power, and agency especially with social media to change, the world for the better to get their voices out there to really affect real transformation, so hope, that I also hope it inspires people to do some more research into Down Syndrome, as a genetic condition and reach out a hand in friendship I hope readers will consider volunteering with Special Olympics and the Buddy Walk Fundraiser and I I really hope- I used to be a special ed. teacher, way, way, back and we had peer tutors in my class. So I had 9 students of varying, intellectual and physical disabilities. There was a school next door for kids without disabilities. And we would have several of the third Grade students come over to my class to work with my kids and then vice versa, my kids would go over to their class. And there was just so much cooperation and empathy and love and I would love to catch up with those peer tutors now, to find out how their lives were changed by those interactions with my students. So that was a super long winded answer to a great question.

Micah

Yeah, thanks. maybe I should keep myself from tangents. But yeah, so moving on what are 3 things do you want people to come away from this, this is sort of tying into the last one

Melissa:

Yeah, let’s see. Well, I would like them to come away with a solid sense of how to be better allies to people who have, for instance, speech impediments, like Daisy’s lisp, intellectual disabilities, like Squirrels Down Syndrome, there are people, in his- on his Special Olympics team who are on the Autism spectrum. There- there’s a bully, obviously there are kids who are being bullied by Devon Smalley, so I’m hoping that there’s a blueprint for how to be an ally! How to band together against a bully, or against prejudice and bigotry, and- and have each other’s backs and empower each other, to stand up against that. You asked me for 2 more takeaways, I do again, really hope that people take away from Daisy, oh my gosh it doesn’t matter. That I’m 13. I can do the super cool project that came to me at 3 in the morning. I can do it. I can use the power of Tiktok, or whatever they’re allowed to be on at age 13, and change the world for the better. And I guess- this is kind of strange, but I think there’s a lot of Dystopian middle grade fiction out there, a lot of books that that leave kids feeling, kind of sad, kind of hopeless and I hope Daisy Woodworm Changes the World, leaves kids feeling, a little bit more hopeful, and optimistic in a realistic way, because Daisy’s got some super real-world problems, her parents don’t have enough money, they had to start a dog poop removal business, but they’re- they’re looking on the bright side, they’re having a good time with it, right. And so, yeah, I just- I hope that it- it- I hope kids, finish the book, and feel happier, more optimistic, cheered up a little bit.

Micah:

Yeah, sounds good. Okay, let’s see. How often- so you’ve talked about how you had other books. And yeah, I actually read a bit about them. And I was wondering, how often do you draw on your personal experiences to write?

Melissa:

I started out as a memoirist way back when I was in grad school. I didn’t mean to be a memoirist, but I was. I- I got into grad school with a fictionalized piece of memoir and my teacher saw right through it. So I wrote a couple of memoirs, and- and then I really wanted to get into fiction instead, I really love fiction. I really love the middle school minds, I just think middle schoolers are fascinating, and brave and hilarious, and and so, yeah, I- I drew on a lot of my experiences, for- for both of my middle grade novels that first one Avenging the Owl came out of my 8 Years, rehabilitating orphaned, Raptors, Birds of Prey at our Local Raptor Center I actually ended up Training Owls for several years for educational presentations, so a lot, of those, owl facts and a lot, of the grosser aspects, of working to rehabilitate, birds of prey made it into avenging to owl along with a lot of the fascinating Flora, and Fauna of the Pacific Northwest, and so a lot, of my Personal Experiences Go in there even if I’m not you know one of the Characters, in the book, yeah.

Micah:

That’s really interesting. Sorry, talking about the Flora and Fauna of the Pacific Northwest, reminded me of banana slugs,

Melissa:

Yes!

Micah:

Here, slugs are absolutely reviled. You, if you have a slug, it is a pest that is to be immediately taken out.

Melissa:

No!

Micah:

It could kill people here.

Melissa

No, what what?

Micah:

Yeah, here, they absorb this, what is it bacteria, or it’s rat lungworm disease. It’s a type of like bacteria or something, that the slime can spread onto a plant that will literally kill someone if it’s not, like properly taken care of, and it’s- it’s very bad. So, a lot of like Gardeners will, like, start putting around like, little Salt Rings, or whatever they need to do, to keep slugs out of their garden, or else it will start like, be really bad, yeah.

Melissa:

Oh, I had no idea, I’m writing this down. Did you say lungworm?

Micah:

Yeah. Rat lungworm

Melissa:

Oh, no. Okay. I’m looking that up as soon as we’re done here, cause I love that kind of scientific fact. Have you ever licked a banana slug?

Micah:

No

Melissa:

Okay, I have. I had- I had to. Yes, I was teaching a nature writing class at the University of Oregon Journalism School. And we were on a field trip at the coast, and I had been telling them how important it is to evoke all 5 senses in your nature writing along comes the slug and they Dared me to Lick it so I did

Micah:

That’s really interesting and also kind of gross.

Melissa:

It is good. Hey, wait a minute. You ate grasshoppers!

Micah:

Fair enough, fair enough. But- but like slime is always one of my more- I want to stay away from slime.

Melissa:

I see your point, though. Yeah, that’s terrifying.

Micah:

Yeah. Okay. Moving. On. Sorry what was it, has writing the book helped you through any tough times? Or, did you reflect on any tough times that you had, while you were writing?

Melissa:

Yeah, oh, are you by any chance, gonna be a journalist in your profession.

Micah:

Actually, I’m not really looking towards that. I might- I might go for writing, but I might, but my real dream is to go into Aerospace Engineering and building rockets.

Melissa:

That’s much more lucrative. But these- these questions are- are really thoughtful.

Melissa

Yes, the book helped- helped me through a really tough time. I- I wrote the book directly after my brothers and my Mom died of cancer and she was beloved. We absolutely adored her. She was only 72 it was as you know, deaths from Cancer are, horrific, totally devastating, she was hilarious, the whole time, so that was good, but I wrote, this book, kind of as a love letter to her and a love, letter to Ventura, where we had spent so much time when I was a kid, and I sometimes was drafting it, and just weeping and thinking, Melissa, why don’t you set this in Portland Oregon, so that you don’t cry through every chapter, but it wanted to be Ventura California, and yeah, and so you know my brother was calling me and he was really really sad because he was living in California, and so the book really acted sort of as therapy to work through a lot of this grief and a lot of this pain and yeah, so my great-grandparents were in the early 1900’s Circus and Vaudeville they were Juggling, Wire-Walking Comedians, and so, my mom grew up with them, and she learns to find a sense of humor in the darkest grimmest things. So when she was dying. She really was hilarious, and she made me laugh quite a bit, too, and I like to think that a lot of that humor is in Daisy Woodworm Changes the World, even as they are broke, and they don’t even have enough money, for soda I like to think that that sense of whimsy and playfulness is in the book. In some places. Good question.

Micah

Yeah, definitely, I have 2 things to say about that.

Melissa:

Okay.

Micah:

It’s actually 3. Sorry. One, I am so sorry for your loss. It’s absolutely horrid and tying into that my grandma actually actually had been diagnosed with cancer recently, but she had. It was early enough that she was able to get it, like removed. And really lucky for us.

Melissa:

Wow! Wow, what type?

Micah:

I think it was… Uterine?

Micah:

I I forgot what exact type it was, but

Melissa:

Yeah, that’s how my grandma died. Yeah. Well, good, for your grandma go, Grandma

Micah:

Yeah, she’s really cool. She, I- both me and my mom, credit her for the reason that my family is super tech forward, because even back when she was like in her? What was it… twenties or something? When computers and stuff were coming out? She made sure that she knew how to use them, how to fix them. And all of that stuff like she was, it’s really interesting, I really love my family’s history with that stuff

Melissa:

That’s amazing. She wasn’t in Southern California, was she

Micah:

She was more like the Bay Area, around there. And then she moved to Fiji, and then here

Melissa:

She sounds. I have to write a note down. She sounds so much.

Melissa:

Oh! Like my Freshman, math teacher, who quit teaching math, and started an Apple Store, a franchise right when Computers were coming out. Oh, my gosh, that’s yeah, she was cutting edge

Melissa:

Oops, you froze

Micah:

Yeah, sorry. I there was a bit of a speaker issue. It moved somewhere.

Melissa:

Oh, that’s okay.

Micah:

Yeah, my she’s really cool. and third, Actually, I remembered something in the book. Daisy mentioned that her Grandma had to go through Chemo did- that- was that like offhand mention inspired by that or…

Melissa:

That was- that was sharp! Oh, my gosh! I forgot all about that. Yeah, yeah, that was directly inspired.

Micah:

That’s- that’s really interesting. Okay, next, so in the first place, what actually made you want to start writing?

Melissa:

Oh gosh, my mom, she was a journalist. early- early on, she- she gosh, she was the editor of a small newspaper in Oxnard, California. She was writing short stories, and I think I was 10 when she saw my interest in her writing and sat me down at her Electric Typewriter, and said I want you to write a short story and submit it to a magazine. I literally just found this short story a few days ago. It was a story about a girl in a mental institution who befriends a visiting white tiger cub. I wrote it, I sent it to 17 magazines, it did not get published, but I was so intrigued by this idea that it might get published that I was on a roll and I started writing really bad cat poetry which did get published in Cat Fancy Magazine, and then I wrote another short story based on something that had happened in our fifth Grade class, and it got published in a national magazine when I was 14, it went to schools all over the US, including mine, and we read it out loud. And I was mortified because I’d used all my classmates’ real names.

Melissa:

So really really, bad idea. I don’t advocate that so I’ve been writing basically, since I was 10 years old, I took a little break to teach special ed., and then I missed writing too much, So I switched jobs, yeah.

Micah:

Yeah, that’s really cool. I can definitely- I don’t know if I could, like fully imagine, but, like I think I can- I can thrust at least the basics of just, like having a story that you wrote be sent into your school, and not by you. And like just have an email that would be Horrible

Melissa:

I wanted to die. I just don’t know what I- and it was all about how we had harassed this poor substitute teacher who had just had a mastectomy and like the worst bully I hear his real name and he was, sitting, next to me when our teacher, read my short story, I I had such a crush on him, and he never asked me out after that. I guess it’s important to note that part of my work with- with tweens and teens is helping them to find ways to publish their work and there are so many different places that will publish the work of- of young writers from, you know the age of 6, to 18, and so one of the places I tell people to go is newpages.com. There’s a tab. Specifically for young writers, that list all the magazines, and all the writing contests for kids, and teens, and I just feel like you might as well start getting your work out there, and join the public discourse, and start Inspiring People, you know sooner, rather than later and one, thing that- that kids don’t know is that the op-ed pages of newspapers, they are hungry for young people’s voices, they don’t want to hear from me, they want to hear from young people who are. You know, gonna be the most affected by Climate change, and the most affected by the racism, and other bigotry that’s going on right now, and- and so, I just wanna I just wanna tell people that you shouldn’t not write a letter to the editor, or an op-ed because you’re 13. You should write it, and you should tell the editor how old you are. You would be surprised at how much they’re gonna welcome your voice in the newspaper.

Melissa:

Okay I’m off my soapbox now.

Micah:

That’s actually really cool. maybe I should put that down, newpages.com, was it right?

Melissa:

Yup.

Micah:

My! Oh, I was trying to figure out how many questions there are.

Melissa: 

Oh, yeah.

Micah:

Yeah. That’s interesting, sorry. There, okay, thanks. For that information.

Melissa:

Yeah

Micah:

That’s really interesting moving on, let’s see… what was it- what sort of stuff have you learned in the world of like writing and publishing novels

Melissa:

Ooh! Ooh, ooh. Okay. Well, I really like those- those writers who are not afraid to play with format. There was a book that came out a couple years ago, called the first Rule of Punk. I think it was set in the Eighties right when zines were all the rage, maybe it was the nineties. When was punk? And part of the Book was a Zine. Like, periodically, suddenly there’d be a Zine, and there are books that include text exchanges. I like those kinds of graphic elements, and novels to break up the text. I like a lot of what Catherine Applegate writes, especially a book called Wish Tree. Katie DiCamillo’s, Flora and Ulysses. The one uses Illustrations, the other has again lots and lots of Comic Book Panels, so that is really exciting. I love, Wonder, I loved RJ Palacio’s, Wonder. I don’t know if you read it.

Micah:

Yeah

Melissa:

But how each of the the people, not just, Auggie, not just you know the main protagonist, but Auggie’s sister, mother, father, the Bully, the Best Friend, everybody, had a perspective of voice, a chapter, so that we really got this Overall, picture of what it’s, like for this boy, with a severe facial disfigurement, to go to a, to go, to school, to go to a I think it was a private school, but nevertheless a classroom. Yeah, I just think- I think she opens big doors for people to write about various disabilities. Yeah.

Micah:

Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve read this,but I actually remember bringing up that we watched wonder like, I read wonder at Fourth Grade or something. I don’t know. And then we watched it as a class later on in, like Sixth, Grade Eighth Grade actually and I remember my mom was like I wrote a- my mom actually wrote a or what was it article or blog post about the movie, and how was kind of bad like, it involved- yeah, the- the movie, was- the movie inherited some, iss- some of the issues with the movie were inherited from the book and like, sort of weird storytelling ideas, and some of them, were just innate to the movie like, I think, yeah, the writing, in the book, was really interesting and really Cool and the way they did it was-  was cool, but yeah, the way like I’m sort of just puppet- what is it parroting my mom.

Melissa:

Oh no, that’s great!

Micah:

She made a note that the- was it the- the movie one didn’t have a disabled actor, playing Auggie, it had a yeah, they had a very quote unquote, normal looking, kid, who, they just put a ton of makeup on and play Auggie, yeah, that wasn’t good.

Melissa:

Hmm! bad idea! That makes me sad

Micah:

And then this was more at the actual story, how the award Auggie gets at the end. He has, he gets an award for like good spirit, or something.

Melissa:

Huh!

Micah:

And my mom was like why didn’t they just say he gets an award for being like, really gifted in science which is something that he is! He’s gifted in science, and they don’t give them an award for that, they just give him an award for that is very clearly, “We’re giving you an award for coming to school with disabilities.”

Melissa:

Oh, no, is that in the book.

Micah:

Yeah, I think it was actually

Melissa:

Oh, no, that’s right. Isn’t he like a scientific genius?

Micah:

Yeah, it’s- it’s crazy.

Melissa:

I need to read this piece that your mom wrote, I’ll skip the movie, though

Micah:

It’s- actually, yeah, I really liked it. yeah, it reminds me of have you ever heard of Sia’s Music, the it was a it was like a what was it? Sia, the music Artist decided, I wanna make a movie, about people with autism. And it was not only in conjunction with autism speaks, which is autism speaks. Oh, God! Autism Speaks. I could go on a 10 hour long tangent, just about autism speaks, and the horrors of autism, speaks, but also.

Melissa:

Oh, no really!

Micah:

She- I don’t think she had any body with actual autism.

Melissa:

Oh!

Micah:

In the writing. The actress who played the character with autism did not have autism, and actually got worried that the way she was playing the character with autism, was too stereotypical and then Sia was like no, no, no, don’t worry, I’ll protect you

Melissa:

Oh! Oh!

Micah:

It’s just

Melissa:

Oh, I had no idea

Micah:

There’s a lot. Yeah, there’s probably too many books that are representation without what would it be-

Melissa:

No, ide- No stories about us without us. Right.

Micah:

Yeah- Yeah, exactly and I think that was actually something that was in relation to Autism Speaks, they- cause It’s like, the it’s this big popular charity, organization and 0 people with actual autism on the Board, a lot of it actually goes to like profit, for the Founder, somehow and also they just do a lot of fear mongering, like they had this one very infamous, This is Autism, ad and it was like I will- And it’s like all of these like “facts”, about autism, like, “if you have a stable relationship, I will ruin it,” Just horrid and they put that and they are the “leading experts”, and like “leading Fundraiser”, for autism, they just-

Melissa:

Wow! Oh!

Micah:

Really a shame. Sorry, I got really off topic, but I remember this one book that I really liked. It was Hello, Universe. Yeah, yeah, that was really cool.

Melissa:

Yes, I, love that one

Micah:

I read it for a Newbery Club, and I actually got to meet the author in person, for the thing, we- my team, one fourth place and we got to get and I got like a little signed copy of was it…

Melissa:

Is that Erin- Erin Entrada Kelly, and that’s-

Micah:

Yeah, it was really cool.

Melissa:

Yeah, and the boy is- he falls down a well? That book is fantastic! Again, you get that multiple perspectives, right, I love that yeah.

Micah:

Yeah, exactly, and I forget the exact book. But I have a signed copy of it somewhere in my house, and it was really cool, because it also, had like the whole text bubbles in the thing, yeah, it was really cool

Melissa:

Love that author that’s- that’s great!

Micah:

Moving on cause that was a massive side tangent.

Melissa:

That’s all right. 

Micah:

Do you have any tips for up and coming writers?

Melissa:

Yeah, oh, my gosh, how much time do you have

Micah:

Ah, I don’t know it- was scheduled for about an hour. But I think we can go-

Melissa:

Oh that’s okay. I have to- I have to pick up my daughter from dance in- in like 10 min. But okay, so I’ll condense. First of all, though, I have a new TikTok, in which I offer tips for emerging Up and Coming writers. And it’s @wildmelissahart, Instagram, too, but- so, I have so many tips. Oh, my gosh, I think the most important one. There’s a concept called free writing, which you and I probably both know, but for those who don’t, you set your clock for like 10 min, or you resolve to write 2 or 3 pages either on your Laptop or in a notebook, and you just either pick a prompt or you just start writing and you don’t stop writing for 10 min, or 3 pages. You don’t cross out, you don’t worry about spelling or grammar. You can write absolute awful stuff. But I think if you fill notebooks like that, maybe 5, or 10, notebooks, you will find your voice as a writer, I just think it’s a wonderful way to to develop your voice and what’s on your mind, and what you want to write about I have probably 20 of these notebooks in my attic I’m terrified to look at them I don’t want to know what I wrote when I was 15 but I’m glad I did it I also think it’s super important to read in the genre that you want to write so, if you’re deal is poetry, read a lot of poetry, if you want to write a fiction about dragons, read fiction about dragons, I I think it’s important that to read as well as writing also, and- and I already said this have confidence. Don’t wait to start sending out your work for publication. You can start as- as young as 6 years old. So do it? Why- why let somebody else have all the fun of publishing? Why not do it yourself? You might even get paid!

Micah:

Yeah, what was it? The outsider’s a book that we had that we were reading in my English class, that was all published by like oh, yeah, yeah, 15.

Melissa:

She was 15  

Micah:

oh, yeah, yeah, 15. Which is cool, and it was a really good book.

Melissa:

yeah Eragon. Yeah, Eragon. I don’t know. If you read it wasn’t Christopher Palini, I think he was, 15 yeah.

Micah:

I haven’t, but I think I watched the movie

Micah:

Sorry, bringing it back to the free write- free write in less time. I remember I took an acting class that had sort of like that. But like not writing it all, it was just: I’ll give you 10 min, one prompt and 4 teams. And you gotta make skits.

Melissa:

Oh, I love that! oh!

Micah:

Yeah, it’s- one of our prompts was the Life and Death of a Snowman, or Snowperson and let’s see, what was it? One of them was like a snow person that was brought to life,and they were like “Finally, me and my kin can bring domination to the world!” And, like the Snow person crawling in, being like, “Help… Me…” and then the first is like, “Brother, what has happened to you?” and then someone comes in and they’re summertime with like a gun

Melissa:

Oh, my gosh, 

Micah:

Yeah

Melissa:

I was in theater, all through high school. You make me miss it!  

Micah:

Theater’s great.

Melissa:

It is. It’s the best

Micah:

Okay, we have. I’m so lucky that my school is actually sort of specialized in theater. We have our own like, what is it? PALC, Performing Arts Learning Center and it is amazing, I love it so much.

Melissa:

Wow!

Micah:

The teaching is great. It’s super fun. We have- it goes on every semester, we put on a play at the end of it, and it’s super fun cause like you are- you get a part. It’s everything, it’s really cool! And-

Melissa:

I love that!

Micah:

It’s unique to my school!

Melissa:

Huh!

Micah:

And anyone from other schools can be like, Hey, if you’re in a Hilo- HIDOE school, come in. You can yeah we’ve had like- we just put on a production of A Seussified Christmas Carol. And yeah, it was like, a really fun- and our Scrooge was actually from a homeschool.

Melissa:

Oh!

Micah:

I got the role of Bob Cratchit, as a side note

Melissa:

Oh, really! How was that?

Micah:

It was fun. I got to play a scared British person. And, yeah, I actually found other recordings of it, and it- I did not like the way they played Bob Cratchit. Yeah, this one line, where it’s like, “I’m sorry, sir, I was just warming my digits.” And I played it like, very much, like “He’s gonna kill me. He’s gonna-” And then like, the one that I found was like “I’m sorry sir, I was just warming my digits.” (Cheerful, Bright, Anime Protagonist voice) And I was like that’s not a scared British person. That is a- that is a 6 year old.

Melissa:

I think you’re gonna have to see the Muppets version

Micah:

Oh! Yeah, I did. And I actually painted my nails green specifically, because you know, Kermit and I was going to have like, this, giant green, bow tie, because it was a Suess-y Christmas carol we weren’t able to get that in time

Melissa:

You- you can’t see this, but he- he sits on my desk. This, this was my grandma’s

Micah:

Oh, that’s so cool!

Melissa:

He’s missing an eye, my dog ate it he also doesn’t smell. Very good.

Melissa:

He’s gonna go over there.

Micah:

That’s really cool. yeah, before we have- I think before we have to like end this, what’s your next project, or if you have-

Melissa:

Well, well, that is the question, isn’t it? I think it’s a historical novel based on the lives of my great grandparents in the Circus and Vaudeville, but I’m- I’m going to New York in 2 days and I’m having Lunch with my agent. And we’re gonna talk about several projects. And so we’ll see which one she would like me to work on and I will get back to you

Micah:

Yeah, that’s really cool. Sorry. I feel the need to actually share the recording because we got it recorded by my school’s other really cool thing, that we’re specialized in. We have a really really good AV club. I think that I can use chat. it’s-

Melissa:

Oh, that would be incredible!

Micah:

It’s a- that’s the Youtube channel They have, all, the- it’s a lot more like unstructured content on there that’s like the unofficial thing that they had to put there, because we didn’t take technically- because hush-hush, we didn’t get the licenses for the Music, and some of that part so-

Melissa:

I got it. Okay.

Micah:

But yeah, we got the Seussified Christmas Carol Slime tutorial there. It was really fun, I really loved being part of that

Melissa:

Oh, oh, thank you so much. I will watch this right after I look up slugs that give people rat lungworm

Micah:

Actually, maybe I should write that fully out rat lungworm.

Melissa:

Rat? Rat?

Micah:

Yeah, rat lungworm. Because it’s

Melissa:

This is getting better and better. Okay.

Micah:

It’s a thing, that, like rats poop out. And then the slugs absorb it, and then they go and then they spread the slime onto the leaves- it’s really disgusting, yeah.

Melissa:

So do you. Do you ever listen to the Ologies podcast?

Micah:

Ologies. no, sorry, my I don’t work all that well with-

Melissa:

The best with auditory. Yeah, yeah, I think she’s got transcripts, but it is- it is just one episode after another full of this crazy nature stuff, and I love it

Micah:

Sorry, what was it?

Melissa:

Ologies. I’ll put it in the chat. Yeah, and there are transcripts. Oh, that’s why that’s not working my-

Melissa:

There, we go, okay.

Melissa:

Rat lungworm! What a find!

Micah:

Yeah, it’s really cool, I- I hope you can- I hope you learn about it.

Melissa:

Oh, I will. Yeah. Maybe my next project is a nonfiction science book for kids. I am a little bit obsessed with something called slime molds. Do you have those in Hawaii?

Micah:

I don’t know we- I don’t really know, maybe.

Melissa:

You would know, you would know they’re not fungus. They’re not lichen, they’re sort of an entity unto themselves. They pop up in the Pacific Northwest, after a rain, all sorts of different colors and shapes, and scientists have trained them to do mazes. They love oatmeal, so they will actually slide. They’re way through a maze to get to a single oat flake.

Micah:

Yes!

Melissa:

I might write a book about slime molds.

Micah:

That’s really cool. I- I think I read about that in this one learning thing I had, and fourth grade. I think, fourth or fifth, grade

Melissa:

I’ll send you a great video about them.

Micah:

Yeah, that’s really cool. Thanks for the recommendation.

Melissa:

Sure slime molds! Yay alright, I should go pick up my kid

Micah:

Yeah, I don’t think we have that. Yeah. Well, anyways. It was great talking to you!

Melissa:

You as well, this is the most fun interview I have done for Daisy. You’re the best

Micah:

Thank you.

Micah:

Make sure to have a great day

Melissa:

Bye, Micah.

Micah:

Bye!

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