Commonwealth Journal

April 2, 2014

Turning a New Page

Stephens releases children's book

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Burnside —

When you’re trying to get a book published, the most difficult thing to deal with is rejection letters. They’re virtually inevitable. In order to deal with it, perseverance is needed, the ability to face one’s fears.
Fortunately for Melissa Step-hens, all she had to do was open her book to get that needed dose of encouragement.
“I’d get a little discouraged, but you just have to keep trying,” she said.
It paid off. Stephens, a resident of Burnside, has written a children’s book that’s now available through online booksellers.
A hairstylist at Reflections Salon and member of Jordan Baptist Church in Burnside, Stephens wrote “The Many Adventures of Filbert the Frog.”
The book, which came out just this week, tells multiple stories with positive, useful messages for youth — one about sharing, one about facing one’s fears and one about following the rules.
The characters include some of the most fun figures in the animal kingdom — a baby frog, raccoon, and rabbit.
Stephens never necessarily saw herself as an author, but has always enjoyed creating stories.
“I’ve just been writing here and there for a while,” she said. “I enjoy reading to kids, reading to my boys.”
Stephens, has two sons — Patrick, age 6, and Aaron, 4. It’s because of them that she made an effort to get “Filbert the Frog” into print.
“I never really thought about trying to get anything published (but) my older son was talking to me one day, asking me why I never tried,” she said. “He thought they were good.”
So Stephens submitted her work to publishers. And submitted. And submitted. And finally, it paid off.
“I was very excited,” she said of the moment she found out a publishing company was interested. “It was hard to believe.”
Tate Publishing and Enterprises bit on the project. “They offered that if I did the book cover, then they would publish it for me,” said Stephens. “My two cousins worked on that and sent it all in, and when it was approved, (the book) was printed.”
The lessons contained in the book stem in many ways from Stephens’ own Christian values, and offer situations and emotions that are very relatable for a wide range of readers.
“I found my inspiration in my children,” she said, “and these are some values I as a parent hope to instill in them.”
Some of them are simple but important morals that can help children better navigate the often tricky world of social interaction.
“It’s like the first (story), where the rabbit has a fear of being in the water,” she said. “He doesn’t swim with his other two friends. He just sits and watches. He enjoys them being there with him. He has to face his fear later and does so with their help, but it’s also about accepting your friends for who they are.
“They’re important things you want kids to know,” she added. “You always have kids with disabilities and people who are different, and you should accept everyone.”
Other stories were more directly inspired by Stephens’ faith and the struggles that believers often have in life.
“The one story where the frog doesn’t do what he parents tell him, then he gets scared when he goes out and is lost,” said Stephens. “That kind of reminded me of how sometimes I’ve got away from the Lord and feel lost without him.
“The last story was about sharing, an issue that comes up almost daily at our house,” she added. “It is so important to us to teach our kids about sharing with each other. This year at Christmas I had the boys pick out two toy each to give to other children who may not have a toy for Christmas. It was wonderful to me that after the strain of giving that first toy they got excited and kept bringing me things to give.”
Published by Tate Publishing and Enterprises, the book is available through bookstores nationwide, from the publisher at www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore, or by visiting barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com. Stephens also noted that interested customers can look on www.booksamillion.com.
“I do,” she said regarding whether or not she’s felt God has had a hand in her new journey as a children’s author. “I feel He’s given me the ability to do it and has really blessed me. I’m thankful to be able to do it.”