Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in Houston?
I was born and raised in Houston. I’ve lived here most of my life except during college and a few years after grad school. I’ve lived in San Marcus, Dallas, Austin and San Diego as well.
Child(ren) and Age(s)?
I have a little boy named Jackson – 20 months old.
One thing people would be surprised to know about you…
My husband and I met for the first time on television. Deborah Duncan was basically our Valentine’s Day matchmaker. Matt proposed to me exactly a year later on Great Day Houston.
Favorite local activities to do in Houston?
Most of our favorite activities over the past year involve being outside, places like the Zoo, Bayou Bend Gardens and Herman Park. Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire is also a great place to enjoy the day with young kids. They have a nice big playground too.
Do you have a favorite family-friendly restaurant in the area?
We love going to Evelyn’s Park and Betsy’s on the weekend for music, food and drinks and to let Jackson run around.
What local places do you go to for pampering and/or mom’s night out?
Typically the Houstonian for pampering, but not very often these days between balancing work, family and toddler life. It’s a good month if I can just go and get my nails done once. My girlfriends and I love meeting up at Tiny Boxwoods, La Table and spots inside the River Oaks District.
Are you involved in a business venture, a local organization, a creative endeavor, or in the corporate world? Please share!
I started LongTale Publishing LLC twelve years ago, and I’m a children’s author Melissa M. Williams Author to twelve books (chapter books, picture books and a writing curriculum) and the Founding CEO of the iWRITE Nonprofit Organization which is where most of my time is spent these days.
My background in psychology and counseling led me to my career in the writing and publishing world. Over the last decade, I’ve traveled all over Texas and California as a speaker in the schools. I’ve worked in over 200 schools and 50 school districts. These experiences inspired the idea to start my nonprofit in 2009 (originally under the name READ3Zero) in order to give children the opportunity to become professionally published authors and illustrators. Our mission at iWRITE is to build student confidence through writing.
It’s been amazing to see our programs grow over the years, starting with our signature publishing contest program: I Write Short Stories by Kids for Kids which has become an international contest. This past year we had kids fly in from China, India and Dubai to attend our annual luncheon and book signing. Our mascot “i” The Guy, is the cartoon character inside our creative writing journal (in-school and afterschool) program. He is also a 7-foot mascot who visits schools to get students excited to write. This is an English and Bilingual (Spanish) program. Our iWRITE Youth Club, for middle school and high school writers, just recently launched the iWRITER Magazine. Our creative writing and illustration summer camps are now virtual! And we are about to launch our Online Writing Center/iWRITE KIDS Membership for elementary aged kids to receive fun and exciting writing activities all year long from “i” The Guy. We also have all kinds of free resources for parents and teachers on our website too.
How has the Houston community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?
The Houston community is the reason why I am where I am today. If it wasn’t for my relationships with generous and philanthropic friends, corporate partners and the media over the years, all of this would have been impossible. I am so grateful to all of the devine appointments and introductions that have happened at the right moment in time to allow this vision to grow. I believe something much bigger than myself has had a hand in everything. I also have the most dedicated staff which I am truly thankful. Even though I tend to receive most of the credit, being the face of the organization, I know it takes a talented team to accomplish so much.
What is the best advice for juggling mommyhood and running a business (or volunteering, working, etc)?
Balancing business and being a mother has definitely opened my eyes to the fact that everyone in life has something else going on, so we all should be a little more forgiving, understanding and patient with one another. Also, we all have bad days, but that doesn’t define who we are, so my whole notion on first impressions of others has also changed recently because I would hope someone doesn’t judge me on my not so good days. For the most part, being a mother definitely gives you that boost of confidence especially on those rock star days when you actually got it all done and literally every minute of the day worked as planned! Because those are rare occasions these days. I used to be SO much more in control.
What would you tell the old “You” before you had kids?
You only thought you knew time management, but it’s an entirely different skill set once you have kids. I would tell myself to also stop saying yes to everything and just embrace the feeling that comes when you have to tell people no. There were so many things I took on that were truly a waste of my time, and I wish I would have put MY time as the top priority. Today, I simply don’t have the time to say yes unless it makes sense for my family and my businesses, and I love being able to stay focused on what matters most.
Funniest shortcut/routine for helping you through parenthood?
Headphones, mute and google-email “schedule send” function. If it weren’t for these three things, people wouldn’t believe what I’m doing during a conference call or a meeting (cleaning a blue paint stick out of my toddler’s mouth, pushing a jogger, flipping through a picture book) or the fact that my 8:00 a.m. emails are actually being sent six hours before at 2:00 a.m. My days with childcare look a little different and 50% of the week looks more like this.