When Britt Menzies' daughter, Emma, asked her to paint a picture of a ballerina, she had no idea how that simple request would change her life.
Originally from Port Washington, this mother of two is now an award-winning children's book author and entrepreneur who used an innocent term of endearment, "little stinKers," to help create the hilarious world of "StinkyKids."
Menzies and I caught up about her experience, her inspirations and how she balances it all, from children's books and dolls to a Broadway musical and an upcoming television cartoon series.
Q. You grew up in Port Washington and now live in Georgia. What were some of your favorite things to do as a kid on Long Island?
Long Island was a great backdrop for a lot of adventures as a kid. It's where a lot of my material comes from in creating StinkyKids as well as my current day adventures of my own kids. As a younger "little stinKer," I loved to go to Bayville Adventure Park with my mom and twin brothers and go on the rides and eat at the Pig and Whistle. I also remember going to town art shows with my mom and enjoying all of the creative art and jewelry. We used to go to the Nassau Museum of Art and walk around the grounds.
Q. How did you get inspired to write SinkyKids?
My own childhood adventures, as well as my own kids experiences now, are all of my inspirations for the StinkyKids stories. "StinkyKids and the Runaway Scissors," the first book in the series, was inspired by my own mistake of going to bed with gum in my hair and waking up with it tangled everywhere. It was also inspired by the time I cut off my entire ponytail (which was almost down to my backside) after a friend of mine cut hers. "StinkyKids See A Full Moon," the second book, was inspired by a sleepover that I had for my son and eight of his friends that was so crazy and wild I never invited that many boys for a sleepover again. The full moon part of the story was inspired by my son, Max, who as a little boy loved the moon and we would go out every night as a family to enjoy the beauty of the moon.
Q. Can you tell me about your latest book?
The newest book, "StinkyKids Have A Heart" is my most treasured story as it deals with bullying and hurting someone's heart with words. It is so special to me because I was bullied as a kid in elementary school and early junior high that I always wanted to write a book about this topic and how words can really hurt you. In the book, I wrote a letter about my experiences of being teased to help inspire kids to remember the bully never wins and to help stop bullying -- one little stinKer at a time.
Q. How do you balance work and family?
I don't balance, I juggle. I never think about all of the things that I have to accomplish, I just do them! Whenever business calls, I answer it. When emails come in, I take care of them. I make sure to take care of business right away, because it allows me to have more time with my family. Working from home also allows me to juggle. Most importantly, I have the support of my family to make StinkyKids the success it deserves. My kids and husband are my business partners and help when needed. Balancing is a lot easier because they are supportive and ready to help.
Q. What's up next for you?
I'm working with Jarrett Creative Group on developing the StinkyKids animated series. Seth Jarrett, a fellow Long Islander, and I love sharing our camp stories with each other while we work on the StinkyKids cartoon. "StinkyKids The Musical" is set to return to Manhattan in early December (dates and theaters announced soon) and it's now available to license world-wide with Theatrical Rights Worldwide. I'm also planning a book tour for "StinkyKids Have A Heart" where I hope to inspire kids to not only help stop bullying but to strive to live by the StinkyKids motto of "Always Be A Leader of Good," with both laughter and adventures along the way.