Author (& Baker of really good chocolate cake): Elissa Stein

Author. Graphic designer. Cultural anthropologist. Storyteller. Through 11 books I’ve combined images and text to tell stories that often explore the evolution of women as pop culture symbols—and illustrate how society and the mainstream media have shaped people’s perceptions and opinions of us. Along with the above: stay-at-home mom. PTA president. Yogi. Daily blogger. Vintage coat collector. Burgeoning filmmaker. Baker of really good chocolate cake.

Describe yourself in 3 words:
Enthusiastic. Creative. Driven.

What is your life motto?
The good should outweigh the bad.

When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful?
After quite the circuitous career route, I graduated from art school at 30, ready to take the design world by storm.  At my final review, my portfolio teacher told me I should be a writer. I burst into tears on the spot. Turns out he saw my path years before I did. In the end, it’s the combination of words and images that let me share the stories I want to tell.

How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream?
For me there isn’t a line between work and play. Conceptualizing, envisioning, creating is what my mind does. For as long as I can remember I’ve spent many of my waking hours, as well as some pretty potent dream time, working through projects.

Describe how difficult the business really is?
At the moment the world has become splintered and publishing is in flux. At times its almost painfully challenging to build an audience, share a message and earn a living at it. And these days, it’s all on the author. Writing, promoting, marketing, hyping, drumming up attention, making contacts. There’s far less time to create when I’ve got all those other hats to wear.

What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson?
When people told me I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t have enough experience, I believed them and doubted myself for far too long.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date?
Trust my voice.

In your mind, is formal training essential?
No. I’ve never taken a writing class and here I am, 11 books later. Having said that, honing a skill, working through rough spots, continually challenging yourself is essential.

What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career?
Don’t stop believing in yourself when it feels like nothing’s happening. Keep stretching yourself. Try something different. Look at things from a new point of view. Don’t let yourself get stuck.

What kept you going when you felt like giving up?
There have been points when I thought I’d be sobbing on my bathroom floor forever. The words “this is only temporary” are very powerful when things are bleak.

Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time?
I believe that it’s putting positive energy out into the universe, believing in what you’re doing wholeheartedly, and working really hard is what can make magic happen.

You can learn more about Elissa at


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