Tired of the dirt and the stink and the spin cycle, the monotony of his mid-rise life, and, especially, his bland, mid-rise partner, Melvin abandons everything in favor of a swashbuckling quest for fame and purpose.
“As you can tell, this is a creative exploration of what actually becomes of socks that go missing,” author Shiloh Carozza ’19 said of the eponymous character in her new children’s book, “The Misadventures of Melvin the Missing Sock.”
“I guess I could sum up the story by saying it is less an exploration of what happens to all socks but of one ambitious sock whose dreams lie beyond the drawer. You could almost call this a prodigal sock rather than a prodigal son story,” Carozza said.
Carozza graduated from Hillsdale in 2019 with a major in public address and a minor in marketing. She now works for the marketing department at Treeworks, Inc. a landscaping company in West Michigan.
In her free time, though, she pursues creative projects including writing novels, poetry, music, and now for the first time, children’s books. Carozza embarked on her mission to bring Melvin to life in May of 2019, just after she graduated and moved out of Hillsdale.
“I wanted to write something that was fun, and, actually, this was something that I had talked about in conversation with my friends. You can write something fun and fluffy, but at the end of the days there are a lot of childrens’ stories that are just that, and I wanted something with more substance to it,” Carozza said. “I remember the stories that stuck with me usually did have more serious undertones.”
These serious undertones mean a tragic fall for Melvin. The glory and fame he leaves his mate and Master (God) to search for bring him no permanent meaning. After a series of harrowing adventures, though, Melvin finds himself equally as purposeless as he was at home — but now he has no partner to cleave to or Master to serve. Battered and torn, he returns to where he began. He is lovingly mended and returned to his drawer.
“I think when Melvin gets mended, he has a whole existential crisis. He goes for glory, it is enjoyable, but then it goes away. That is the story of fame but everyone who wants to become the star of the show has to eventually realize that doesn’t last forever,” Carozza said. “It’s not in the end about being remembered by people, it is doing right by our Master and doing right by the people that have been put in our lives.”
Kirsten Kiledal, rhetoric and public address department chair, is helping Carroza to get “The Misadventures of Melvin the Missing Sock” into the Hillsdale College Bookstore for students to purchase.
“I just like the fact that, although there are so many kid’s books that have lost the innocence great childrens’ books have, there is nothing in Shiloh’s book that undoes innocence and curiosity and discovery a child ought to have,” Kiledal said. “It asks good questions, and you can just see the teleology and the true good coming out.”
Though she said she hopes it will become a classic, Carozza emphasized that her book is not just for children.
“I did want to communicate how easy it is for a person — especially young people with our education about to do great things— to begin wondering, ‘If we don’t end up going to D.C., why did we even go to Hillsdale?’ That is sometimes an unspoken question,” Carozza said. “If you don’t go start your own business what are you doing with yourself? I think there is a lot to be said for contentment, but contentment with purpose. To find contentment where you are and with who you are is not settling.”
Carozza clearly takes her own advice to heart. While managing the marketing department at Treeworks, Inc., Carozza remains self-motivated to create and self-publish her own art.
Before “The Misadventures of Melvin the Missing Sock,” Carozza self-published a novel she had been working on for six years, “The Exile,” and intermittently produces original music.
As someone who has “no passion for logistics,” Carozza said the hardest part of the whole process was self-publishing. To get her book on the shelves, she had to hire an al a carte formatter, a cover designer, and illustrator. She then had to edit, scan in illustrations, and send them to her formatter in a digital file for editing and testing. Once she received the whole compiled file back from the formatter, she had to send it to a printer— who she also researched and hired. Meanwhile, during this whole process, Carozza also dealt with copywriting, barcodes, and pricing issues, as well as simply maintaining the integrity of her creation.
Carozza has sold 100 copies of “The Misadventures of Melvin the Mismatched Sock” to date, and she ships each book herself complete with her signature and a personal inscription. She added that the whole process was a substantial investment, and she will have to sell 240 copies to break even. But one part of the logistics that brought her joy rather than stress was working with Lauren Fisher, a student from her alma mater, Belding High School, to design characters and art for her book. Fisher, currently a sophomore at the Kendall College of Art and Design in Ferris State University, was referred to Carroza for her artistic skill by their mutual English teacher at Belding Highschool.
According to both Carozza and Fisher, they shared a similar vision for Melvin from the beginning.
“Shiloh mentioned she wanted the art style to be kind of reminiscent of “Calvin and Hobbes,” and I am looking at my own art style and I’m like, ‘Oh, I have already developed an art style, and my art does kind of look like that already,’” Fisher said. “It has the simple figures and the dot eyes. Coming up with the concept art, I just sketched out on a page some ideas of socks and colored it. I sent that to Shiloh and she said it looked perfect.”
Carozza said that the pictures brought her characters to life, and when she first saw Fisher’s sketches she “almost died laughing.”
Though the story conveys an important message, Carozza said she had a lot of laughs writing it. In fact, the idea was born out of a stand-up comedian bit she once saw about “where the heck mismatched socks go,” combined with an unadulterated senior slump of thesis and paper writing that left her thirsting for something funny to lighten her mood.
Already in the throws of writing her next novel, Carozza said she enjoyed writing a childrens’ book for this reason.
“My novel I felt passionate about and that it needed to be published,” Carozza said. “But with this, there were more heartstrings involved. I could look back on my childhood and all my stories and think, ‘This story could be one of those for some other little kid.’”
Kiledal has followed Carozza’s creative career throughout her four years at Hillsdale and is currently working with Carozza to get her senior thesis, “Where Are We?: Affective Ambiguity as the Rhetorical End of La La Land” published. She said she sees more creative successes in Carozza’s future.
“Not only is Shiloh creative, but a creative collaborator,” Killedal said. “One thing I notice is that Shiloh is very interested in sharing herself with others, but also with motivating other people. I see her doing something that will provide service with other people that is going to be uplifting and motivating.”
“The Misadventures of Melvin the Missing Sock” is available for purchase at Carroza’s website, https://inquisitiveinkpot.com/, or in the Hillsdale College Bookstore.