Several years ago I met Sharelle when someone in Iowa recommended her as a speaker and we (Kansas SCBWI) invited her to speak. Recently we used her writing exercise again since we had so many people who’d missed hearing her the first time. It made me wonder what she’s up to, so the best way to find out was to interview her and share that info with you.
1. I see you have 4 books out—two YA and two for younger readers. Can you tell us how each of these came about and when they were each published?
The first manuscript I sold, THE PURPLE RIBBON, was a manuscript I'd had in my drawer for four years and never submitted. It was a talking animal story (which is the kiss of death in many quarters) and a really awkward length: too long for a picture book, too short for a chapter book. At the insistence of my aunt, who really liked the story and saw my characters on sheets and curtains and children's rompers, I finally sent it to Christy Ottaviano at Henry Holt and she promptly called me and said she wanted to buy it. Do you think I dedicated the book to my aunt? Yes, I did! It was published in the spring of 2003. In the interim, Christy Ottaviano also bought my middle-grade historical novel, OVER THE RIVER, and it was actually published before THE PURPLE RIBBON in the fall of 2002. Then Holt offered me a two book contract which led to the ultimate publication of A HIGHER GEOMETRY (historical fiction, 2006) and THE SNOWS (a multi-generational saga, 2007).
2. How long did it take for you to get your first book published?
Years. About six, I think. Maybe more, depending on when I start counting.
3. On your website you mentioned that you’ve always been a reader, and that you wrote two “terrible novels” in college, but then didn’t pursue writing. What made you come back to writing?
Financial security. :)
4. Have you resurrected those “terrible novels” in any way?
No. They were truly terrible. The first one would feel about as dated as GONE WITH THE WIND. The second one was a poorly-plotted, boring mystery.
5. Was there one thing in particular that was hard for you to learn about writing for publication? What was it and how did you overcome/solve the problem?
I'm a "literary" writer and there's not much market for literary fiction because, unless the book wins a big prize, it doesn't sell. However, I've accepted who I am. I write what I write and hope for the best.
6. On your site, you mention that you are have writing students. Tell us a bit about instructing.
These days, I teach creative writing in three venues. I teach each summer at the Writing Festival at The University of Iowa. I teach for the Institute of Children's Literature. And I have some private students with whom I do revision workshops.
7. What’s your current work in progress?
I have two. I'm revising a YA psychological thriller for an editor who seems interested in the project. The idea was hatched when we spent a winter on St. Simon's island and I spent too many hours walking the deserted beach. And during NaNoWriMo last fall I started an adult novel (back to the college days, I guess :)). I'm really enjoying working on it. The fundamentals of writing for kids and writing for adults are the same, but there are many important differences, and it's fun to explore those.
8. Any tips for writers not yet published?
Learn and practice your craft. Be professional in all ways. Learn about the industry. Network with other professionals through organizations like SCBWI. Don't give up. And most important, just sit down and write.
Sue Ford resides in Olathe, Kansas. She writes for kids under her maiden name Susan Uhlig. Her recent sales have been to magazines, but currently she is marketing several novels, and working on updating her website (www.susanuhlig.com), and instructing for ICL, and writing an early YA novel.
Here’s her website for more information on Sharelle: www.sharellebyarsmoranville.com