The Writing Process for Author Sherry Ellis- A Personal Interview
What is the most difficult part of writing?
Finishing. This is especially true of longer manuscripts. I’m pretty good about finishing short picture books, but I’m easily distracted when it comes to chapter books. I’ll write, and maybe I’ll almost finish, then I’ll have another idea pop into my head and I’ll start working on that. It’s like a dog being distracted by a squirrel. I really need to work on focusing on one thing at a time!
Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other job(s)?
I find it extremely challenging to balance writing with my job. I am a professional musician who plays and teaches violin, viola, and piano. I teach after school, and somewhere in there, I have to practice. Between the kids and my work, I have very little time to write. I try to squeeze it in whenever I have an opportunity.
Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
I am working on a series of books for middle-grade readers called The Adventures of Bubba and Squirt. I recently completed the first draft of the first book, Big Hole to China. These are books in which the main characters travel via magic, to another country. They have an adventure while learning a little about the language, culture, and history of the people who live there.
Tell us about your writing space?
This may sound funny, but most of the time, my writing space is my bedroom floor. It’s a place I can go and not be bothered by kids or animals. Usually I sit down with a pencil and notebook. If I’m doing research for a project, I may have books scattered around me. This is where I do most of my creating. Later, I go to the computer to type the manuscript. That workspace is a desk that’s usually covered with my husband’s motorcycle catalogues.
The world of children’s book publishing is extremely competitive, with many authors hesitating between trying their luck with a traditional publisher or self publishing. What advice would you offer writers who are oscillating between these two publishing venues?
As someone who did self-publish, I can tell you that it is challenging to be the only one responsible for marketing your work. It can be expensive and time-consuming. On the positive side, it is nice to see your work in print, and it is a great learning experience.
I think my advice would be to pursue the traditional avenue first. Send the query letters. Get the rejection letters. If after several years you have not been accepted, then consider self-publishing.
Do you do first drafts on a computer or by hand?
All of my first drafts are done by hand. I use a notebook and pencil. I can’t tell you how many times I have to sharpen a pencil when I’m working on a project. I go through a fair amount of erasers too!
How do you see the future of book publishing, both traditional, electronic, and print on demand?
I think that with the closing of so many bookstores, we will continue to see a squeeze in the publishing industry. I believe most sales will be done through Amazon. This will probably mean an increase in self-published print-on-demand books, as well as an increase in e-books.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
I start with an idea. Then I play around with it in my head. If it seems like something that will work for a story, then I get out some paper and start jotting down my ideas. For picture books, I like to scribble illustrations to get a visual idea of where the story might go. If I’m doing a longer project, then I’ll start writing an outline.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
I use both first person and third person voicing. That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN and That Mama is a Grouch, are both told in a first person point of view. The Bubba and Squirt series is told in a third person point of view. I guess it just depends on the story.
What well known writers do you admire most?
My favorite writers are Jane Yolen and JK Rowling. I remember reading books by Jane Yolen when I was a kid. It’s neat to see a children’s author still going strong even after forty years! JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series is just amazing. Every time I read her books, I discover something new.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
I do participate in competitions. My book, That Mama is a Grouch, was honored as a finalist in the Parenting category of the 2010 USA Book News Awards.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
In general, at the beginning of a year, I come up with a list of things I want to accomplish. I try to break things up by month so that my goals are realistic. If I have deadlines to meet, I try to figure out how much time I will need to complete each step of the project. I schedule my activity accordingly. I find things are easier if I break things into simple steps rather than try to tackle the whole thing.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
Silence. My house is typically pretty noisy. The kids make a lot of noise. The pets make a lot of noise. I can barely hear myself think. So at night, when all the creatures are asleep, I close my bedroom door and write. Silence is golden!
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
Figure out why you haven’t shown anyone. If they need revision, revise. If they are perfectly fine, then submit them. If they are absolutely terrible, then throw them in the garbage.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
My advice to aspiring authors would be to read. Read as much as you can so that you get a good sense of what readers like, and what publishers want to see.
I thank you for taking the time to share with me and my readers about being an author.