WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
I met today’s guest in and around the online kid lit community several years ago. We belonged to many of the same Facebook groups and participated in many of the same writing challenges. She was thoughtful and helpful and knew what she was talking about. And now I’m thrilled she is here today!
Sherry Howard lives with her children and silly dogs in Middletown, Kentucky, a stone’s throw from the beautiful horse farms Kentucky is always bragging about. During her career in education, she served as a middle school principal in one of the largest metro school districts in the US; she and cat-herders share many common skills. Sherry loves to read, write, cook, and sit in the sand watching the waves when she can. She credits her ability to write a complete sentence in English to her training in classical Latin. Now her picture books and chapter books are arriving through Clear Fork Publishing. She also writes for the educational market.
ME: Welcome, Sherry! Thank you for stopping by to chat with us. I know you have a lot to share!
SHERRY: Thanks for having me, Vivian! It’s so fun to go down memory lane to try to answer these!
ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
SHERRY: My childhood was so long ago that I’m not sure I remember my favorite books! Every Saturday, or so it seems, Mom or Dad piled seven (guessing it was never really all of us) kids into the car and went to the library. We were allowed five books each, and had to keep them stacked up on the high piano so they weren’t lost in the house.
I don’t remember owning a lot of picture books when we were children. But, I remember loving them, and still search collectible book stores trying to find copies of the few I remember. I remember a book I loved: Snip, Snapp, Snurr and the Red Shoes. And the Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka books were all favorites. These series are older than I am, so I’m guessing our library wasn’t well-stocked. I have no idea why I was obsessed with these triplets books—maybe because my siblings and I were so close in age, and I felt like a triplet for a while. I wonder why these stick in my memory, but they do. I never felt deprived by not having a lot of books to own when I was little because both Mom and Dad were storytellers and entertainers. Besides, I had six siblings! There was never a dull moment.
The newspaper was also golden in my home! On Sunday mornings, before church, nine people piled into the bed and shared stories and comics from the paper.
I don’t think any of us in my family stayed with picture books long. We all read super early, and moved on to longer things, often entertaining ourselves with old sets of encyclopedias. I read novels that were way too adult for me at super early ages, but no one ever censored my reading. I always considered Little Women my one true story, but that, of course was after picture books!
When I was a kid, you’d find me curled up with a book sometimes, but there was always too much activity to read for long.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
SHERRY: I wish I’d kept better records from the start—I understand now that it’s fun to remember the origin of a story idea once its published. I wish I’d understood how hard the picture book is to do well—I still don’t know all there is to know there. Just when I think I’m pretty solid, I learn something new!
I wish I’d known more about what a supportive, welcoming community the kidlit world is.
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
SHERRY: Because I’m disabled, I do a lot of writing lying down. I use my iPad and special pens that write when you’re lying down. I’ve said more than once that the iPad changed my writing life. I can’t sit at a computer for long periods, but the iPad goes anywhere—I always have two of them charged and rotating.
I love to be on my big front porch. I’ve decided next summer to make a “bed” out there for writing. I’ve saved a picture of what I want it to look like.
I have a wonderful desk, but use it for storing works-in-progress. I’m more likely to sit in an open area, like the kitchen table. I enjoy being in the middle of chaos when I work. I think it’s that big family thing—not fond of quiet. The exception to all of this is novel revision. That takes a completely intense mindset for me, and I’ll schedule that around quiet in the house.
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
SHERRY: All of the above. I do a lot of writing in the middle of the night. I don’t sleep through the night, so I’ll write instead of tossing and turning. I have the luxury of not having too much rigidity in schedule, and that helps. I find it easy to chat with friends all around the world because I sleep so little. As I think about my answers I sound pretty eccentric, but I’m really not!
ME: Why do you write for children?
SHERRY: I LOVE children! It’s that simple. I had to retire as a school principal really young after an injury that sidelined me. I have to stay connected to children. Writing for them is a wonderful way to do that. I know how much reading meant in my life, that thirst for seeing other families, other cities, other worlds. Remember, I read encyclopedias for fun!
I’m also thrilled to be working on a work-for-hire project that’s really special to me: high interest/low reading level. When I started teaching middle school, there were NO BOOKS of interest for my kids, especially the boys! They thirsted to read something they’d enjoy, but there wasn’t much out there. So, it’s such a privilege to be able to work on that project!
I’d write even if nothing of mine ever got published. Everything I write pushes from inside my heart to get out for one reason or another—something I’ve learned about life that I can share through a story. My family has roots in the Appalachian mountains, where storytellers abound. I think I have a storyteller gene!
ME: That’s fabulous, Sherry! And do you have any words of wisdom for other writers?
SHERRY: Here’s my advice, and it’s to everybody in the writing community. Reach down—give a hand up! Don’t be so focused on your own goals that you lose sight of the bigger picture. Find a writer or illustrator who could learn from you. Adopt them. Do whatever you can to support their upward movement. Do it even if you don’t have time. Don’t ever be too busy to be kind, and offer help. I’ve had some fabulous mentors along the way, and they mean the world to me! I hope to always pay it forward. In this breath, I have to mention Mira Reisberg as my vision of that helping hand. Mira, my own fabulous art director and editor at Clear Fork Publishing as well as the founding instructor at Children’s Book Academy, does so much of this. Behind the scenes of her classes, she is always at work helping others rise!
ME: Oh my goodness! That is such wonderful advice, Sherry. And I agree about how helpful Mira is…I took one of her classes and have enjoyed seeing many of her webinar presentations…and I’m so excited that I’m going to get to meet her in person at the Australia/NZ SCBWI conference in Sydney next February.
I know we are all applauding for Sherry’s stellar insights. She says she loves to connect with other readers and writers, so here is her social media contact info:
And our sweet guest is not leaving without sharing a sweet treat with us! Take it away, Sherry!
SHERRY: This is one of the easiest recipes ever, but is a family favorite. It’s best served warm with whipped cream or ice cream. I’ve made it for my family for more years than I want to count.
Here’s the news on the pie crust—with this particular pie, a frozen pie crust works well. Since it’s like a giant chocolate chip cookie, the crust is more of a vessel, than a culinary delight. So, use your favorite crust recipe, or purchase a nice quality frozen shell. Mix the listed ingredients together, pour into a frozen shell, and bake at 325 degrees for about an hour.
Ingredients to mix together:
1 cup sugar
½ cup flour
Stir together, and add to flour/sugar mixture:
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ lb margarine (I use butter) melted and cooled
Stir in these last ingredients:
6unces semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1 cup nuts (I use pecans because I like that taste.)
1teaspoon vanilla or whiskey (This is bourbon country.)
WHOA NELLIE! THIS is the recipe I’ve been waiting for to make for the holidays…I’m a sucker for pecan pie…so I will definitely use pecans for the nuts.
Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway of a picture book critique from the fabulous Sherry!
It’s November, my friends…the year will be gone before we know it and we’ll be in 2019…how did that happen? Wishing you all a safe and happy weekend.