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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - Traci Sorell

I'm delighted to feature my #Epic18 pal, Traci Sorell, on the blog today. #Epic18 is a group of writers and illustrators with debut picture books in 2018. I'm really looking forward to adding Traci's debut, WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA, to my picture book collection. Here are Traci's thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection.

STORIES – Discuss what inspires your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.

I have lots of inspirations, principally that there are a lot fewer contemporary fiction and nonfiction stories centering on Native Nations, their citizens and experiences in the world of children’s literature. As a Cherokee Nation citizen and Native American Studies major in college, I loved studying the post-1900 history, law and politics of tribes in the United States. After researching that there were plenty of the last one hundred plus years not told in children’s books (or textbooks for that matter), I realized I could be busy the rest of my life writing books and recruiting other Native creators to do the same. So that inspires me to research, write and submit.

My debut nonfiction picture book, WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA, illustrated by Frané Lessac and published by Charlesbridge, shares the value of gratitude as taught and experienced by Cherokee people across the four seasons. This book wrote itself. Charlesbridge basically bought the second version. There were only a few changes in verb choice after that. But that hasn’t been the case with any story or poem I’ve written after that, so I’m grateful to have experienced that one time.

CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?

I think about what I’m going to write for a long time before I actually do so. First drafts take the longest time for me. Revision is much easier because I’m honing more than I’m attempting to get something decent down on the paper for the first time. I like to write in more sparse, lyrical language. That requires selecting just the right word, reading the text aloud and then refining it to communicate the emotion or concept I want the reader to understand. It’s always a wonderful puzzle I get to construct, deconstruct and rebuild again and again.

CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?

My son is in third grade, so I’ve been surrounded by lots of young readers since he came along. He’s always got friends over at our house. We are regulars at our public library, which has lots of activities for children. He’s helped me reconnect to my early love of story, both oral and written. I work to bring that love and connection to children in my stories and poems.

Similarly, connecting to others in the Kidlit community fills my creative cup. Writing is initially a solitary job, but then one needs critiques and edits that can only happen by sharing. I treasure those who offer substantive feedback on my work. I also love being around other writers and illustrators, hearing about and celebrating their work. Attending Kweli’s Color of Children’s Literature Conference each spring, going to Highlights to write, featuring creators on Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations blog, and connecting with folks on social media about kidlit all make me very happy.


Traci Sorell writes fiction and nonfiction books as well as poems for children, featuring contemporary characters and compelling biographies—the type of books she sought out in her school and public libraries as a young reader. Traci is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and lives in northeastern Oklahoma where her tribe is located.


Twitter & Instagram: @tracisorell


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