I'm delighted to feature my writing friend, Sherry Howard, on the blog today. Sherry is one of my treasured critique partners and we are also Spork Sisters! I'm so excited to own her rocking debut picture book, ROCK & ROLL WOODS. Here are Sherry's thoughts on stories . . . creativity . . . and connection.
STORIES – Discuss what inspires your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
First, thanks for having me, Melissa! What fun it has been to be on our journey together!
I find inspiration everywhere, as I think most writers do. A few years ago, I finally set up a huge desk for my writing. The desk is filled with my inspirations. I have art by Russ Cox, one of my favorite illustrators, pictures of my children, a tiny Yoda and ET, and tons of other things that help my creative juices flow. A few days ago, I bought a framed print of a zebra because one of my favorite works-in-progress has a zebra in it. The desk is so full of stuff that it’s hard to find space for the actual writing!
ROCK AND ROLL WOODS was completely inspired by my granddaughter, Kamora. More about that is here. My chapter book, SUPER CHEF, to be released soon, was inspired by my enthrallment with children’s cooking competitions, also shared with Kamora. I have a middle grade I’m querying that was inspired by a local haunted property. I wrote a young adult about football with a high school football player.
I write all the time. Often in the middle of the night. When I start a new project, it’s not always, or even often, with the thought that I’ll see it published. I’m terrible at submitting and querying. But, I LOVE getting my stories on paper. After the excitement of seeing ROCK AND ROLL WOODS in the world, I think I’ll be better at trying to get work out into the world.
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
I envy creative people so much! I’ve always felt pretty limited with creativity. I love all the competitions on television for creatives: singers, dancers, cooks! Those are my weakness. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that writing is creative. I’ve never seen a Writing with the Stars show on television!
With my writing creativity, I always ask myself, what if. What if a bear in the woods loved the quiet and a loud noise invaded his world? What if a young girl won a cooking competition? What if a ghost visited the bedroom of a young girl? What if a football player thought his team members were using dangerous drugs. I let the what if questions drive my vision, and keep asking more questions as the story moves along.
When I need a break from the physical part of writing, I turn my creativity loose in the kitchen. My family thinks I’m a gourmet cook. I’m not! But I do love to be creative in the kitchen. It’s a wonderful place for me to distract myself physically and let my mind wander and brew a story idea. For me, the brewing and stewing over ideas is a big part of my process.
I’m crazy about poetry! That’s where I feel the most challenged to be truly creative. The challenges at Michelle Barnes' blog always push me to work hard on a poem. Here’s something I did there not too long ago: Immigrants.
I’m active in classes and critique groups for poetry, and I’ve had poetry published, although I don’t actively submit that either. I’d never focused on children’s poetry too much until I got hooked on Madness! Poetry last year, and did fairly well, and had so much fun.
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
I’m active in the KidLit community. I enjoy SCBWI and more kidlit groups on social media than I can keep track of. I’m part of several WONDERFUL critique groups.
Fortunately, staying connected to young readers will be fun for me. Health issues forced me to no longer work full-time as a school principal at a young age. I stayed involved as a volunteer at a local school because my heart is in the schools. I’m just getting going with connecting to kids as an author, but I’m really looking forward to that! My book launch took place at the school where my granddaughter attends and I volunteered for years. I have to say that being a picture book reader in second grade classrooms for a while recently helped put down a foundation for my picture book writing as it it related to the young listener. Watching the active way young readers relate to words, page turns, and story themes refreshed my memory and helped my journey a lot!
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 principal in one of the largest middle schools 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.
CONNECT WITH SHERRY:
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