This week, The Randoms talks to Sherri L. Smith, author of the newly released Flygirl. Read on to find out how she butts in on conversations when a book nerd is called for and the time she was fed a meal featuring foods she’d written about in one of her books.
1) What is your typical writing day like?
I work a full-time job, so writing for me is catch-as-catch-can. This year, I’m back to doing morning pages, so I try to write three random pages every morning. My book work usually comes at the end of the day, after dinner and family time. If I’m lucky, it’s an hour or so after 10pm. Otherwise, it’s as the spirit (or the deadline) moves me.
2) Why did you decide to write YA?
I decided to write for young adults when I realized that those were the books that affected me the most growing up, the stuff I devoured. The exact moment came when I was sitting in a library and I overheard a girl who must’ve been around 12, ask her dad which book she should read. Whatever she held up (and I confess I don’t remember) sent alarm bells ringing in my head. I joined the discussion uninvited and forced several other titles on her. The rush of excitement I felt just remembering all of those books convinced me that this is where I should be.
3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to book publishing?
Hmm. That’s an interesting question. I think it would have to be when teachers or family members have told me that the reluctant reader in their family devoured my book. That’s exciting, and so very rewarding. A couple of years after my first book came out, I got an email from a teacher at a school for kids with learning disabilities. She told me Lucy the Giant was the first book the class ever finished. As luck would have it, they were local to me and they invited me to their school for a luncheon, prepared by the kids, featuring foods from the book. That was amazing– a great group of students and a really inspiring young teacher.
4) Do you ever have any “dark days,” when you wonder why you’re a writer? What are those like, and how to you get through them?
My dark days come when I’m not writing. I’ve always written, ever since I was a little kid, so there’s no doubt in me that that’s part of what I do. It’s when I deny myself the act—through procrastination, other obligations, or doubt on where to take the story next—that I tend to get angry. Then I’m growly towards everyone and fantastically surly. I eat too much, and I do it savagely. And I fold my arms across my chest and glare. It’s really stupid. Especially since I know how to stop it. Just sit down and write. And, eventually, that’s what I do.
5) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and how did it go down?
This is a tough one to answer, because every call is a great one—your first sale, your next sale. My mom calling me to tell me that my book had arrived in the mail, that was pretty exciting. In a way, the most recent call is always the best one. My latest greatest call was actually an email from Hedgebrook, a retreat for women writers that is on a farm on an island north of Seattle. Hedgebrook is a fantastic organization that wants women to be the best writers they can be. Toward that end, they offer residencies complete with your own little handcrafted cottage and three farm-fresh meals a day for anywhere from two weeks to two months. All you have to do in return is get there, and start writing. I’ve wanted to go to Hedgebrook for years, ever since a friend of mine first told me about artist colonies he had visited. I did some research, read about Hedgebrook, and fell in love. It took me something like ten years and four novels, plus the loss of my mother and the birth of my brother’s three kids to convince me to apply. I wanted to be able to tell those babies that dreams do come true. To be honest, I didn’t think Hedgebrook would be interested in YA authors, especially not relatively new ones, like me. There is an infuriating tendency to treat children’s literature as a second class citizen Well, I am thrilled to say I was wrong to worry. When the “call” came, I was sitting at work idly checking my email for the umpteenth time when suddenly a new message popped up. The subject read: CONGRATULATIONS on your HEDGEBROOK RESIDENCY. (Best use of capitals in an email, ever.) I actually thought it was a fake email, like one of those “I’m an African businessman” money scams. Somebody must’ve been playing a joke on me! And then, realizing how unlikely that was, I thought it was a mistake. I double checked the name on the email with the Hedgebrook website. They matched, so I responded. And waited a week for confirmation in the mail. And then, at long last, I believed it. I’m going to Hedgebrook in February for two solid weeks. What a way to celebrate Flygirl being on the shelves! I guess it’s true, if you just keep writing, the rest will fall into place. (And you have to send the application in!)
For more on Sherri, visit her site.