How long have you been writing?
I first started writing for grownups in January 2003. That summer, I started learning how to write poetry for children. I sold my first poem to Wee Ones Magazine, September 2003. It was published in May 2004. In the meantime, I had submitted to Guideposts for Kids. They ended up publishing a poem called “My Tooth Is Missing!” in March 2004, so that actually became my first publication.
What made you want to write for children?
I have always loved children’s books. When my children were little, rarely a day went by when I didn’t read several books to them. And of course, poetry has always been my favorite – especially humorous pieces.
What was the inspiration for your first book "Topsy Turvy Land" by Hidden Pictures Publishing?
I penned a short poem, and submitted it to Guideposts for Kids. The editor replied favorably with a couple of suggestions, but never formally accepted the poem for publication. I thought I might be onto something, and wrote a couple more stanzas, and then a few more. The resulting manuscript became "Topsy Turvy Land"- the first picture book published by Hidden Pictures Publishing.
I understand you have a new book just released by Guardian Angel Publishing. What can you tell us about it?
It’s called Ouch! Sunburn! It’s 27 pages and a 94 word easy reader. My redheaded son, Aaron, to whom I dedicated the book, has always had a terrible time each summer. We've learned a LOT about skin care! But the little boy in the book thinks he's smarter than mom. Anyone have kids like that? Sun Safety Tips in the back of the book reinforce the book’s theme.
What other books have you had published?
Children's Picture Ebook: The Lonely Lightning Bug, Guardian Angel Publishing (October 2005) Donna Shepherd, et al:
Daily Grace for Women, Honor Books (April 2005)
Anytime Prayers for Everyday Moms, Warner Faith (November 2006)
Are all of your books for children written in rhyme?
Yes, I can’t help myself. I’ve written a few short stories and even worked on a chapter book for girls, but I keep going back to rhyme.
What do you think is the most difficult thing about writing in rhyme? Any tips?
I would say the most difficult thing about writing poetry is making the rhymes flow naturally while still having a point or telling a story.
As for tips – examine every single word. Have several people read it aloud. Ask several children for feedback. Children can be brutal in their critique.
What can you tell us about your illustrator, Kevin Scott Collier?
Kevin has been a gift from God. He’s so funny, and when we work together, he just ‘gets’ my humor. The funniest illustration he ever did was for a poem on KidVisions about a woman who had swallowed a firefly. She had a huge derriere that glowed. I laughed every time I looked at it. What were your favorite books as a child?
I was a huge Nancy Drew fan. Tells you how old I am!
What are your favorite children's books now?
My son, Aaron, got me to reading Shel Silverstein when he was in school. I like humorous poetry – obviously!
Where and how do you write? (kitchen, office, outdoors, etc.)(computer, pencil and paper, recorder, etc.)
All of the above! I carry a recorder with me and take it with me in the car if I’m driving very far. I’m sure I look like I’m talking to myself! If I’m really inspired, I go directly to the computer. In a pinch, I’ll use my notebook. I carry one in my purse at all times.
What are your views of epublishing?
I have bought eBooks and been very satisfied. I’m not sure they receive the respect a print book does, but I know that Kevin and I, along with Lynda Burch of Guardian Angel Publishing, work very hard to put together a quality product. I don’t think ePublishing has reached its stride yet, but I look for eBooks to become increasingly popular.
What do your family and friends think of your writing?
My husband brags on me all the time, even selling my books for me. Both children get excited about every publication, and they are willing (usually!) to read my poetry before I submit it.
What promotional tactic has given you the most sales? (mailings, school visits, personal contact, etc.)
I sold copies of Topsy Turvy Land to a Sunday School Teacher who intended to read the book and teach the children about creation. Then she gifted each child with a book. I have a special handout for Christian HomeSchoolers and Sunday School or Vacation Bible School teachers. This was a huge blessing because I became a Christian after hearing a Sunday School lesson.
My publishers have also been great about promotion. Lynda worked diligently to get Ouch! Sunburn! released before summer.
What is your best advice for someone just getting into writing for children?
Read what you want to write. Then write. Don't just talk about writing. Write every day if you can. Join a critique group, either online or in person, or both. Join SCBWI. They have excellent conferences where you can meet with other writers. And research and submit. It won't get published as a file languishing on your computer.
Shari Lyle-Soffe is interviewed at http://storiesforchildren.tripod.com
(c) 2007 Sharon A. Soffe