The author Sharon Creech was interviewed by Scholastic students.
What inspired you to be a writer?
Many things, probably. A love of reading, of stories, and of words and language and creating something from nothing.
Who are your inspirations in general?
Other writers, mainly. When I read good stories, I want to write good stories too. Here are some of my favorites: Virginia Wolff, Karen Hesse, Christopher Paul Curtis, Walter Dean Myers, Karen Cushman, and many more.
Who was your favorite author when you were a kid?
I don't remember titles of books or authors from when I was young. I remember the title of only one book, which was The Timber Toes. I remember it was a family of little wooden people who lived in the woods, and for some reason that stayed with me.
How long have you been writing?
Probably all my life. I've written since I was young. For about 12 years I've been writing full-time.
What is your favorite book you've written?
It's too hard to choose a favorite — it's like choosing your favorite child! Often I feel that my favorite is the newest one, and that right now is Love That Dog.
What is your favorite character that you wrote?
Again, it's hard to choose a favorite, but I suppose I'd choose the most recent one again, and that would be Jack in Love That Dog. Jack is a lot like me in a lot of ways, and I responded to poetry in the same way he does.
How did you get into writing? What was your first big break?
I entered a poem in a poetry contest around 1987, and the poem won and I received $1,000 for it. That made me realize that maybe what I was writing was worth reading to people. After that, for some reason, I turned to novels and I've written mainly novels ever since.
How many books have you written?
I've written ten. Eight novels for children, two picture books, and two books for adults.
When did you decide to write full-time?
Once Walk Two Moons received the Newbery Medal, I decided to write full-time. Partly because there seemed to be an audience out there who wanted to read what I wanted to write, and partly because I could now support myself financially through writing.
How do you decide what is “appropriate” to write about?
I don't have to stop and think about what is appropriate, because the things I want to write about automatically seem appropriate.
How did you do in English class when you were a child?
I loved English, and I did very well in it. A lot of teachers encouraged me to write, and because of that it later made me think it was possible to be a writer.
Did you get good grades in elementary school?
Yes. I loved school and I loved homework! Although, we didn't have as much homework as students have today.
Why don't you write many stories for boys?
I've been writing more stories for boys recently. The Wanderer has a boy as one of the main characters and Love That Dog has a boy as the main character and so does the next book, Ruby Holler.
Will you give us a peek into your next book, Ruby Holler? What should we expect?
I love Ruby Holler. It's about a pair of twins, a boy and girl, who are orphans and have had a tough time. They meet up with an older couple that lives in Ruby Holler, which is a kind of enchanted place out in the country. This is the story of the way they affect each other, and they have a lot of grand adventures.
What inspired you to write The Wanderer?
My daughter, when she graduated from college, sailed across the ocean on a 45-foot sailboat with six boys. Along the way they ran into a storm, and they were lucky to make it to Ireland alive! I'd always wanted to write a story based on that trip, and that story became The Wanderer.
Was Walk Two Moons based on a real-life experience?
There is a part of the book that is based on a real-life experience, and that is the trip that Salamanca takes from Ohio to Idaho. My family took that trip when I was 12.
How did you come up with the title Walk Two Moons?
I had discovered a fortune cookie message in the bottom of my purse and the message was: “Don't judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins.” I realized that everything that I was trying to say in this book had to do with that message; that you need to get to know someone well before you form an opinion about them, and in a way, that's what we writers are doing every day with our characters. So I liked the parallel there.
Is the next story you are writing based on a real-life experience?
The one I'm writing now is about an Italian grandmother and her granddaughter. In a way, the Italian grandmother is based on my own grandmother, but the events are fictional.
That is so cool. So you tie in things from real life into your fictional stories?
It's not a conscious thing, but I suppose the stories just arise out of who I am, what I've done, and what I've seen.
How do you come up with an idea for writing a new novel?
I don't do anything consciously. I just wait and read and let my mind go very loose and I know that sooner or later, something is going to strike me, and usually that is an image of a person and a place. Once I have that, I'm very curious about that person and place and I write in order to discover what the story is.
Do you have to be good in reading to be a writer?
I don't really know. I think it helps to be good in reading because then you will read a lot, and I think reading a lot helps you to be a good writer.
How can you think of stories that aren't based on your life?
Stories can come from anywhere. You can see a place in a photograph and write a story about it or you can imagine a person that no one has ever seen or met, and begin describing that person and imagine what that person's life might be like. There are a million ways to develop stories out of everything around you.
Do you do a lot of research?
I think a lot of the research comes before I even have the image of the person or place in my mind. For example, with Bloomability I had lived in Switzerland for two years and so much of what I knew about Switzerland and the Italian language I already knew; but when I was writing the book, I returned to Switzerland and did more research to be sure I was accurate. Often I find that in the middle of a story I need to stop and go do some research, but I wouldn't say that I do a lot of research compared with people who write historical fiction.
You describe the characters so well. How do you do that?
I can picture them like they're right there. I try to be in that character's head so that I'm seeing what they're seeing and feeling what they're feeling. I think if you can do that then you can portray a character with whom other people will identify.
Do you like writing? What do you like best about it?
I love writing! And what I love best are the days when I'm writing a new story and as I'm writing, I'm discovering more about the people and I feel as if I'm just listening to them talk. I also love being able to work in my pajamas!
What does chickabiddy mean?
I think it means “little child” in slang. I discovered the word in a thesaurus, and I think at the time I was looking up a synonym for “grandchild.”
I am 11 years old. I still need help writing stories. You must have been writing for a long time. How did you learn to do it?
Little by little. I learned to write by reading a lot and writing a lot. I wrote a lot of short things for many, many years and I tried all different kinds of styles. Until gradually I had a better sense of what I was good at and how to spin a good story and what sort of stories most interested me.
How long does it take to finish a story?
It takes me about a year to finish a novel, and that will be about four or five drafts. Some novels take longer; for instance, Walk Two Moons took three years, but Love That Dog took only four or five months.
Is your family supportive of your writing? How do they show support?
My family is very supportive of my writing. They want to read what I write as soon as I'll let them. They carry the books around with them, and tell other people about them, and get very excited.
Do you ever have trouble thinking of a conflict for the story? What do you do?
I don't ever think of conflict. I think if you're writing about people, automatically conflict is going to arise.
Why did you change from writing adult books to children's books?
I didn't know I was writing a children's book when I wrote the first one, it was my agent who suggested it was a children's book, and it was published as such. I loved writing about children so much that I thought I'd write one more, and that was Walk Two Moons. And after that, I was hooked!
Have your books ever been rejected from a publisher?
Only one adult book was rejected a long time ago and there was a good reason for it being rejected — it wasn't very good! And I'm glad now that it was rejected!
Did you feel really bad when the publisher didn't accept your book? I know I would feel like giving up? What kept you going?
I did feel bad at first because I had worked for two years on that book, but what kept me going is that I immediately started another book, and that was Walk Two Moons and I became so involved in that book that I didn't have time to worry about the one that got rejected.
Have you ever written a book and then discarded it because you thought it was bad?
No, if I think a story is not going well, I will put it aside for weeks or months, and then come back to it and I can usually figure out what's wrong with it and make it work. I feel that if the beginning of a story has come to me, there's a good reason why it has come and I know if I just give it time, it will evolve into something better.
Why do you go back to unfinished books? At my school we don't.
I know that there is a good reason why I must have started that book, and perhaps I'm too stubborn to let it sit in a drawer.
What do you get for winning Newbery awards?
You receive a medal, which I think is made of bronze; beyond that, the best thing you receive is a new, wide audience for your stories.
What do you do in your free time?
What free time? When I do get a few free moments, I like to walk and read, and in the summer I like to swim and kayak.
If you could have another job, what would it be?
I would love to be a painter, but I have no artistic talent in that area, so I suppose I would choose to be a teacher again, because I loved teaching.
What other advice do you have for kids who want to be writers? What should we be doing?
Reading a lot and writing a lot and having fun with both. You'll automatically improve your writing and you'll gradually understand what makes a great story. Thank you for the great questions!