Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Sherri Rinker

Goodnight-Construction-Site-500Get to know Sherri…

Sherri Rinker is the author of two #1 bestselling picture books, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train. Cumulatively, these two books have spent over three years on the NYT Bestseller List.

Additionally, Sherri has numerous other projects in production, including Since There Was You, illustrated by Patrick McDonnell.

Sherri is passionate about children’s literacy and has had a life-long love of books. Her exciting school presentation, “Books Are Magic!” is designed to encourage and support students on the wondrous journey of reading and writing. For more info, visit her website and Facebook.

Quirky Questions 

What company’s ads are you tired of seeing? 

Those commercials that utilize the phrase “erectile dysfunction.” Or, even worse, “feminine itching.” Ugh!!! Seriously, people?! – Some of us watch television with our kids. Or our in-laws.

Where would be the worst place to sleep for the night?

Any place that would require me to do my private business in an outhouse or in the woods. Any place dirty. In other words: I don’t camp.

What is the most amazing scientific discovery in the last twenty years?

The iPhone, Spanx and no-chip manicures. (But, the most amazing discovery of all time: The Snicker Bar, hands down.)

If you could choose any couple to adopt you at birth, who would they be? 

Off the cuff, Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. Interesting, creative, brilliant, fascinating.

What one toy would you like to throw repeatedly at a brick wall?

Oh gosh – I’m torn. First, that Mouse Trap game… it takes a good week to set up the thing, and it never works — and the parts end up everywhere. I’ve thrown out at least two of those games. (That’s a board game that should have gone straight to app.) Secondly, those bowling games for little kids… where you set up the pins at one end of your hallway, your kids knock them down before you get back to the other side, you run back to set them up… ultimately, the kids get bored and begin smacking each other with the pins. The game lasts about a minute; the crying lasts a good hour. Fun times.

What do you consider the breakfast of champions?

Guinness. I love Guinness. I don’t actually have it for breakfast, but I want to.

What are you most amazed by when you look at a world map?

Huh. Really? That’s where that is? Ok, NOW that makes sense.

What occupation do you think will be extinct in the next ten years?

Restroom attendant. At least, I keep hoping. Totally weirds me out. (Apologies to all of the restroom attendants out there.)

What is one risk you are not willing to take?

Ending the evening with a round of shots. Been there, done that… but the kids get up pretty early.

What would other people be surprised to find that you enjoy? 

Bowling and shooting — though not at the same time. (I’m horrible at both, but I have more luck on the lanes.)

If you could buy one thing in bulk, what would it be?

Antique oil paintings. I have dozens, but it’s never enough.

What always takes a lot of time and never ends the way you want?

Thanksgiving dinner. I make it every year and always wish I’d done something differently.

What is the most common compliment people give you?

That I’m a good cook. And that I’m nice. (I try to be nice… I don’t really see the point of being an a-hole, but I’ve certainly known a fair number of them.)

If someone created a statue of you, what would you want it to be made of? 

Fried chicken. Who doesn’t like fried chicken?

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of camping?

Filth — followed closely by mosquitos, followed closely by overwhelming fear that I might have to go to the bathroom.

What word do you constantly misspell?

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. Thank goodness for spellcheck.

What is the ugliest article of clothing ever invented? What about the best?

Ugliest: the jog bra.

Best: Gap long-sleeved t-shirt, in black. (I live in them.)

What was your favorite book growing up? What’s your favorite book now?

Growing up: The Little House by Virginia Burton. Now? Hmmm… literature loves change daily, but I’m definitely a Bible girl — I’m a big fan.

When you look back on pictures of yourself, which age are you most embarrassed about?

Age 7-19. I call it my awkward phase.

Fill in the blank. I would like to be known as the world’s greatest:

Mom. I’m a miserable failure in that arena, but it’s the most important job I’ve been given.

What is the cutest animal on earth? Ugliest?

Cutest: My dog, Quincy-Ann. But, my niece breeds Holland Lops (bunnies), and those are pretty gosh-darn adorable. (I guess I’m drawn to floppy ears.)

Ugliest: Any snake. Or lizard. Or large, hairy bug.

What is the longest word you can think of?

Puberty. 

Sherri+Book_72ppiRGB_croppedWriting Questions

How do you differ from other creative people in your genre?

I work sporadically: obsessively, and then not at all. I have a full life: family, home, faith, cooking, gardening, friends: the break is always beneficial.

Has your creativity changed stylistically as you’ve matured? 

I’ve grown more courageous — I’m exploring more, stepping out of my comfort level. “If you dig through the fear, that’s where the joy is hiding.” I’m embracing that idea, since it resonates with me and my experience. (Thanks, David Slonim)

When do you feel the most energized?

When I’m struck by a great idea and I’ve just sat down to write. (PS: Sometimes I’m the only one that thinks it’s great, btw.)

If you were no longer able to write, how else would you express your creativity?

Gardening. I’ve fallen completely in love with the process, putting together colors and textures and watching them develop and change. There’s an element of time, chance and patience that I think is elusive but also compelling. I spent 25 years as a graphic designer, but designing with living things is so much more energizing — and it feels spiritual, honestly.

What has been your greatest sacrifice that has enabled you to become the author you are today?

I suffered for YEARS in a job that I dreaded and detested. I think that makes me enjoy and appreciate my work and my life, even on the toughest days. I know how truly blessed I am, and I never want to take that for granted.

What words of inspiration were given to you that you would like to pass along to others?

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” — Phil 4:13 

This has gotten me through some impossibly difficult times.

When did you realize that you had a gift for writing?

Fourth grade. Thank you, Mrs. Joan Bock.

How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?

Life gets hectic, but I think each side improves the other.

What is your typical day like?

Is it summer, or are the kids in school? Is everyone healthy and well? Am I traveling? Does the garden need watering, does the house need to be cleaned, is the laundry done, do I have a deadline… Does anyone have a doctor’s appointment, a sport or activity to get to, forms that need to be filled out, homework that needs to be checked, do I have a meeting today? In other words, there’s no such thing as a typical day for me. That’s ok. I have a short attention span, so it works for me.

How do you deal with creativity blocks?

My problem isn’t needing an idea, my problem is finding blocks of uninterrupted time to focus.

Can you visualize a finished product before you begin a book?

Yes, and I’m always way off. The end product always surpasses my imagination by lightyears. I’ve been so fortunate to work with brilliant, talented people with amazing vision.

Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?

I never set out to be a writer. It kept knocking, but it took me until I was well into my 40’s to answer the door.

Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?

Faith. No question.

How much of your own life is reflected in your work?

As a child, I longed for happiness, magic, joy and love. I like to think that those sentiments are reflected in my work.

Do you have family members who like to write too?

My grandmother wrote for the local paper in West Virginia. I love that.

Did your childhood influence the way you write today?

It was chaotic, messy, dirty, hurtful and dysfunctional on countless fronts. Many painful memories, but also some good — great, even. But, everything I’ve been and everything I’ve been through has brought me to this point, so I’m grateful for my past. And, I’m resilient and resolute because of it, and that’s a positive take-away that has served me well.

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