Interview with Newberry-Winner Sharon Creech

Get to know Sharon…

Sharon Creech is the author of the Newbery Medal winner WALK TWO MOONS and the Newbery Honor Book THE WANDERER. Her other work includes the novels HATE THAT CAT, THE CASTLE CORONA, REPLAY, HEARTBEAT, GRANNY TORRELLI MAKES SOUP, RUBY HOLLER, LOVE THAT DOG, BLOOMABILITY, ABSOLUTELY NORMAL CHAOS, CHASING REDBIRD, and PLEASING THE GHOST, as well as three picture books: A FINE, FINE SCHOOL; FISHING IN THE AIR; and WHO’S THAT BABY? Ms. Creech and her husband live in upstate New York. For more info, visit her website.

What initially drew you to writing?

There always seemed to me a certain magic in putting words together to create a ‘picture’ that others could see. The sounds of words, the rhythm of sentences, the use of poetic devices–all of these intrigued me. But also, I was aware early on that writing could bring other people pleasure, and this was a strong incentive to continue.

Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? Or do you keep it a secret?

I keep it not so much ‘secret’ as ‘private.’ The story is constantly changing, morphing, evolving, and it would only confuse me to let anyone else read it until I’ve finished a third or fourth draft. I want to be able to mold my vision of the story before anyone else weighs in on it. Then, only two people see it: my grown daughter (a great sounding board) and my editor (the wisest eye.)

If there is one genre you’d never write, what is it? 

I’d never say ‘never,’ but probably I won’t write horror (there is no appeal for me in spending my days steeped in grimness), and I am not attracted to non-fiction because I feel so restricted by the need to be ‘factual.’

Do you write with music?

No. I’ve tried, but I get lost in the music and pulled out of the fictional world.

Do you begin with character or plot?

I begin with character and/or setting and a vague idea of plot. For example, with Love that Dog, I had a clear image of a boy sitting at his desk looking at a poem, and he did not look happy. I sensed this was a story about his relationship with words, about a school year, and about a teacher, and ultimately about finding his own voice. With Ruby Holler, I began with the strong image of a beautiful holler, and then came two children who might most appreciate that beauty, and I sensed this was a story about how they came to find that place, and why they so needed it.

How many words do you write each day?

If I am working on a first draft, I hope to write five pages a day (I don’t count words, but I suppose that’s about 1250 words.) If I’m having trouble, I widen the margins and increase the font. Haha. When I am on a roll, I’ll do ten pages a day.

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

I’ve developed lots of ways to recharge these batteries. These include: walking (especially on the beach), napping, reading, seeing the grandchildren, kayaking, gardening, cooking, sewing. In other words: setting the writing aside and turning to something else I enjoy. Oh, chocolate—that’s good, too. And clementines. And fizzy water.

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

The easiest was Love That Dog because it seemed to tell itself, all in a rush, as if it had been waiting impatiently to be told. The hardest was Walk Two Moons. I was finding my way with that story, and it took a long time to get it right. I probably wrote a dozen completely different drafts over the course of three years.

Was it easier to write before or after you were published?

It was easier to write after I was published because I felt validated in my efforts, as if someone had tapped me on the head with a golden wand and said, “Okay, go!”

What advice would you give young writers?

It’s simple and it’s often repeated: read a lot and write a lot. The more you read, the more you will absorb about what makes a story, how characters and plot are developed, how dialogue is used, etc. The more you write, the more you understand about what kinds of stories intrigue you, feel natural, fire you up. You don’t need to write whole stories or long pieces—try short things—a paragraph, a page, a description, a string of dialogue. Flip them upside down. Have fun with it!

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