Sherry Ellis is a freelance writer who writes articles for parenting magazines and children’s publications. Her first book, That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN, was published in 2005. Her second, That Mama is a Grouch, was published in May of 2010. It was honored as a finalist in the Parenting/Family category of the 2010 USA Book News Awards.
Sherry is also a professional musician who plays and teaches violin, viola, and piano. Ms. Ellis lives in Loveland, Ohio with her husband and two children.
VS: I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today, Sherry. To get things started, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?
Sherry: One of my biggest challenges is finding time to write. I have two young children. As you can probably imagine, a lot of my time is spent with them. I try to write in the evening after they have gone to bed. Sometimes, if I have a deadline to meet, I have to carve out a little extra time. In those cases, I explain to my children that I have work to do, and that I need to finish my job before I can spend time with them. Usually they understand and cooperate.
VS: It can be hard for children understanding you have to work when you do it from home. I also write mostly when the kids are in bed so it’s easier on them. Now how long have you been writing?
Sherry: I have been a published author for six years. I’ve been writing though, since I was a kid. I still have some of the stories I wrote when I was eight years old.
VS: Wow, that’s wonderful you found the love of writing as such a young age.What inspired you to write?
Sherry: Both of my books were inspired by true life experiences. That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN began as I sat in a rocking chair early one morning with my five-month-old son. He had awakened me for about the seventh time that night. While I rocked, a poem started going through my head. It was the beginning of my story. Every time my son awakened, I would add more to the story. By the end of the week, the entire story was composed in my head. I shared it with my daughter. She liked it, and suggested that it would be a good book. The rest is history. That Mama is a Grouch was inspired after I tripped on some toys and wacked my foot on the couch. I ended up breaking a toe. I was one grouchy mama!
VS: I can understand the grouching mama part. I had to chase my son down once and ended up with a bad sprain. What would you say Sherry is a typical writing day like for you?
Sherry: My days are anything but typical. I suppose that’s part of being a mom with young kids. I try to write whenever I have an opportunity. Sometimes I write at the bus stop when I’m waiting to pick up my children. More often than not, I write in the evening. I really don’t have the luxury of setting aside an hour or two each day for writing. I have to take it in fifteen-minute snippets. That said, I still manage to write nearly every day, and I manage to get a lot accomplished in each sitting.
VS: I think it is wonderful you find ways to write every day. Is your family supportive of your writing?
Sherry: My family is very supportive of my writing. My daughter especially, loves to tell her friends and teachers about my projects. She is probably better at marketing than I am!
VS: You have the best word of mouth marketing there is with your daughter. Maybe she can rub off on my son. LOL-What was the first thing you ever had published?
Sherry: I used to write articles for the school yearbook when I was in high school. I’m not sure if that counts, though. That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN is my first book that has been published.
VS: It counts. I’m sure that first publication helps spur you on. Can you share with us a little about your current books? Give us a blurb or two?
Sherry: That Mama is a Grouch is the story of a mom who is having a bit of a tantrum. There are toys on the floor, messes in the kitchen, and finger-paint on the walls. Mama is tired of it! The narrator, a rather precocious child, can’t seem to figure out what the problem is. Finally, Mama explains some rules of the house. Then it all makes sense – at least for a little while. That Mama is a Grouch is a fun book for kids ages 3-8 that lets them know that parents are human with feelings and emotions. It also reminds parents that kids are, well, kids. Messes are to be expected. It is my hope that kids and parents will read the book and use it as a tool to talk about some of their own house rules.
VS: So very true and I love the fact parents and children can now sit down and learn together why moms and dads get a bit grouching. What do you enjoy most about writing?
Sherry: I enjoy using my imagination as I write. It’s fun to create characters and story lines. It’s almost as if I’m a little kid again, creating my own imaginary world. Who wouldn’t like that!
VS: I have to agree with you. What is the most difficult part of writing?
Sherry: Finishing. This is especially true of longer manuscripts. I’m pretty good about finishing short picture books, but I’m easily distracted when it comes to chapter books. I’ll write, and maybe I’ll almost finish, then I’ll have another idea pop into my head, and I’ll start working on that. It’s like a dog being distracted by a squirrel. I really need to work on focusing on one thing at a time!
VS: I’ve had this problem from time to time too. I find a To-Do list and timer work great to keep me on track. What is the best writing advice you ever received?
Sherry: Join a writers’ group (and go to the meetings!). It really forces you to keep up your writing skills. In a sense, you are held accountable by your peers. It’s also a great way to get feedback on your work. As an extra bonus, you can learn about various opportunities (like workshops and books shows) in your area.
VS: Very true and great advice. Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other jobs?
Sherry: I find it extremely challenging to balance writing with my job. I am a professional musician who plays and teaches violin, viola, and piano. I teach after school, so that leaves very little time for me to practice (yes, I do need to practice!). I think that maybe you can get a sense of how busy my life is. That’s why I write wherever, and whenever I can fit it in.
VS: I’m still amazed you find the time to do it all. Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
Sherry: I am working on a series of books for middle-grade readers called The Adventures of Bubba and Squirt. I recently completed the first draft of the first book, Big Hole to China. These are books in which the main characters travel via magic, to another country. They have an adventure while learning a little about the language, culture, and history of the people who live there.
VS: You’ll have to update us once the book is ready to come out of if any new developments happen along the road to publication. Which brings me to my next question…the world of children’s book publishing is extremely competitive, with many authors hesitating between trying their luck with a traditional publisher or self publishing. What advice would you offer writers who are oscillating between these two publishing venues?
Sherry: As someone who did self-publish, I can tell you that it is challenging to be the only one responsible for marketing your work. It can be expensive and time-consuming. On the positive side, it is nice to see your work in print, and it is a great learning experience.
I think my advice would be to pursue the traditional avenue first. Send the query letters. Get the rejection letters. If after several years you have not been accepted, then consider self-publishing.
VS: How do you see the future of book publishing, both traditional, electronic, and print on demand?
Sherry: I think with the closing of so many bookstores, we will continue to see a squeeze in the publishing industry. I believe most sales will be done through Amazon. This will probably mean an increase in self-published print-on-demand books, as well as an increase in e-books.
VS: I couldn’t agree more. What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?
Sherry: Try to carve out a little time each day to write. It is challenging, but it can be done. If you do, then eventually you will have material that could be published.
VS: What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
Sherry: Every story needs an interesting protagonist, a problem, and a solution. It doesn’t get any more basic than that.
VS: So true. So true. Now, Sherry, what is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
Sherry: A character has to feel human. It has to have thoughts and feelings that a reader can relate to. I tend to model a lot of my characters after people I know. For example, if I am creating an outgoing character, I try to imagine what an outgoing person might do or say in a given situation.
VS: If anyone reads your books, they will know this is very true indeed. Have you received any awards for your writing?
Sherry: My book, That Mama is a Grouch, was honored as a finalist in the Parenting category of the 2010 USA Book News Awards.
VS: Congrats on being a finalist. Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?
Sherry: I would encourage anyone who is thinking about writing to go for it. It’s a wonderful creative outlet and it opens up doors to new experiences. I’m certainly glad that I’m a “Writing Mama!”
VS: Sherry, I thank you for taking the time to share with my readers about being a writing mama.
If you would like to learn more about Sherry Ellis, you can visit her World of Ink Tour page at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/SherryEllis.aspx. Here you will find her book trailer, links to other tour stops, blurbs on her books, links to her sites and much more!