Saturday, April 23, 2011

Interview Friday with SFC Copy Editor Cheryl Mansfield

Cheryl Mansfield, Copy Editor of SFC, still wishes she were still a kid. Since that isn't possible she plays with her imaginary friends by creating stories for young children to preteens. She is published in biographies for the educational market and is a member of SCBWI.
Contact Cheryl Mansfield at

Cheryl, I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. I know being a parent and writer can be hard and I find myself asking if I giving my three children enough attention throughout the day. I am sure you have been in my shoes from time to time. So to start here is the first question…

What do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?
I try to segment my time and make appointments for my writing. For instance, all my family and friends understand that on Saturdays I meet with writer friends to work for a few hours. It’s important to me and I treat it like a second job.

How long have you been writing?
Off and on my entire life, but professionally for about fifteen years.

What inspired you to write?
Writing is just something I have to do. Kids are complex. Kids are funny. Kids are generally awesome and I’m intrigued by their world. Maybe I don’t want to grow up. Also, I believe strongly that our future is based on the foundations we give kids today, so I’d like to have a little hand in that.

Now you are also a member of the SFC Team. Can you share with us a little about what you do?
As the Copy Editor, I am one of the last set of eyes to read the magazine before it goes to layout. I check for errors in spelling, grammar and facts.

What is a typical writing day like for you?
Oh, I’m trying to get into a typical writing day. I’ve recently returned to work after a 1-1/2 year layoff so I’ve been busy learning my new job. Lately though, I’m carving out a little time on my lunch break and about an hour at night. And then, my real writing push comes on weekends. On Saturday’s I meet friends for breakfast, then we hit the bookstore cafĂ©, and we work on our respective projects for about four or five hours.

Is your family supportive of your writing?
YES! I’m very lucky to have the family I do. Each one of them wants me to reach my goals. My dad (who passed two years ago) used to tell me he couldn’t wait until he’d walk into a bookstore and see a book on the shelf with my name on it. Then he’d look at me and say, “And you know, I’ll probably cry.” And, he would have – right after he went around the store showing the book to anyone who would listen to him.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?
All the time! I’ve found, for me, it results from one source – fear. Once I realized that was my trigger, I now stop and think about it. What am I afraid of? Then I try to put that into perspective. Usually though, I just need to forge ahead – fear or not.

What was the first thing you ever had published?
Articles in newsletters for writers

What type of books do you mostly write?
Middle grade – I adore that age group. And I’m trying to learn to write Picture Books. What a challenge they are…but also, so fun.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
That anything is possible. You can create the world. I also love it when someone “gets” my writing, feels connected to it.

What is the most difficult part of writing?
The uncertainty. Being true to myself. I’ve often stumbled on projects thinking… “Oh the market won’t support this now.” This sort of thinking holds me back and I had to learn to write true to my thoughts, feelings, beliefs – regardless of market trends.

What is the best writing advice you ever received?
“Finish the damn book!” Seriously, you can write a million first chapters, read all the how-to books, and take classes, but you can’t really understand the process until you go through it.

Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other job(s)?
Yes! There never seems to be enough hours to complete everything. It’s a juggling act, and one where I just have to ask what is important to me in that moment.

Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
Right now, I’m working on a younger Middle Grade Mystery. The character is one who has been in my imagination for about 8 years now – so it feels like I’m working with an old friend. It’s been a blast.

Tell us about your writing space.
I have to laugh at this… my writing space is anywhere! I work on an Alpha-Smart when I’m rough drafting pages. It’s light and portable so we travel.

What would we be surprised to learn about you?
As a hobby, I once was a clown, called Be-Bop. She was the “official” Almost-Miss America. I also watch a ton of the Disney Channel…in the name of research. (Yeah, right).

How do you see the future of publishing, both traditional and electronic?
If you asked me this question as little as a year ago, I would have had a totally different answer. Many of my friends write in the adult market where electronic media is growing tremendously. The wave hasn’t hit the children’s market with the same strength, but I think it is coming. It just makes sense as eReaders become more affordable and convenient.

I also like the freedom electronic publishing offers to work on projects that interest me, rather than trying to hold to publisher demands/trends.

What well-known writers do you admire most?
Meg Cabot certainly…she is so gracious and humble.

Cheryl, I thank you for taking the time to share with my readers about being a writing mama and SFC Team member.

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