Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Debut Authors of the Class of 2k11: Sheila O'Connor

May is truly blooming with fabulous new books!

I will be posting soon on the Month of Forgiveness being hosted over at The Mod Podge Bookshelf (in the meantime, please visit Gabrielle's site to comment for donations to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.)

But there are so many new books to welcome into the world, and today I'm delighted to have Sheila O'Connor, here to talk about her middle grade debut, SPARROW ROAD.

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, SPARROW ROAD. What a fabulous, inventive cover! Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

Well this is always tough as inspiration comes from so many sources.  I guess the short answer would be that the inspiration came from two places—first, a fabulous month I spent at The Anderson Center, an artist colony in Red Wing, Minnesota.  One day, looking out my window I thought--What if a child could live in a place like this?  What if a child could spend the summer with a group of wonderful artists?  How amazing would that be?   Then, several years later, I was coming to the end of a very long career of teaching poetry to kids in schools (I teach college too, so I ran out of time to do it all), and  wanted to write a book I could leave to the young people as a kind of gift.  So that summer, as soon as my teaching ended, I started SPARROW ROAD, the story of a girl who spends one incredible summer in an artist colony beyond my wildest dreams. 

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

I have written two other novels WHERE NO GODS CAME and TOKENS OF GRACE.  While both of those novels were for adults readers, they were the stories of young people—kids struggling on the fringe for different reasons.  Anyone who has followed my work knows my primary subject as a writer has been young people—their trials and triumphs—the ways they find to navigate the world.   SPARROW ROAD is the first book I’ve written that can be read by readers the same age as my central characters and I’m so delighted to have it in the world.  

You are an experienced writer, then. Can you describe your path to the publication of SPARROW ROAD?

I spent several years writing and revising SPARROW ROAD and when I believed it was finally ready for outside eyes, I found a fabulous agent, Rosemary Stimola, to represent it.  From there, it landed with my wonderful editor at Putnam, Stacey Barney, who has been such an amazing supporter and guide. 

Do you have any advice for beginning writers? 

I teach in a MFA program, so I’m always full of advice, some of it my students heed, much of it they disregard, as they should.  The most important lessons writers teach themselves.  But the thing I say to every writer—regardless of age--is simply: Write what you love.  Write work that feels important and true to you, because that’s the only way you’ll be able to stay with it over the long haul.   

Excellent advice. Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

Well these days I’m terribly busy.  I try to balance writing, teaching, family, friendships and the hours of the day seem to disappear too quickly.   I have a fabulous little writer’s room in my backyard where I’m able to work, and I am looking forward to a summer spent there dreaming and putting words on paper.  

Oh, I'm so jealous! I want a writer's room in my back yard. Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I’m just in the later revision stage for KEEPING SAFE THE STARS, my second middle grade novel, which is scheduled for fall 2012 with Putnam.  When that work ends, I’m back at the blank page wondering what story will ask to enter the world next.  I love that mystery, I love watching a book come to life. 

Do you have a website or other contact where readers can learn more about you and SPARROW ROAD

Yes, I love web visitors and welcome e-mail from readers.  You can find me at my website www.sheilaoconnor.com or visit my author page on facebook where I post my latest news, what I’m reading, thoughts on writing, etc.  Stop by and say hello. 


Sheila said...

Janet, thank you so much for showcasing the debut authors of Class of 2k11. So kind. So appreciated.

Janet Fox said...

I'm so happy to host you, Sheila - I can't wait to read your book!