Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Interview with Children's Author, Sally Murphy
Katie: I am pleased to be interviewing author Sally Murphy today. Sally wears a lot of hats, being a wife, mom, speaker, website manager, and reviewer, among other things. How on earth does this amazing woman find time to write?
Your book, "Pearl Verses the World," will be released May 1. Would you please share a brief synopsis.
Sally: "Pearl Verses the World" is an illustrated verse novel about a girl dealing with isolation at school, and with her grandma's illness at home. At school, Pearl feels as though she is in a group of one. Her teacher wants her to write poems that rhyme, but Pearl's poems don't. At home, however, Pearl feels safe and loved, but her grandmother is slowly fading, and so are Mum and Pearl. When her grandmother eventually passes away, Pearl wants life to go back to the way it was and refuses to talk at the funeral. But she finds the courage to deliver a poem for her grandmother that defies her teacher's idea of poetry--her poem doesn't rhyme; it comes from the heart.
Katie: I love the theme of this book. What led you to write about it?
Sally: Strangely, I didn't set out to write a book about grieving or fitting in. Pearl started "talking" to me through little bits of poetry that came to me, demanding to be written down. After a while, I realized there was a story I needed to tell. I knew Pearl was very sad, but it took me a little while to know why or how she would deal with it.
Katie: How long did it take you to write this book? Did you have to do many edits and rewrites? If so, how many?
Sally: The first draft was written over the course of a few months. It is only about 400 words, but was a little stop-start initially, as I used a lot of thinking time. Mostly, I didn't write the next part down until I had been playing it in my head for a while. I didn't do as many edits on it as I would normally have done. Once it was accepted, of course, my lovely editor, Virginia, had me do some rewriting and reworking, with perhaps four rounds of edits, but these were always necessary and even quite enjoyable.
Katie: A lot of writers credit their critique groups as being very instrumental in the polishing of their books. Do you belong to a critique group? Why or why not?
Sally: I have belonged to a critique group on and off over several years. At the moment, I'm not active in the group because I am focusing on the promotion of my new books. However, I can't say enough about how valuable it is to belong to a good critique group. My group critiqued three picture book manuscripts of mine, which went on to be accepted. Having other writers cast a professional eye over your work and offer constructive criticism is really useful.
Katie: Did you publish traditionally? If so, did you use an agent, or contract with the publishing house independently?
Sally: Yes. The publisher is Walker Books Australia. I have tried unsuccessfully to get an agent, and would still love to have one. In the meantime, I submit directly to targeted publishers, of course, then need to negotiate contracts for myself. I have sold all of my published books this way. An agent is a wonderful asset, but it is certainly possible to get published without one.
Katie: "Pearl" is a story geared towards 8-12 year old. How did you come to write for this age group?
Sally: I didn't necessarily set out to write for this age group--Pearl came to me, and that was her age group, so it followed that the story would be pitched at children around that age. Having said that, I think kids in this age group are very amenable to the verse noel format because they like things that are a little different.
Katie: What sort of plans do you have for additional books?
Sally: I have two picture books under contract--both very different from "Pearl." I am currently working on another story for this age group, which I am trying to write in diary format, as well as a collection of children's poems and a nonfiction book for adults.
Katie: Marketing and promoting your book takes up a lot of time. What sort of marketing and promotion have you done for your book, and what things did you learn to do and not do?
Sally: Pearl comes out today, so I am still working on promotion. So far, I have a blog tour planned, touring ten blogs in ten days, as well as visits to a blog such as yours. I also run blogs myself, which help to promote my books, and have an author website, which promotes all of my books. I do school visits and festival appearances, write articles for online publications and use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. I am also fortunate that my publisher has arranged an article in a magazine for teachers, and is also preparing teaching notes (which I have contributed to) and other promotions.
Katie: What advice would you give to other writers who want to be published?
Sally: Work long and hard. If you write something, submit and get rejected, don't give up. Everyone gets rejected. I still do, and it hurts, but it is persistence, learning from mistakes, searching for markets and so on which get you there. Read all the time--new release books in the genre you want to write, and books and articles about the craft and business of writing. And write. Lots.
Sally's book is available through her publisher and online here.
Posted by Katie Hines at 7:00 AM