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Author Interview: Sarah Wolfe

How did you become a writer?

I never grew out of picture books. I used to study in the children’s section of the book store in college so I could peruse the merchandise during breaks. When my youngest child started school, I joined Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and found the community and encouragement I needed to start writing.

What inspires you to write?

My earliest memories are around books. The pages that lived with my grandma for decades before coming to live with me still smell like my grandma’s house. The pages are stapled together and the covers long gone, but the stories remain the same. Writing allows me to create something reliable and steadfast. As a child, your world changes quickly. It’s nice to have stories you can count on when things feel upside down. If you start reading a good book in a room full of children, you will soon find yourself surrounded by curious faces. They will sit next to one another, laugh together, and share an experience. In a matter of minutes strangers are connected through story. Stories bring people together, and that is why I write.

How do you develop your plot and characters?

My favorite characters (and people) are funny, flawed, and a tad grumpy. They usually don’t get everything they want in the end, but they always leave you smiling. For picture book plots, I take every day human struggles and give them a unique and humorous twist. It usually helps if I give the struggle to an animal!

Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?

My biggest challenge is making time to write. As we all know, if you wait until you have time to write, you never will.

Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?

My protagonist is a muscle shirt wearing squirrel who learns that sometimes the toughest thing to do is ask for help. I love his grouchiness and his obvious need for assistance despite his hilarious efforts to remain independent.

What are your current/future projects?

I am working on multiple picture books. Do you think birds make nest improvements the same way humans make home improvements? Yes, yes they do. Is there anything cuter than a pygmy hippo? No, no there isn’t.

Do you have a routine you follow when writing?

The hardest part is getting the story down on paper. I try not to get hung up on details, word choice, or problematic sections of the plot. After it’s down, the long process of revision begins. Critiques are helpful and allow you to see your story through fresh eyes. Towards the end, I like to walk away from the story for a bit. It’s amazing what you can solve when you give yourself space!

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to do what you love. I spent too many years thinking about writing instead of actually writing! I would tell myself to get to work!

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

If you plan to write for children, join SCBWI!


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