“Fascinating Ideas and Advice from Sandra Warren, Author” by Joan Y. Edwards
Today I’m honored to have Sandra Warren as a guest on my blog. One thing you’ll learn about Sandra is that she takes risks.
Thank you, Joan. Thanks for inviting me to be a guest on your blog.
You’re welcome. Let’s get right to the interesting part your answers to my interview questions.
1. How did you do in English?
If you’re speaking about literature, I did quite well, but the writing part, grammar, punctuation and spelling, well, that part was a challenge. In fact, all through school I hated to write. If someone told me then, that I would become an author as an adult, I would have laughed in their face.
2. When did you decide to become an author?
It was thrust upon me by the needs of my children. I began writing to develop classroom activities to enhance creative thinking and encourage higher level thinking skills to keep them engaged in learning and excited about school. From their needs my first book, If I Were A Road, came to fruition. If I Were a Table and The Great Bridge Lowering followed within a year. That was thirty-three years ago. All three books are still on the market and still used in classrooms throughout the country.
3. What is your favorite book of those you’ve written?
My favorite children’s book of those I’ve written would have to be Arlie the Alligator because it’s so much more than just a story. After completing the manuscript, I met song writer, Deborah Bel Pfleger. Ms Pfleger wrote the four catchy tunes, which are woven into the story mini-musical style and recorded in her recording studio, Bel Productions, with actors and sound effects. You can hear a sample via the book trailer http://youtu.be/UtTxiIkHdWc
Although the story book can stand on its own, the story is enhanced by following along with the CD. Reading skills are encouraged and creative thinking skills tweaked as children follow along reading and singing with the CD.
Arlie can be enjoyed as a story book, a follow-along, sing-along story, a teaching/learning tool, and a theatrical production put on by adults or children for children of all ages. The theatrical production, sheet music, a reader’s theatre script and multiple classroom activities can be found in the Arlie the Alligator Communication Activity Guide, which was published by an educational company, Pieces of Learning, shortly after the original book came out.
The original Arlie, published in 1992, was ahead of his time. It was difficult to find a publisher because we had a story and a fully produced audio cassette. In the late 1980’s books-on-tape for adults were just coming on the market. Children’s books-on-cassette were in the infant stages. After 7-years of rejection, I self-published Arlie the Alligator in hardcover with an audio cassette. Now, 22 years later, in another risky move, I’ve brought Arlie back, newly illustrated but otherwise the same wonderful story.
4. How much research did you do to write Arlie?
Even though Arlie is a fictitious, I still felt the need to know something about real alligators. I researched and discovered 3 unusual things; First, young alligators have yellow markings that fade with age. In the Arlie story there’s a line: “Arlie knew he’d lose his beautiful yellow markings when he grew up; all alligators do.” Secondly I learned that male adult alligators bellow. Females do not. That’s why Arlie turns to his father when he doesn’t know what to do. The third thing I learned is that alligators have a different number of toes on the front feet than on the back feet. I couldn’t figure out how to use that information so I didn’t.
5. What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you related to your writing?
Two things come to mind. The first is in relation to Arlie. At a conference an irate woman came up to me and told me that I was sexist because in the story Arlie asked his father what to do not his mother. “Why didn’t you have him go to his mother for advice?” she bellowed. (Ha! Couldn’t resist.) I let her rant and then very calmly explained that the World Book Encyclopedia said that female alligators don’t make a sound, only males do so how could I possibly have Arlie’s mother model bellowing for him?
The second incidence was in relation to my book, If I Were A Table. Illustrated by my brother, Tom Sjoerdsma, each table in the book has a pair of eyes on its edge. Each pair of eyes is unique. A very excited teacher approached me at an educational conference who proceeded to tell me she’d promised her students that if she ever met me, she’d ask if they were correct about the psychology of the eyes on the tables in my book, If I Were A Table. She went on to explain that her students had a huge discussion about why the eyes on one table were more feminine than another. I listened politely nodding my head as she spoke. Later that evening, I called my brother and asked him why he made each set of eyes different and he said, “I just thought it would be a funny thing to do!” So much for psychology and story analysis.
By the way, this incident taught me that you can’t control what people see in your work. It also made me very skeptical of those (teacher and professor types) who teach classes that analyze other authors’ works. I’m guessing many beloved authors long gone are rolling over in their graves with laughter at what people said about their work.
6. I notice that you’ve been published in multiple genres. Is one genre more difficult than the other?
I would say, “no.” Persistence and patience is the key. The only reason I’ve publications in other genres is because when an idea comes to mind, I go with it and worry later how to get it published.
7. What’s your number one recommendation to other writers about getting published?
The number one thing I recommend to writers is to research FORMAT and SUBMISSION GUIDELINES and then give the publisher/editor/agent what they want in the format THEY want it in.
- Know when they ask for a chapter by chapter outline what that means.
- Know when they ask for a synopsis how long that synopsis should be.
- Know when they call for a book proposal what a book proposal entails.
- And know these things for the genre you’ve written and are trying to sell.
It doesn’t matter what your college professors, your critique group or your best writing buddy says about submitting your manuscript. The ONLY thing that matters when submitting to a publisher, editor or agent is that you send them what THEY want to see and in the format THEY want to see it in.
Remember: Your submission package is your book’s first impression. Make it look as professional as possible.
8. What are you working on now?
My current project is an adult novel that involves two brothers who were separated by the Orphan Trains in 1929. About five years in the making, I based the story on a screenplay that I had optioned years back. When I complete that, I’ll begin a middle grade/YA historical fiction involving a true incident from my high school. I also have a couple of picture book manuscripts looking for a publisher. As I tell students, perhaps I’d be more successful if I’d stick to one genre.
Thank you, Sandra for sharing this fascinating information about you and your writing and your advice for writers! Thanks for giving a copy of your book and CD to a lucky person who leaves a comment for this post. You’re a jewel.
GIVEAWAY: If you leave a comment, I’ll put your name in a hat to win a free autographed copy of Arlie the Alligator and matching CD. What a winning combination!
Feel free to share this post with your friends.
I’ll have random.org choose a winner’s name at midnight on Sunday, December 8, 2013.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards