Sherri L. Smith writes novels, nonfiction, and comics.  Her books have won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Kite Award and the California Book Awards Gold Medal.  They have been named Amelia Bloomer and American Library Association Best Books for Young People.  Sherri holds certificates in the Art of Archetypal Fairy Tale Analysis, Enchantivism, and Applied Mythology.  She is a member of the Two Trees Writers’ Collaborative and the founder of Story Forest, a liminal space where writers follow the old tales to find their own paths.  Sherri teaches in the MFA in Children’s Writing program at Hamline University.  Learn more at www.sherrilsmith.com. 

Sherri is one of the speakers for our YA Symposium, The Young and the Reckless: Writing for Teens. 

 

Q1: You have written across multiple genres. Which of your books did you find difficult to write, and which was the most fun?

Some stories can be emotionally difficult—Orleans and The Blossom and the Firefly come to mind.  (I sobbed on that last one… a lot.)  At the same time, worldbuilding is awesome and so is historical research.  Which makes me think of two other stumbling blocks that turned out to be fun.  Having written mostly fiction, the hardest for me was switching to nonfiction.  I do a ton of research for both types of writing, but not being able to make up the perfect scene was a real challenge, especially for my first nonfiction book, Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen?.  Fortunately, the answer is simply to dig deeper for the true story that explains the facts.  There’s something exciting about finding a moment in real history that paints a vivid portrait for the reader.

The second stumbling block was writing a mystery.  Pasadena is a noir mystery and, while I felt I knew the genre well, and I do enjoy reading mysteries,  I did a lot of reading up on how to construct a whodunit.  All that did was tie me up in knots!  It turned out the best way for me to write the story was to walk through it as if I was the protagonist, asking the questions I’d want to know at each point.  It was sort of a revelation, and took a lot of pressure off of me trying to be “clever.”

 

Q2: What inspired you to take certificates for applied mythology, enchantivism, and Archetypal Fairy tale analysis? How has your studies in these areas influenced your writing?

I was raised on myths and fairytales, and the bones of those old archetypes are the scaffolding for my writing, so when I first heard about Enchantivism—a form of activism that uses deep storytelling, mythology, dreamwork, ecopsychology and terrapsychology to bring about slow, positive change in the world—I was hooked!  And the idea that mythology could be applied to our personal lives in illuminating ways?  Come on!  Who wouldn’t want to know more about that?  The archetypal fairy tale analysis goes hand in glove with all of the above.  My studies have influenced how I teach writing.  I offer Story Forest sessions that expand on fairytales as allegories for our writing practice.  It’s really inspiring to see old tales open up how we approach our craft.  My studies have also influenced I give back to the world in my writing.  I try to teach empathy with my work.  Deepening mythic resonance helps makes stories more universally felt.  And that’s what empathy is all about.

 

Q3: What would you say is your least favorite part of the revision process and why?

The hardest part of revision, in my opinion, is letting go.  It can be a challenge to figure out where you want to begin, what your veils are in the first place.  But if you’re like me, you always worry there are more veils to fiddle with!  The fact is, revision stops when your changes make something worse or just “different” but not better.  That’s when it’s time to call in a trusted reader and get some feedback.  Which might also mean a knotted stomach and a bunch of regret because you don’t trust that the work is strong.  I call this the Grumps.  I get the Grumps every time I hit “send” on a work in progress.   Chocolate, and reading good books helps immensely.  And the leap of faith that tends to pay off well.  You trust the reader, you get the feedback, and then you chew on it to decide what’s true to your story.  And then roll up your sleeves and make it so!

 

Q4: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to the writers attending the symposium?

The best advice I can give attendees is to take notes for anything that rings a bell in your writing soul.  That is the stuff that likely resonates because it’s relevant to your current situation.  Instantly applicable ideas are always the easiest to take in, because they solve an immediate problem.  But remember to return to the other things you learn.  They might be exactly what you need down the line.  I hope you get something you need today, and something for tomorrow.  Fill your craft tool box to the brim!

 

Sherri’s lecture for the symposium is titled: The Seven Veils:  Revise Your Story in Seven Sexy Steps    
  

Revising an entire story can feel like wrestling your way out of a snowsuit in a hurry– frustratingly difficult and likely to end in tears.  But it doesn’t have to!  In this class we’ll discuss the dance steps for removing revision obstacles one veil at a time.  In the end, your story will be stripped bare of encumbrances and ready to shine.

 

Click here to register for the YA Symposium

Learn more about Sherri L. Smith

Web site: sherrilsmith.com

Web site: enterthestoryforest.com

Instagram:@rhymeswithcapri

Twitter: @Sherri_L_Smith

 

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