Gamila: Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your work.
Sharlee:I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I came from a family of readers. My mom used to claim that she must have had an extensive library stashed away somewhere in her womb--otherwise, there's no way under heaven her three girls would have consented to stay there for nine months! I started writing stories and poems almost as soon as I could form my letters, and I began my first novel at age 11. While in college and then later during my Master's program, I focused mostly on academic writing. I was teaching at BYU and busy raising my family when an idea for a middle-grade novel grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go. I had no choice but to write the novel! It was published in 1998 by Bookcraft (which later became part of Deseret Book). My life was pretty crazy at that point. I was teaching at BYU, had just given birth to my fifth child, and was helping care for my mother who was dying of cancer. I flat-out didn't have the time or focus to be able to even think about trying to write another novel, so I decided to write picture books instead! I've now published three picture books: One in a Billion (Cornerstone), Keeping Up with Roo (G. P. Putnam's Sons), and Just What Mama Needs (Harcourt). Just What Mama Needs was recently featured on the EMMY award-winning PBS children's show, Between the Lions.
Gamila: What made you decide to publish picture books?
Sharlee: See above. :-)
Gamila: What authors in your field do you admire? Which of their strengths so you strive to emulate in your own work?
The authors I most admire include Eudora Welty, Toni Morrison, and Marilynne Robinson. My favorite middle-grade/YA authors are Patricia MacLachlan, Sharon Creech, Lois Lowry, Katherine Patterson, and Gary Schmidt. As far a picture book writers go, I love Kevin Henkes, David Wiesner, and, of course, Maurice Sendak.
Gamila: The brevity of text in the picture book requires unique storytelling skills. What process did you take to learn this art?
Sharlee:Learning how to craft an effective picture book is a brutal process. It took me a long time to figure out the difference between magazine-type stories and picture books. I think it helped that I had written a lot of poetry. There are a lot of similarities between a poem and a picture book--rhythm, brevity, imagery, compression, etc.
Gamila: what is the most rewarding thing about being a picture book author? What is the most discouraging?
Sharlee:The most rewarding thing is hearing that kids love your book--that they beg their parents to read it over and over and over. The most discouraging thing is that the picture book market is so flat right now.
Gamila: I love the subtle way that you convey your characters in Keeping up with Roo. What experiences inspired you to tackle the topic of special needs adults?
Sharlee: Keeping Up with Roo is a very special book to me. The best way to describe my connection to the characters in the book would probably be to direct you to my acceptance speech when the book was given the Dolly Gray Children's Literature Award. To read the full speech, go here: http://daddcec.org/Portals/0/CEC/Autism_Disabilities/Research/Awards/Dolly_Gray/2006-DGA-Winner-Acceptance-Speech-Sharlee-Glenn.pdf
Gamila: Before we end tell us about your most current writing project or most recent release.
Sharlee: My life has actually settled down a bit since I first started writing, so I'm returning to my first love--the middle-grade novel. I have a work in progress that I'm quite excited about, but I don't want to give away too many details! I'll just tell you this much: it's tentatively titled Spitting in Space. :-)
Spitting in Space? That sound like so much fun! Thanks so much for taking the time to interview with me.