« | Main | »

Sally Keehn – Award Winning Children’s Novelist

By Admin | October 16, 2007

Winner of the Carolyn W. Field award and the Jefferson Honor Cup award, writer Sally Keehn is  working on her seventh novel. She recently gave us her thoughts on writing.

You have just published your seventh book this year, Magpie Gabbard and the Quest for the Buried Moon. Does the thrill of having a book come out diminish with each successive book?

I am always delighted when a book of mine comes out. I start with something so small – an idea, a few words on an historical marker, a re-enactment, an old story that haunts me – and, after sometimes years of research and hard work, something concrete comes out of it all. Something to hold onto and read and pass on – a book!


However, I must say that the most thrilling time for me was when the editor of all my titles for young people – Patricia Lee Gauch of Philomel Books – accepted my first book for publication – “I Am Regina.” 

This was after three years of work without a contract. When she finally said, “We’ve decided to publish your book,” my hands were shaking so hard, I almost dropped the phone! It felt like a miracle to me.

When do you do your best writing?

I usually write in the morning in my home office.  But I have discovered over the years that not all writing need be done at a computer, or type writer, or even with a pen and paper in hand.

Often, when I’m stuck on a passage, I’ll go for a walk. I’ll take a small tape recorder with me and ask myself (or my characters) questions about what’s going on. Often, the answers will come to me and then, I’ll speak them into the tape recorder so that I don’t forget them.

Passers-by give me curious looks, but hey, I get some gems out of these “talking walks.” When I get back home, I type them up.

How many writers’ groups are you in and what do you look for from a writers’ group?

Writing can be a lonely profession and nobody understands that more than fellow writers! And so, I am in three writers’ groups. Each one meets once a month and only one of them meets in the morning which is nice – I don’t miss out on a lot of writing time.

 One focuses on writing novels for young people. A second focuses on writing for children at all levels – from board books to easy readers, to young adult to non-fiction and fiction. The third boasts writers of all kinds – poets, novelists, picture book writers, non-fiction – you name it! All three have been valuable to me.

The writers’ groups I’m in developed over time as I made contacts in the field. Through these groups, I’ve found friendship, support (only another writer can truly understand what you are going through), helpful criticism of my work, marketing advice, and a place in which to share and pass on what I’ve learned. And so, I never truly “looked” for something it a group. It just happened!

But, for those who are serious about writing and are interested in joining a group, attend a meeting. Make sure it offers what you need. Is the criticism helpful? I would want honest criticism done in a professional and compassionate way – saying what a reader likes about a manuscript and what needs work. That nurtures good writing. I’d want the group to be well organized – where leaders rotate and no one person dominates the meeting. Everyone should have a chance to be heard.

What do you think of JK Rowling as a writer?

I have read several of the Harry Potter books and I think JK Rowling is a phenomenal writer.She knows how to write a riveting, original tale with great kid appeal. My hat’s off to her.

Which one of your books is your favorite.

That’s like asking a mother which is her favorite child! I love them all.

What book are you working on now?

I’m working on a young adult historical novel set in Christiana, Pennsylvania during the Christiana Resistance of 1851

Do you and your editor ever fight?

I love my editor. She brings out the best that is in me and my work. This can be challenging for both of us. But during all our years of working together (it’ll be twenty next spring) we have never fought. We respect each other too much.

Do you take it personally when you get a bad review?

Of course! Against my own will, I find I have memorized every hateful word. This is not healthy and I wouldn’t recommend it.A friend of mine – the Young Adult author Joyce McDonald – showed me how to extrapolate the good blurbs from a review. “If you have to think about your reviews, focus on these,” she said.

In the long run, it’s best not to focus on reviews at all. Get lost in your current work. Revel in it.

What one piece of advice would you give a beginning writer of children/young adults books?

Writing for children and young adults is not easy.Read widely in the field and once you think you have a handle on it, sit down and get to work. A writer writes.

Copyright 2007 DailyInterview.net

Tomorrow’s Interview: Juliet Goodfriend – Founder of the Bryn Mawr Film Institute 

Topics: Writers | No Comments »


You must be logged in to post a comment.