Sacajawea of the Shoshone. She writes nonfiction for kids, picture books, plays, and more. Check out her lovely web site to learn more about this extraordinary writer.
Q: Can you tell us briefly what Sacajawea of the Shoshone is about and who it's aimed at?
A: Sacajawea of the Shoshone is an addition to Goosebottom Books’ first series, The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses. It tells the amazing story of Sacajawea, the Shoshone teenager who traveled the west with Lewis and Clark and her amazing adventure on this expedition. The series is targeted for ages 9 - 13, although younger kids will enjoy the beautiful combination of illustrations and real-life photographs and interesting sidebars such as “What She Ate”, “What She Wore” and “Where She Lived”.
Q: Did you discover anything surprising about Sacajawea or this period in history while writing/researching this book?
A: Sacajawea made a significant and invaluable contribution to the Lewis and Clark expedition. She gathered food, firewood, made and repaired moccasins, set up and broke down camp, interpreted and negotiated for horses with her people so the Corps of Discovery could make it across the Rocky Mountains, prevented the Corps from being attacked by other tribes (no war party would travel with a woman and a baby!), and saved Lewis and Clark’s important instruments and documents, including their journals, when the boat she was riding in almost capsized. Yet her people, the Lemhi-Shoshone are still fighting for Federal Recognition.
Q: Do you listen to music while writing? If so what? Tell us about the atmosphere in your writing space.
A: I don’t generally write with music on. I find it too distracting, and I seem to concentrate better when I have total silence when I’m writing. On the rare occasion I do write with music on, I prefer classical which has a profound calming effect on my brain. I tend to favor Mozart, Pachelbel, Vivaldi, and Beethoven, although with the latter, at least for writing, I like his softer, lyrical pieces like Moonlight Sonata or the Pathétique Sonata to the more dramatic symphonic pieces like Beethoven’s 5th.
Q: How do you develop your books? Do you have any set process, habits or rituals?
A: My last two books were non-fiction that fell under two different series released by Goosebottom Books. Cixi, The Dragon Empress, was part of The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames and Sacajawea of the Shoshone was part of The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses. With Cixi, she was one of six dames already selected by the publisher to be featured and I picked to write about her because I was interested in Chinese culture and history. The publisher wanted to add a Native American and an African woman to the cultural mix and asked if I wanted to write one of the books. Of course I did! I selected the Native American woman because I have some Native American ancestry in my background and was very much interested in the culture. I’ve always been fascinated with Sacajawea’s amazing story and we decided that this was the one I should tell. Over the last few years, I’ve been more interested in incorporating my cultural roots (I’m Chinese) into my writing so my current projects and my upcoming book (Goldy Luck and The Three Pandas, Charlesbridge Publishing, 2014) all either have a Chinese protagonist or a Chinese theme. I try to write every day. In general, I’ll get up between 5:00 and 5:30 in the morning and write till 7 am. when I have to get the kids up for school. Then, I’ll write for 3 - 5 hours while they’re in school.
Q: Say your fairy godmother has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book; where would you want to go and why?
A: Anywhere in the Caribbean, but preferably at Cape Santa Maria on Long Island. I went there with my family several years ago and there’s not much there besides some bungalows overlooking a brilliantly calm, blue sea and a stretch of very unpopulated beach with sand as fine as talculm powder. The setting will have nothing to do with my project(s) because I don’t have any stories set in the Caribbean, but it’d just be a really cool, tranquil place to write.
Q: How long did it take you to write Sacajawea?
A: Goosebottom Books has an extremely aggressive publishing timeline so the turnaround time is pretty tight. Once, I get the assignment, I’ll get about two and a half months to do all my research and complete the first draft. The editor and I will then spend the next month or so revising. There could be anywhere from 3 to 7 drafts in that time. Cixi had many more revisions than Sacajawea did. The upside of all this stress and hard work to meet these deadlines is that I get to see my book in print in about a year and a half which is amazing for a picture book!
Q: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
A: Hmmm...I never thought I had a writing quirk, except that I can’t write without a hot drink close by be it coffee or tea. Even when it’s 100 degrees outside.
Q: Do you ever experience writer's block and if so, how to you overcome it?
A: I haven’t had writer’s block in years. I have way too many ideas and not enough time hence I’m always flitting from project to project. That’s probably the reason it takes me forever to complete my projects! I do though, have moments within a project or scenes that I get a little stuck on from time to time. What works for me is to use a different approach or change the pace. For example, if I’ve been trying to write through a difficult narrative, I’ll try to storyboard the scene so I can see things more visually or I’ll go work on a different project for awhile.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a published children's book author?
A: Accept that rejection is part of the process, learn from it, and don’t give up. My latest book, Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas, has been rejected by several publishers, went through 4 or 5 editors, was signed by Random House/Tricycle Press then unsigned by them when RH decided to shutter the imprint. By the time it hits bookshelves, it would have been an 8 year journey for this book! Believe in yourself and in your writing, and it will happen.
Q: If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
A: David Sedaris. I think he’s hilarious! I love his sense of humor and his quirky way of looking at his world. I think we’re very similar in that sense. I have a feeling that dinner with him would be quite entertaining.
Q: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
A: Morning. After the kids are in bed, I’m usually too beat to do much else then to veg out in front of the T.V.
Q:What are you passionate about these days?
A: Chocolate, coffee, writing, writing, writing, and promoting whatever book I have out at the moment. Right now, it’s Sacajawea of the Shoshone.