[Full Post] Today the spotlight is on Sally Lee, one of own SCBWI North Texas chapter members and a featured author on our Fall Conference faculty lineup. Sally is an expert in the field of educational publishing and will be leading a breakout session on educational publishing at our conference in September.
Sally has published over 50 (!!) books for various educational publishers on a wide variety of subjects from primary grades through young adult. She enjoys the “treasure hunt” aspect of research and the variety of topics that the field of educational publishing presents. She is a formal elementary school teacher and long-time member of SCBWI.
Debbie Meyer chatted with Sally about her writing journey, books, and filling the creative well. Sally has graciously shared her experience and wisdom with us.
Are you a Native Texan? Please, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m not a native Texan, but I feel like one. I actually began life in Denver, then moved to St Louis when I was 11. I married a petroleum engineer, which meant we had to move to a place with oil. I’ve been a Texan ever since, living in Houston, Midland, San Antonio, back to Houston, and finally Dallas.
Have you wanted to be a writer since childhood?
I never thought of myself as a writer, but I use to write stories just for fun. I also preferred playing games that used my imagination. In high school, I was one of the few oddballs that actually liked writing term papers because I enjoyed the research. When I was pregnant with my second child, I took a correspondence course from the Institute of Children’s Literature and that’s when I started to think of myself as a writer.
Are you working full time as a writer or do you also work in another profession?
I am technically retired, but I spend a little time writing on most days. I still take WFH assignments from Capstone, which I consider my job. When I don’t have an assignment I play around with whatever catches my fancy.
What is your most favorite children’s book and why?
One of my favorite books growing up was Tom Sawyer, probably because I was from Missouri and was fascinated with the Mississippi River. I was a tomboy myself and enjoyed reading about Tom’s adventures and the messes he got himself into.
Can you please tell us a little about your experience in the literary world?
My entry into the literary world was slow. I began with short stories in Sunday school magazines and worked up to Highlights, Jack and Jill, and ‘Teen. I switched to nonfiction when a conference I was attending had a writing contest with both fiction and nonfiction categories. I decided there would be less competition in nonfiction. I won the contest, sold the article, and worked my way up from there.
What advice would you like to pass along to new children’s book writers?
I have always believed that it is not necessarily the best writers that get published; it’s the ones that refuse to quit. So my advice is to keep writing, suffer through the rejections, learn as much as you can, and never give up.
What do you wish you had done differently in your career?
I don’t think I would have done anything differently. There are a lot more opportunities for new writers today to improve their craft than when I started. With internet sites and blogs, conferences and workshops, and organizations like SCBWI, the amount of information out there is limitless.
What are some hobbies you enjoy to fill the creative well?
My favorite activity is keeping up with my triplet granddaughters. I enjoy playing around on the piano or guitar, but only if no one can hear me. My husband and I travel a lot so photography is a necessity. Add reading and working word or number puzzles, and I’m happy.
Tell us about your current projects/soon-to-be releases, etc.
I currently have 10 books in production with Capstone, which sounds more impressive than it is. Six of them are a 1st grade series on weather, two are part of a series on the Smithsonian National Zoo (birds and amphibians), and two are on holidays (Independence Day and Martin Luther King Day). On my own, I am working on an offbeat insect book that I hope will turn out humorous, slightly gross, but informative.
And just for fun, name three fictional book characters that you most relate to and why.
Romana Quimby (I often have great ideas that don’t turn out the way I envision them)
Pollyanna (I’m basically a cheerful, optimistic person)
Ms. Frizzle from The Magic Schoolbus (As a teacher I always wanted to find interesting ways to get my students involved in learning.)
Thank you for the wonderful interview, Sally! We look forward to meeting you in September!
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