Friday Author Focus: Coffee & Conversation with Sarah Sullivan!

Happy Friday, everyone, time for another round of Coffee & Conversation!  Joining us in the cyber cafe today is the lovely Sarah Sullivan, who has brought with her the most interesting rejection photo ever!  So while Sarah gets settled with her…

…dark roast coffee, (no cream, no sugar, girlfriend likes it bold!) and her favorite snack, a mixture of dried cherries, strawberries and cranberries…

… let me once again post some important links and reminders!

For information on our upcoming SCBWI “Staying on Track” weekend, click here.

If you are interested in applying for the Jack Reid Scholarship, click here.

Also, mark your calendar for our next ABC presentation featuring Mary Quattlebaum, author of the recently released PIRATE VS PIRATE, on June 12th at the Germantown Library from 2:00 to 4:00pm!  Click here for details, and keep an eye out for her upcoming C & C interview.  Mary will also be doing a pirate story time with kids on June 11th at 11:00am at the Bethesda Barnes and Noble.  Ahoy, matey!

And now that Sarah is comfy with her coffee, let’s begin! 

Sarah is the author of four great picture books, including the recently released PASSING THE MUSIC DOWN, which Kirkus reviews called “a lovely, resonant offering!


When did you decide to be a writer, Sarah? 

The first time?  Immediately after I read BETSY AND TACY GO DOWNTOWN.  I was in the third grade.  But, I got sidetracked for a while being a lawyer.  Secretly, I was always writing.

How long did your path to publication take, and what were your biggest hurdles?

My first “publications” were articles for my local newspaper.  I wrote book reviews and feature articles about children’s book awards and interviews with children’s book writers.  In 1995, I sold my first poem and six years later I sold my first picture book. 

The biggest obstacle was life!  I was a single parent and my only time to write was late at night and before work in the morning.

Seeing how hindsight is 20/20, what advice for beginners do you wish you would have followed? 

Actually, I wish I had NOT followed one piece of advice because I wasted a lot of time respecting the rule of not contacting a publishing company when they keep your manuscript for a long time.  A company which shall remain unnamed kept my first novel for 14 months.  After 7 months, they sent me a postcard saying my manuscript “was being passed around for a second/third read.”  I waited another 7 months before I contacted them and finally received a very complimentary rejection.  In hindsight, I wish I had gone ahead and sent the manuscript to other publishers.

Where’s your favorite place to work? 

In my office at home. 

If the paparazzi were taking pictures of odd things authors do while writing, what would be in yours, hmm?  

Well, when the leaf blowers are going in my neighbor’s yard, I hole up in the bathroom and turn on the fan to block out the noise. 

Hehe, too funny!  🙂  Okay, how were you inspired to write your current or upcoming release?

My latest book is inspired by the lives of two real people, an old-time fiddle player named Melvin Wine and his student, Jake Krack.  For years, I followed the story of these two people.  I heard them play at festivals and fairs and even in my local independent bookstore.  As a 10-year-old, Jake traveled all the way from Indiana to West Virginia to learn the old bowing techniques and the particular tunes that Melvin and other old-time fiddlers played.  Those techniques and tunes have been passed down from generation to generation strictly by oral tradition and, if someone did not learn them, they would disappear.  That seemed like a story that needed to be told, particularly after 9/11 when many of us were wondering about the future and what endures.

What is your favorite line(s) from this book?

That’s hard to say, but I ended up being pretty happy with the first two lines of my new book, PASSING THE MUSIC DOWN.

“Come, August, with corn strutting high in the fields and tomatoes plumping out on the vine, folks get to talking about tuning up and heading over twisty mountain roads to hear fiddle players and banjo pickers make music under the stars.  They travel through the heartland, past cold factories and drifty towns to the old, old mountains slumbering east of Tennessee.”

Beautiful,Sarah!  Now, are there any other genres that you’d like to tackle some day?

I’d love to write a screenplay.

What’s next on your agenda, any juicy projects you’d like to tell us about? 

I’m working on a middle grade novel.

Time for the lightning round—no more than four words per answer!

Do you . . .

Outline or wing it?  Wing it

Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped?   Zipped

Sell by proposal or completed draft?   Completed draft

 Prefer writing rough drafts or editing?  Editing

Dread marketing/blogging or love it?  Sigh.  Okay, honestly?  Dread it.  I’d rather be writing.

Read Kindle or traditional books?  Traditional books

And finally, what’s your favorite:

Time to work?   Morning

Music to listen to while writing?   Film soundtracks.  I love the soundtracks for THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, IN THE BEDROOM, PERDITION and HARRY POTTER.

Writing tool?   Computer

Pair of shoes?   It changes from month to month.

Guiltiest pleasure?  Dark chocolate

Line from a movie?   “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Ha, great line!  Okay, Sarah, last question:  What was your worse rejection and how did you bounce back?

Once a manuscript was returned with a note attached on which someone had scrawled, “Feel free to pitch it if you want.”  I decided  it could never get colder or more impersonal than  that.  So, if I survived and kept writing, rejection wasn’t going to kill me after all.

OUCH, that’s pretty rough, but I love how you reacted to it!  And please tell me you saved this note! 😉

I ABSOLUTELY saved it!!! 

Yep, I’d save something like that, too!  Thanks, Sarah, for such a wonderful interview and best of luck with PASSING DOWN THE MUSIC!

Have a fabulous holiday weekend, everyone!

About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two awesome boys, wife of one fantastic husband, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She loves run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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6 Responses to Friday Author Focus: Coffee & Conversation with Sarah Sullivan!

  1. Pam says:

    Great interview! So nice to meet you, Sarah, and I am glad you bounced back from that really lousy note to write such a wonderful and important picture book. Kudos!

  2. Great interview! This might be a silly question, but could “pitch it” have meant “try to sell it,” like to an acquisitions committee?

    • I can honestly say that thought never crossed my mind. But, I wish you’d been around when I opened the envelope. That would have made the process a lot less painful. Thanks for the possible spin!

  3. I meant to say, “thanks for the positive spin!”

  4. Pingback: Coffee & Conversation with Sarah Sullivan | As the Eraser Burns

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