Like many writers, I am a bit of an introvert (truthfully, maybe more than a bit). I love people, but I am happiest at home reading a book or working on my own writing endeavors.
A few months ago, I felt God encouraging me to get outside of my comfort zone and connect on a deeper heart level with people. While I had been a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association for several years and attended three of their annual writing conferences, I had yet to really get to know anyone on a deeper level. I made the (somewhat scary) decision that each month I would invite one author from our group to lunch. My goal was to get to know them, learn about their writing journey, and ask for any words of wisdom that they had to share with me.
My first victim, er…guest, was the lovely Sonja Anderson, author of the wonderful children’s book, Sophie’s Quest. It is a charming story of Sophie the owl, and her mouse friend, Timley, as they travel the world on a great quest. The story of their friendship and adventure is enchanting and enlightening. I recommend this book to parents and children alike.
Sonja and I met at a local restaurant, and between bites of our meal enjoyed some great conversation. We connected over our shared love of books as children, and our dream to write books of our own. She shared her love for the children’s classic, Heidi, and the Nancy Drew series. I confided that the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary were my refuge as a child. In a moment of vulnerability, I blurted out my lifelong dream of being the next Beverly Cleary for children. Gulp! (Did I actually just say that out loud?) Sonja didn’t laugh at my outrageous dream. She graciously encouraged me by telling me her own writing journey, which I will share with you now.
Sonja got the idea for her first book, Sophie’s Quest, many years ago. It took her six years to write it, doing copious research, and another six years to find a publisher. Sonja works as a school librarian, so I asked her how she found the time to write while raising her own children and working full-time. (Finding time to write is something I really struggle with myself.) Her secret was to commit to adding just one more inch of writing to her manuscript page each day. Setting such a small goal makes it easy to stay committed to your dream. I found this advice very encouraging.
Sonja also recommended a book on writing: Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication, by Ann Whitford Paul. Sonja shared her belief that anyone who uses this book from beginning to end while writing their story will have a publishable manuscript at the end. Of course, I went home and ordered the book right away, and I am finding it just as helpful as Sonja described.
We talked about self-publishing and traditional publishing. As a librarian, Sonja believes that traditional publishing is the best way to get your book in front of children. She explained the difficulty of getting a self-published book into school or even public libraries. This was something I had never thought about before.
Sonja is hard at work on a sequel to Sophie’s Quest, called Sophie Topfeather, Superstar! It should be out in October of 2016. I can’t wait!
Make sure and visit Sonja’s website: www.sonjaandersonbooks.com to learn more about Sonja and her writing. Don’t miss the free online Bible Study for children called Sophie and Timley’s Bible Time, a great resource for parents and teachers alike.