Perhaps you want to know a little more about me and my books...or maybe you are writing a report for school...or perhaps you want the inside scoop on my next book...This page was created for you! I can't guarantee an A on your book report, but here are the answers to the questions I get asked most often:
Questions for Shelley:
- Where do you find your ideas?
- What made you decide to write about the Underground Railroad
in your first book?
- How did you get started as a writer?
- What do you do for fun?
- What dreams do you have?
- Do you have any favorite children's books?
- How is reading important to you as a writer?
- How did you get interested in writing historical stories?
Where do you find your ideas?
I'm a dedicated "idea collector." I keep boxes and folders full of ideas. I love to collect unique names like "Toppy Hawkin" (an apple variety) or "Chicken Fork" (the name of a real town) for future stories. Sometimes I scribble ideas on the backs of envelopes, receipts, old checks, scraps of paper--or even table napkins! If you want to create interesting characters or stories, I think it is important to keep an idea collection. And remember--it doesn't matter if it's a little messy!
What made you decide to write about the Underground Railroad in your first book?
I believe that the Underground Railroad should be seen as one of the great journeys in American history. Although it was not a single journey made by a group of explorers, it was a journey made by thousands of courageous individuals who traveled many different ways and by many different routes--I think it should be recognized and celebrated. I have always loved studying and reading about journeys. So I wrote Trouble Don't Last to bring parts of the Underground Railroad to life and to show the courage of the people who made the journey.
How did you get started as a writer?
I began to write stories when I was just a kid in elementary school. Once, when I finished my math worksheet early, my teacher told me to write a story on the other side until the rest of the class had finished the page. Well, you can guess what happened! After that, I couldn't WAIT to finish my math worksheets, so I could turn my paper over and write a story on the other side. (And that also explains why I am better at writing than long division today!) When I was in 4th and 5th grade, I enjoyed writing scripts for my friends based on the books we were reading.
What do you do for fun?
When I'm not writing, I like to read, swim, go to the theatre, work in the garden, paint, and, of course, spend time with my family! My husband's name is Mike, and I have a young stepson Ethan. Our household also includes Marbles, a stray cat named for the "marbled" look of her orange, black and brown fur. When I was a kid, I was the caretaker of a "zoo" of animals--crayfish, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, fish, hermit crabs, toads, and a dog.
What dreams do you have?
Getting a book published was a lifelong dream of mine, so now I need to dream a bigger dream! I'd love to be able to write and illustrate a picture book someday and perhaps write a play for the theatre. I'd like to start a writing group for young writers in Cleveland. Oh, and I'd love to meet Oprah and have lunch with J.K. Rowling.
Do you have any favorite children's books?
When I was growing up, I read everything--even the backs of cereal boxes at breakfast. My favorite books were mysteries, the Little House series (history, of course!), and the Chronicles of Narnia. I also loved The Great Gilly Hopkins. Even though I'm "grown up" now, I still read lots of children's books. Like many of you, I'm a fan of Harry Potter. Other favorites of mine are The Watsons Go To Birmingham, Because of Winn Dixie, Tuck Everlasting, and The People Could Fly.
How is reading important to you as a writer?
Reading is so important for writers--for everyone, really. No matter what is happening in your life, you can always escape into the pages of a book. Reading has taken me to places in time I could never "travel" to see. It has enabled me to walk in the shoes of people who are different than I am. It has helped me to venture out, even for a short while, from my small world in northeast Ohio. Books have answered my questions, given me ideas, and inspired me. In Trouble Don't Last
, Harrison says, "Nothing good comes outta putting down words." But later, Samuel and Harrison find out differently. Words ARE powerful.
How did you get interested in writing historical stories?
When I was growing up, I often wrote historical plays for the kids in the neighborhood. We would dress up in pioneer costumes and act out scenes from Laura Ingalls Wilder books in the backyard. Our concrete patio would become a log cabin and the fenced-in yard, a prairie.
In high school, I competed in National History Day contests (check out www.nationalhistoryday.org
). One year, I portrayed a millworker from Lowell, Massachusetts for the national competition in Washington, D.C. Another year, I researched the Lewis & Clark expedition and created a special exhibit.
As a college student, I had the chance to live and work in Colonial Williamsburg for eight months. I worked in the historic boot and shoemaker shop and taught colonial games.
So, that's a little of my 'history!'
Feel free to email Shelley Pearsall
with other questions you'd like answered.