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Northern Lights

Questions & Answers with Shelley

Where do you find your ideas?


I’m kind of an obsessive “idea collector.”  Whether I’m traveling, or reading, or just driving around town — I’m constantly looking for odd and interesting things to write about. Below are a few of the recent "story possibilities" I've spotted in my travels.  Feel free to invent your own stories for them!  

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childhood photo of author Shelley Pearsall
I'm 2nd from the right, age 10, dressed for a pioneer skit.

How did you get started as a writer?


It all started when my first grade teacher let me write a story on the back of a math worksheet when I finished it early. After that, I couldn’t WAIT to finish math. (And it also explains why I'm better at writing than long division today.) When I was in elementary school, I often wrote skits for my friends based on the books we were reading. Check out our Little House on the Prairie photo on the left.

Why do you like writing historical stories?


I grew up surrounded by history. Literally. My great-great grandpa served in the Civil War as a Union soldier from Ohio.  My great-grandpa fought in World War I. I have other ancestors who were early Iowa pioneers and small-town shoemakers. In high school, I competed in National History Day (check out  As a college student, I had the chance to live and work in Colonial Williamsburg, a colonial history museum in Virginia -- which was fantastic!

What advice would you give to kids who want to write?


Write and read. A lot. It sounds very basic, but it is the only way to learn the craft. Put away the technology -- observe, eavesdrop, daydream instead. Be courageous with your words. Be persistent in reaching for your dream in the face of resistance or doubters (we've all had them in our lives). If you are interested in writing contests and opportunities, I recommend checking out The Young Writers' Project as a good place to start. Or if you want to try writing your first novel, check out Nanowrimo for young writers!


What do you like to do for fun?

My passion is travel and exploring. I love discovering new places and being awed by the beauty in nature. (We must protect this beautiful blue orb we live on!) Visiting museums, reading, hiking, swimming, taking a class, painting a picture, listening to local bands, watching a theater production -- that's a short list of some of my favorite things.  

author with mermaid sculpture

What are some of your favorite books?


Holes by Louis Sachar, Wonder by RJ Palacio , Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis,  Moonbird by Philip Hoose, The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton, A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, and too many more to name...


What would people be surprised to know about you?

Okay, I've never been a mermaid...but I've had some unusual jobs in life. Colonial games teacher in a historical tavern. Storyteller on an ore carrier. Researcher of 200 year-old shoes from a Revolutionary War shipwreck. Recycling character named TinCan Tilly. 

And Finally...A Few More Strange (But True) Facts


As a child, I used to write in my bedroom closet and in a tree in our backyard. I was an unusual kid.


When I was thirteen, I sent my first “book” to a New York publishing house.  It was rejected, but a famous editor named Jean Karl sent a note to me, encouraging me to keep writing (you can see the note here.)

first rejection letter
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