Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt is a very talented writer and also an online marketing specialist. That may be a key to why her books sell so well. She’s an awesome interviewee and I was blessed when she said she’d answer some questions for GotInterviews.com. Thanks Sheri. Now onto the interview.When did you first pick up a pen or pencil knowing you were going to create something other people would or should appreciate? Was it for fun? Was it a school assignment?
Your question made me laugh! I didn’t “know” if people would appreciate my first newspaper or magazine article. I simply hoped I didn’t come off looking like a ding-dong. LOL! When I wrote my first book, which was a career guide for teens, I simply hoped it would help guide readers towards a fulfilling career. When I wrote my first fiction book, You Think It’s Easy Being the Tooth Fairy?, I just really hoped it would earn out my advance so I wouldn’t have to pay it back. HA! I’m pleased to report that I’ve received numerous royalty checks!
What was the first positive comment you received about your writing?
Oh, gosh, it’s been a good 10 years since I started. But I do remember a local magazine editor telling me I had a good sense of article flow, and several people I wrote about told me I made them sound interesting, for which they were very grateful. HA! I didn’t try writing a book until I’d written a ton of articles. The only way I could mentally approach book writing was to think of it as a bunch of magazine articles – step-by-step, bit by bit.
How did your writing progress after that first positive?
I just wanted to get good at writing feature stories. I remember telling other more established writers, those I met personally who were also writing for local paper and magazine outlets, that I wanted to polish my own articles, rather than an editor doing it. I distinctly remember them rolling their eyes! HA! It took me a while to figure out that while they, too, wanted to produce a great story, they were not interested in editors coming back with numerous revision requests. I spent hours and hours on a single story – even those I got a mere $50 to write – because I was so fearful of having an editor reply with “You might want to rethink writing as a career choice.” HA! Seriously, a writer’s ego is so fragile in the beginning. It often takes numerous credits and kudos before you stop feeling like an imposter.
Sometimes people find it difficult to submit their work to editors. Have you ever had that problem?
Writers are very territorial about their stories, though they do know that editing usually improves a story. But sometimes editors actually insert errors as they edit. Grrrrr! After getting yelled at by a source whose quote was changed, I quickly learned to ask to see the final draft of magazine stories to ensure that didn’t happen. I always get to review the final draft of my books. I always reply with a long list of suggested revisions (now’s the time to catch typos!). It’s certainly a dance between author and editor!
Do you remember your first rejection?
Sorry, no. Simply because I received too many of them. HA! Pitching story ideas to editors is my least favorite part of being a writer. But I have some writer friends who would rather pitch than write. Go figure! What was more painful to me was having Chronicle Books, the publisher of Tooth, turn down a middle grade fiction book draft I later pitched them. If I recall correctly, my editor said, “This is crap. Go back to writing picture books.” I can laugh now, but at the time I was devastated.
Did your first rejections spur you on to try harder or bring you down for a while?
Magazine pitching is hard work, and if you’ve put a lot of time into your pitch, trying to show the editor that you’ve done some story research, including stats and who you’ll interview, it can feel like you’ve wasted your time when they pass. But that’s the time to not drop the idea. It’s the time to dust off their rejection and pitch it to another editor. Most writers end up writing for only a handful of magazines, sticking with those editors who are easy to work with. Once they have a foot in the door, they no longer have to provide those long, detailed pitches because the editor trusts them to deliver. That is the best part of the editor-writer relationship: two-way trust.
I love your book YOU THINK IT’S EASY BEING A TOOTH FAIRY? What inspired you to write the book?
I signed up for a picture book workshop at The Chautaqua Institution in upstate New York. A week before the workshop, I still hadn’t come up with a story draft, which was the only course requirement. One morning I started thinking about Santa Claus. My brain eventually tripped through other famous story characters. When I thought about the tooth fairy, I started wondering why she’s always depicted so dainty. Does nightly tooth nabs sound like a dainty job? NO! That’s why my tooth fairy character is an action gal, with her own high-tech gadgets (patent pending!).
In your school visits, have you found a lot of children who want to be writers?
What I’ve found is that children love writers. Seriously, they treat you like you’re a rock star when you visit their school. What’s funny is when they ask for your autograph, like it’s a big deal. It is pretty funny being asked to write my name on arms and legs, when the kids run out of paper. LOL!
What are your words of encouragement to young students who want to be an author just like you?
Read a lot of books. Learn to watch for how your favorite authors write their sentences and use punctuation. And write a lot. Journaling is a good way to start. Or give yourself a short daily writing assignment. Something along the lines of “Today was awesome because…” or “When I turn 25, I will….” or “My brother is so dumb that he….” LOL! Overall, my advice is to remember that without a plan, there’s no result. Force yourself to read and write weekly, if not daily. You simply can’t get good at expressing your thoughts without practice.
I saw that YOU THINK IT’S EASY BEING THE TOOTH FAIRY has been translated into French and Hebrew. How did that come about?
Chronicle holds the foreign rights to Tooth. It’s their job to try to get it published in other languages/formats. I believe there’s a Korean version in the works as well. And Scholastic Books recently created an audio CD and soft cover version of Tooth.
Also, have you had any French or Hebrew fan mail come your way?
I don’t get fan mail in the traditional sense, but I do get online comments. Or a teacher will pass a pile of letters my way.
Can you share any news about upcoming children’s books you have in the works? Our readers would love to know what to expect next.
Well, I’m still tweaking that middle grade novel my Chronicle editor told me was crap. HA! I’ve rewritten it about 25 times. It’s certainly much better, but I’m still not sure it’s finished. Or maybe I’m just gun-shy about putting it out there with that old rejection hanging over my shoulder. But, as they say, “NO GUTS, NO GLORY!” So I will have to get to it, right?
For you, what is the most enjoyable aspect of writing?
Holding the published book in my hands. Sorry, but it’s true! Writing does not always come easily to me. A part of me still can’t believe I stumbled into being an author! I really enjoy hearing that kids – and parents – find my books fun, interesting, and valuable. One of my books features crafts projects, including a recipe for making what looks like vomit. To see the excitement on the faces of boys – who typically hate reading – is very rewarding. I’m so grateful that I helped to nudge them to read, even if I had to do it with vomit. HA!
Finally, something I always ask my interviewees. Can you tell us something no one else may know about you?
Hmmmm… you probably already know that I held onto a car for three days at a car dealership hoping to win it….and that I have a twin sister….and that Tooth has sold more than 18,000 copies. Oh, wait! I know! I woke up this morning with my upper eyelids swollen to about 10x their normal size. Seriously, I looked like one of those bug-eyed toads you see in nature books. I think I must have rubbed my eyes last night, after using cotton balls to remove my toenail polish. I still look freaky, 12 hours later, but there’s an upside: now I have inspiration for my Halloween costume! LOL!
Here are two ways to find out more on Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt:
The Children’s Books of Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt
The Writing and Editing Website of Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt