Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An Interview with Stephanie Barden

I recently had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Cinderella Smith, a chapter book about Josephine-Kathryn Smith, aka Cinderella, a girl who loses shoes at the drop of a hat. Stephanie Barden, the first-time author of this engaging read, popped over to The Cath in the Hat for an interview. Here's what she had to say.

First question--How many pairs of shoes do you own?
Ha -- fun question! I own about 25 pairs, including tennis shoes (3), hiking boots (2), and flip-flops (2) -- is that a lot? I seem to have an overabundance of black though -- I think I need to add some color. I like shoes, but they have to be comfortable -- no super high heels for me!

What inspired you to start writing?
I used to think it was my son getting older that did it, but I think maybe it was a crow. I had a fun/funny relationship with one and I shared the stories with everyone who would listen. People kept telling me I should write them down--I finally did and that got me started.

Describe your writing routine.
My goal is to write for four hours four to five days a week. I've done a lousy job up 'til now, but with my son going off to college next year I plan to be much more disciplined.

What writers influenced you?
Hmmm...there are so, so many. In the interest of space I'll share the first five that come to mind: E. L. Konigsburg, Karen Cushman, Beverly Cleary, Ellen Gilchrist and Jean Craighead George.

Tell us a little about your path to publication. 
After scribbling about crows for a while, I decided to get serious. I started taking writing classes and joined SCBWI. After I had something I was willing to share with a "professional," I sent a query letter out to twenty agents. I got eighteen "no's," one "maybe" and one "yes." Luckily you just need one, and my "yes" became my agent. We polished up my manuscript, sent it out to editors and found a publisher.

Some authors start with their characters and others with plot. Where do you begin?
It varies a bit from story to story. Usually, though, I have a very sketchy plot in mind that the characters quickly take over and "flesh" out.

What do you find to be the hardest part of writing?
As a mom, wife, daughter, friend, neighbor, aunt--and all the other things we all are--I find the hardest thing is making writing my top priority.

Tell us a little bit about the next book in the series. Will Rosemary T. remain Cinderella's nemesis?
In book 2, The More the Merrier, Cinderella's aunt is taking care of the sisters while their parents are away. She encourages Cinderella to try to straighten things out with Rosemary T., but Cinderella's not so sure that's possible--especially with the All School Spelling Bee and a class party at stake.

Going forward, are you interested in writing for other age groups or other genres? If yes, what would they be?
I'm so enjoying "channeling" Cinderella Smith right now that it's hard to image. I love picture books and YA, though, so who knows?

What advice can you give aspiring writers?
Taking classes and joining a professional network, like SCBWI, is a great way to connect with like-minded, supportive people. Additionally, Karen Cushman shared the following advice and it's taped to my computer so I can read it everyday:

Show up--make a commitment to write.
Pay attention--stuff yourself with honest experiences.
Tell the truth--based on your own beliefs and passions.
Let go of the outcome--publication is only one reason to write.

Thank you for the interview!

And thank you, Stephanie, for your insightful answers. Best of luck with your series!

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