Interview with Shawn K. Stout
This year’s Middle Grade Workshop will be led by Shawn K. Stout, author of six middle grade books including three in the successful Penelope Crumb series. The most recent of these was named as a Bankstreet Best Book of 2013.
As a child, Shawn loved making things up (she says there’s a good one she used to tell about stickball, bloodhounds, and cow pies – hopefully she’ll elaborate in her class). She still makes things up, though she’s a bit more deliberate nowadays. Shawn loves sharing what she’s learned with other writers, and she’s excited to join the WIFYR faculty in 2014. Recently we had the chance to ask her a few questions about her own writing.
After about a decade of jobs that left me feeling unsatisfied, and, frankly, bored, I decided I needed more creativity in my life. I had written a lot throughout my youth but I never had the courage to admit to myself (or anyone else) that I wanted to be a writer. So, I stopped writing for a time—enter unfulfilling jobs—and then finally, on a whim, decided to take a writing class. What came out, during the first writing exercise, was a 10-year-old’s voice. At that point, I knew I wanted to write books for kids and I flung myself headfirst into this amazing world of children’s literature.
Do you have a writing ritual – a particular location, a certain time of day, etc?
I have a toddler and a full-time day job, so it would make sense for me carve out a set time for writing, but the truth is: I don’t. I write whenever I have some spare time and am not too exhausted – on my lunch break at the office, after my daughter goes to bed, first thing in the morning.
What do you do when you aren’t writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my family or playing with my daughter. Or doing dishes. I mean, the amount of dirty dishes in our sink is incredible.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Everything except naming characters and coming up with an extremely vague notion of the story. Ugh, plot. Does there have to be plot?
What writing advice do you have for emerging writers?
Keep writing, keep reading, keep going.
Can you tell us about what you are working on?
Right now I’m working on a middle grade piece of historical fiction about sisters, who on the eve of WWII, set out to prove that their father is not a German spy.
That sounds amazing! We’re excited to see that on the shelves.