PictureBookBuzz: Tell us about yourself.
Sherry: I’m so thrilled to be part of this 2019 group! I came to writing for publication later in life. I was a teacher, an educational consultant, and a principal in a school for children with challenges, and also a middle school. I figured if I could manage 1000 middle schoolers I could do just about anything I ever tackled in life.
I live in a small town in Kentucky, near the horse farms we’re famous for. Growing up in Derby city had a big impact on me. I’m pretty fascinated with everything that’s associated with horses and the Kentucky Derby.
I’m one of seven children and we’ve all stayed very close, and now live in the same general area. When we gather for Thanksgiving, there are usually around 70 of us, and that’s with some missing. I have children and grandchildren of my own, and more adorable nieces and nephews than
anyone deserves. So, drawing on my school experiences, my family experiences, and my parenting experiences, I’ve pretty much seen every kind of childhood there is to see. All of that informs all of my writing. I write poetry and prose, picture book through adult work.
PictureBookBuzz: What inspired your book, ROCK AND ROLL WOODS: KUDA’S BERRIES?
Sherry: I love telling this story! My family are all part of my writing team, and I often ask them for help. One day I ask my then eight-year-old granddaughter what I should write about next. She said a bear. And she wanted the bear to be named Kuda, after her bearded dragon. That was the beginning of the series. The first book, ROCK AND ROLL WOODS, just released in October, 2018. This next book takes Kuda on a new adventure, and I don’t remember the origin of this adventure as vividly as I remember the day he was born. I’m sure we talked about what kind of a problem he’d have next. I remember that I wanted to stick with sensory issues and continue Kuda’s struggles to try new things.
PictureBookBuzz: Tell us about your main character.
Sherry: The main character, Kuda, is a bit of a grumpy bear. He’s a very likable grump though. In this ROCK AND ROLL WOODS sequel, KUDA’S BERRIES, Kuda misses the berries in his woods. He needs to swim to reach them. And we all know that Kuda doesn’t like change, and he doesn’t like to try new things. Kuda has darling woodland friends.
PictureBookBuzz: What other books have you written?
Sherry: I’ve written so many books! But only now are some of them getting published. This will be the second to be published, or possibly the third depending on the timing of a chapter book release. That’s not counting the work-for-hire that I’ve been doing because I’m not certain of exact dates for those, and that’s a very separate thing. I have eight of those somewhere in process.
I’ve finished several novel length projects, and hope some day to publish those as well. A middle grade and a young adult novel have won places in contests. I’m the worst at setting aside time to query.
PictureBookBuzz: What do you think readers will find most appealing about your book?
Sherry: I think the characters in the book are fun and endearing. It’s amazing to me at school and other readings how many little hands shoot up when I ask how many have been afraid to try new things, or been afraid of loud noises. Nearly all! For people who read ROCK AND ROLL WOODS, Kuda and his buddies will be familiar. Kuda will have a new struggle that his friends will help him overcome. The illustrations will be similar to the first in the series, so they’ll be fun, appealing characters!
With a small publisher, there isn’t the lead time you guys with larger publishers get. I might not see my art until a few months before the book releases, which should be fall or early winter in 2019, but definitely toward the end of the year, I think. For the first book with Clear Fork, I had very little involvement with the illustrations, but the illustrations by Anika Wolf are fabulous. And Mira Reisberg was blessedly both art director and editor for the book, so I knew it was in good hands. Callie Metler-Smith, publisher at Clear Fork, is in the mix to pull it all together. I just spoke with her a few minutes ago about some details, which is one of the benefits of a small publisher.
PictureBookBuzz: Was there one moment in the revision process that changed your manuscript? Was it a critique partner, an agent, an editor that made you know you were on the right track?
Sherry: With a sequel, it was a bit different. I wanted to keep the rhythmic language, and stay close in characterization for my woodland creatures. So a lot of the conceptual work was established. That allowed me to concentrate on the plot and the language, since my characters were already real to me. I’m a poet, so it’s important to me to have that rhythm in all of my writing. It’s funny—I just reviewed the manuscript following the release of the first book, and didn’t see a thing I’d want to change. I expected that I would, and asked Callie if I could. But, seeing book one live didn’t change anything in book two for me.
PictureBookBuzz: What are you currently working on?
Sherry: I always have a lot of projects going simultaneously. It’s how I work best. I’m working on seven projects of work-for-hire, a middle grade novel, and several picture books. And I write poetry and short things all the time. I finished a rough draft of a new middle grade during Nano.
PictureBookBuzz: If you could give advice to writers who haven’t published yet, or an earlier version of yourself, what would you want to share?
Sherry: You can do it. It’s more hard work than magic. It’s more perseverance than luck. It’s more dedication to craft than imagination. Study, work, and stay the course. It may, and likely will, take a while. But, grab any opportunity that comes your way. Take whatever small steps you can. Accept any hand offered. Be gracious, kind, and helpful.
And, note to even current self: KEEP BETTER RECORDS!
PictureBookBuzz: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Sherry: I love to meet other readers and writers, so be in touch on social media here:
Sherry Howard | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Meet Kuda and Rock and Roll Woods here.
We are a group of picture book authors and illustrators whose first picture books will be released in 2019. Read about our roads to publication here.