I met Sandy during the SCBWI Nevada 2012 Mentorship program, and we bonded instantly although at the time we were writing for different age groups. We became crit partners and I can honestly say that I believe Sandy’s Middle Grade debut is masterful and beautiful and I believe she has a long career before her as a children’s author. Please check out last week’s review of Extraordinary Birds here, if you haven’t red it yet.
[JM] Where are you from and how has that influenced your writing career?
[SSM] I’m from Hughson, a small, rural town in the middle of California’s San Joaquin Valley. I think growing up in a place like Hughson trained me to find inspiration instead of waiting for it. The pace of life was slower, so I think that played a part in allowing space for imagination and also a chance to notice details.
[JM] Tell us about your book, EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS! Pretend we’re in an elevator and instead of us all looking around nervously, you tell us all about what you wrote! Go!
[SSM] December Lee Morgan is an eleven-year-old girl who tells herself the scar on her back are where wings once unfolded. When’s she placed with a new foster mom, Eleanor, who works at a wildlife refuge, December begins to trust enough to accept the truth of her past.
[JM] How did you get into writing? Is it something you’ve always been into?
[SSM] Actually, I wanted to be a filmmaker when I was in high school. I majored in film studies in college and became interested in screenwriting. And, I started to read—I wasn’t a reader until my college years. The fascination with telling a story and using words, as opposed to images, led me to writing poetry. Through writing poetry, I fell in love with language, setting and character, and I wanted to explore these elements in a deeper way so I started to write prose.
[JM] What inspired EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS?
[SSM] The main inspiration came from a newspaper article I read, reporting an incident where a mother, in a methamphetamine rage, physically attacked her young daughter. After reading the article, I wondered how the young girl would be able to survive, emotionally and physically. How would she endure and find a place to heal?
[JM] If you like [fill in the blank], you’ll like EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS….?? ONE FOR THE MURPHYS
[SSM] If you like ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, you’ll love EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS….
[JM] How Important has SCBWI been in your writing journey?
[SSM] Oh, the people you meet! I was part of the Nevada SCBWI Mentor program where I met some incredible writers and friends. It’s important to have people to turn to when you’re on the writing journey. Having their support, guidance and wisdom is irreplaceable.
[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your home?
[SSM] Well, right now I’m staring at an artwork of my maternal grandfather’s barn—he owned and operated a small dairy outside of Hughson. Other artwork are sketches of fish drawn by my father-in-law, and a willow tree made from wire that hangs in our kitchen.
[JM] What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world?
[SSM] I think the park that most amazed me was Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. Incredible!
[JM] Cats or dogs?
[SSM] It used to be dogs, but when we moved into our house we inherited a cat and she’s pretty cool. I would have to say she’s turned me into a cat person.
[JM] Please recommend a coffee shop or restaurant for me to visit in your city/town!
[SSM] Moss Rose Bakery. It’s been in our town for eighty years. It has amazing cinnamon rolls, breads, etc.
[JM] Next time we meet, it’s my turn to come to you (and I can meet baby!) What was your first paid job out of high school?
[SSM] ?I was a swim instructor and lifeguard.
[JM] Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?
[SSM] Definitely coffee, and cookies (preferably sugar cookies from Moss Rose Bakery).