Child + Writer = Inspiration By Sara Webb Quest

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I’ve had over a dozen interviews published in the local Prime Time Cape Cod magazine. I got this job after emailing its editor a couple samples of children’s articles and reviews I’d written for another local publication. Guess what? Writing locally pays well and is fun.

My most recent interview was with bestselling children’s author Sara Pennypacker, author of the “Clementine” series. It began with a writer friend informing me of an upcoming Author’s Breakfast on Cape Cod. Pennypacker was scheduled to read an excerpt from her new, hilarious book, Clementine. So, I went to the local library to read every Sara Pennypacker book I could. Each story seemed to come straight from her child-hero’s brain, the style sharply intuitive into how a child thinks. But, it was her Clementine that changed my life. So, I contacted the author for a Prime Time interview and she graciously accepted!

Clementine is a little book with a lot of heart. For starters, Pennypacker used actual incidences that happened in her kids’ lives when they were Clementine’s age (eight). Such incidences include showing one’s younger sibling what “going on a walk” means via spinning the sibling in a Chinese wok! Although Pennypacker’s books target ages seven-to-nine, my five year-old Ayla wanted every picture explained till the end (laughing throughout).

During our before-interview e-mail exchange, I had to confess this to Pennypacker:

“My preschooler Ayla (her name suitably coming from the huntress in the Clan of the Cave Bear books) is a lot like Clementine, doing everything her way, always assuming it is the right way. Before reading your book, I wasn’t sure we had a prayer’s chance of raising so persistent a child. Now I understand having such a child can be a gift. She challenges the parents to be more inventive, to come-up with the most creative ways of dealing with difficult situations.”

I also mentioned Clementine was the first children’s book I’d read in which the parents actually back their headstrong child rather than scolding her. Pennypacker wrote back, thanking me for understanding her positive-parenting message.

In other words, profound inspiration can come from your neighbors. There are amazing, free publications in grocery store lobbies that will pay interested writers and provide them with fascinating subjects to write about.

Once you’ve secured a local gig, endless inspiration is the reward. Since my Pennypacker interview, I’ve created my own middle-grade chapter book based on my daughter’s funniest life events and words.

Sara Webb Quest lives in South Yarmouth with her husband, daughter and cat. Her stories have appeared in Prime Time, Woman’s World, Fandangle and Parenting. She has written many children’s books that crave an agent (including the middle-grade book mentioned). Quest is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. http://www.authorsden.com/sarawebbquest is her website, where anyone may sign-up for her writing-life newsletter.