Thursday, September 8, 2011

7 Questions For: Author Sheila Kelly Welch

Sheila Kelly Welch is the author of Waiting to Forget

Click here to read my review.

Sheila Kelly Welch began writing and drawing in elementary school. Her black crayon was always worn to a nub from sketching horses with long manes and sweeping tails. Now she writes and illustrates for children of all ages. Her story, "The Holding -On Night," published in Cricket, won the International Reading Association’s Short Story Award. Her most popular books are Little Prince Know-It-All and A Horse for All Seasons. Her middle-grade novel, The Shadowed Unicorn, was short-listed for the Prairie Pasque Award, and  it was likened to Bridge to Terabithia in a Booklist  review. She and her husband live in Illinois where they raised five sons and two daughters. Four of the children were adopted when they were of school age. Although she has two degrees from Temple University, she has learned more from her children than from any college course.

And now Sheila Kelly Welch faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

This is a very tough question! Okay, if all the books in the world were being destroyed, which three would I save for myself? Picture book: SWIMMY by Leo Lionni; Middle-grade: WINNIE-THE-POOH by A. A. Milne; Adult: A PATCHWORK PLANET by Anne Tyler – Ask me tomorrow and I might give different answers!

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

Another difficult one because it varies so widely depending on what project I'm working on and whether I have a deadline. Sometimes the deadline is self-imposed, which helps me stay on task. I probably average (over a year) about 15 hours a week writing and another 5 working on illustrations. Reading? About 15 hours a week.

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?

Ever since junior high school, I hoped to write and illustrate for kids. But life got in the way -- teaching, raising our seven children (we cheated – six were adopted), taking care of pets. Then I had open heart surgery and could actually hear my artificial valve ticking away the time. So I got serious and started writing short stories. I researched children’s magazines and two years after my operation, my first story appeared in a magazine.

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

In answer to the first question, both, I think. I majored in Fine Arts so I never took a class specifically in writing fiction or in illustration. Many writers, myself included, learn their craft through reading. I'm not referring to how-to books although they can be useful. I am talking about reading lots of books in a variety of genres. This is an enjoyable way to learn! Technique, craft, plotting, etc. can be learned. However, a striking individual voice and use of language, I think, are probably born in some people. But the writing life -- which involves people who spend time writing whether published or not -- takes a good deal of persistence and dedication plus a hopeful attitude if publication is a goal. These traits, also, seem to be innate.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing about writing is the creative process – making something from scratch and being able to share this with children. I find it very satisfying. The one and only thing that I dislike about writing is typing. I've never been a great typist, and I am a poor speller, but now I have a medical condition that makes typing very difficult. And writing by hand is even harder.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

To adults who really want to write and get published, I'd say read a LOT and write a LOT. Write about the things that interest you and are important to you. The truth is, writers write. And now, with the stigma attached to self-publishing dissolving and the cost dwindling, getting published is within almost every writer’s grasp.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Oh my! To make this a bit easier, I will not drag anyone from the grave. I would totally love to sit down with Beverly Cleary and tell her how our oldest son (now 41 years old) got hooked on reading because of her books. And now a granddaughter (age six) is loving those same Ramona tales. If Beverly couldn't make it, I'd choose Kevin Henkes because his middle-grade novels are small masterpieces. And he actually used the word "saffron" twice in one of his books, and I have a granddaughter named Saffron.



  1. Lunch with Kevin Henkes would be fun too, I think!

    It was great getting to know Sheila through the 7 Questions!

  2. Sheila is a long-time friend of mine, and her answers
    are as wise and honest...warm-hearted...helpful as
    she is. Her books are engaging and beautifully capture a child's emotions; and her illustrations add so much to
    the story. Count me in for that lunch with Beverly
    Cleary, Sheila!


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