Friday, December 05, 2008
FEATURED AUTHOR: Shereen McKellar
Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA by her parents and older sister, Shereen McKellar developed a love for reading. She was an avid reader of books by Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Paula Danziger and the different children/young adult book series such as Ann M. Martin's The Babysitters' Club, Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley and Betsey Haynes' The Fabulous Five.
Shereen's first two book series Summerdale Friends and Greenfield Friends which she created during her pre-teen years was inspired by those series she enjoyed reading. Although she loved writing and received numerous recommendations from classmates and friends to pursue a writing career, Shereen had dreams of becoming a famous choreographer and dancer. It wasn't until she acknowledged her lack of passion for dancing and read Omar Tyree's Flyy Girl that she aspired to become an author.
She attended both Community College of Philadelphia and Temple University where she took various Creative Writing classes. Once she received her B.A. in Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Mass Media, she began to work on Girl Talk, a collection of teen chick-lit stories. Girl Talk is a combination of personal experiences, other individuals' personal experiences, things Shereen wished would have happened to her and good old imagination.
Currently, she is at work on her first novel and thinking about half a dozen more writing projects.
Entertaining and fast-paced, Girl Talk is a collection of four stories about discovery, friendship, infatuation, love and those school days.
Confession on an Answering Service is about a fly, but shy sixteen-year-old girl who has a crush on her classmate as big as Pennsylvania. Will she finally tell the object of her affection how she really feels? Or will she keep her feelings on the down low in fear of rejection?
In Kiss And Tell, Essence is sick and tired of her girlfriends constantly hooking her up with every guy who has a heartbeat and a pair of legs. With the help of her best friend Sean, she devises a scheme to put an end to their relentless matchmaking.
Cloud Triple Nine is a humorous tale about three best friends head over heels in love with the same guy-their English teacher. Which one of them will he pick for steady after school sessions?
In What A Sista Wants, you meet Yasmine Harley who has everything going for her. She's smart, funny, beautiful, independent and has more curves on her than a roller coaster at Great Adventure. But, there's one thing she doesn't have-a man. That is until she meets Jacquese Wilson. He's successful, charming, sexy and covered in the smoothest darkest of chocolate. Before she can say "love," she finds herself in a relationship with him but realizes that like a lot of things, love isn't perfect.
So go grab a bag of potato chips, kick off your shoes, relax your feet and lie back to enjoy some...GIRL TALK.
What would you like readers to take away from your book?
The most important thing I would like my readers to take away from the book is to never judge a book by its cover, but to read the chapters. I think, both teenagers and adults, automatically think we know a person based on their appearance when in fact, we should take the time to get to know a person. This can go from that cute boy in class to your favorite celebrity.
What is your favorite scene from your book?
Well, since my book is an anthology, I would have to choose a scene from the first story, "Confession On An Answering Service" which is when Shanique listens to her crush Jason talking about her to his friends. I love this scene because it's not only the turning point in the story, but it's when Shanique realizes the kind of person Jason truly was.
Why did you elect to write for children?
I wanted to write for young adults because ever since I was in grade school I was an avid reader. A lot of the books I read were books by Judy Blume, Beverly Clearly, Paula Danziger and a lot of the YA book series like The Babysitters' Club, Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley High, The Fabulous Five, etc and a lot of the characters were Caucasian. I use to say all the time, "I would love to do something like this, but books that feature Black American characters," Because just like our Caucasian counterparts, we (Black American) girls like to talk on the phone, we have crushes on our classmates and teachers, hang out with our friends, we get caught up in peer pressure and so forth and so
What did you learn while writing this book?
I learned that writing a book isn't just about writing. If anything, it's more rewriting and rewriting and rewriting:) And with writing a collection of short stories, I tried to not make the stories sound the same or repeat the same words over and over again which is quite a task, but hopefully I accomplished that where "Cloud Triple Nine" is different from "Confession On An Answering Service" which is different from "What A Sista Wants" and different from "Kiss And Tell".
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
That writing is not easy. Many non-writers think it's not hard, but it is. I have tons of ideas dancing in my mind, but it can be difficult to actually put them on paper and make sure your scenes flow smoothly without tricks or gimmicks.
What is the best lesson you have learned from another Children book writer?
The best lesson I've learned is to keep it real when writing for teens even if it may offend some folks. One thing about Judy Blume that I admire is she tackled issues that were touchy to some individuals like teenage sex and having your menstrual cycle but that happens.
What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?
The toughest test is actually letting readers know about my book. It's one thing to be an author with a mainstream publishing house and they have all the distribution channels and a publicity department, but it's another thing when you're an independent author so you have to do the leg work yourself. So yes, the toughest test would be the marketing aspect.
What is something readers would be surprised you do?
It would probably be listening to others' conversations and reading posts on online message boards because you learn different words and get various' opinions on one topic.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
Well, one is that I wished I known that marketing can be harder than writing a book. Two, I wish I had known to be aware that there are a lot of shady individuals in the literary field. And three, I wish I had known to handle each bookseller and librarian differently when it comes to promotional items. I can't tell you how many times I've given posters to bookstores and libraries only for the posters to get lost or to just not being displayed in the window. I would say to any author particularly independent authors to first ask the book seller or librarian would they like a poster and to take a look around the library or the bookstore and see if they have posters in the display windows or plastered on the walls. If so, chances are they will put your poster up. But I would ask first.
How do you reach new readers?
Wow. Where do I begin with this? There are so many ways to reach new readers, but the best way I have found, and it's actually, one of the most affordable ways, is to schedule programs at local libraries. Book signings are good, but in order to pique someone's interest, especially a teenager, is to discuss the book. And with my programs I'm interactive with the audience. I think the most boring thing an author can do is talk endlessly about his or her book for a half an hour to forty-five minutes. That's how an audience loses interest. I always ask my young audience questions related to issues in the book. Then I briefly talk about the book before I either have volunteers read from the book or act out a scene. Apparently that works because the libraries that I have had book discussions at, I've noticed "Girl Talk" is being checked out on a daily basis sometimes several copies simultaneously.
Can you give us five Children book authors you admire?
Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Ann M. Martin, Betsy Haynes and Francine Pascal.
If you could have dinner with 3 authors to talk with about their writing (living or deceased) who would you invite and why?
There are sooo many authors I would like to talk to about their writing, but since I have to narrow it down to three it would be Omar Tyree because he actually inspired me to write as a career and not as a hobby, Francine Pascal because I was such a big Sweet Valley series fan it wasn't even funny and Eric Jerome Dickey because I think he's one of the best contemporary authors out there.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a children’s book writer?
One do is to be friendly and approachable to everyone whether they're buying your book or not. I've find there are authors who are sweet as pie when individuals purchase their books, but are the total opposite towards customers who don't. Your book is not going to appeal to everybody. Not only that, but if you're nice and pleasant that person who may not have bought your book that day can always buy it later simply because how nice you were to them.
And one don't is to assume all teenagers are the same. To me teenagers aren't that much different from adults except adults have more responsibilities. I'm a firm believer in the old adage, "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number,"
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
The best way to reach me is through my website which is http://www.shereenmckellar.com/.
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
Unlike "Girl Talk" which is geared towards teenagers and adults, my next book is geared towards the 18-34 crowd. But I still will be writing for young adults. I have all sorts of ideas from doing a suspense/thriller novel for young adults to a series about a group of best friends aspiring to become a famous singing group. I'm even considering doing an anthology similar to "Girl Talk" but to young males so you just never know. But do know you haven't read the last from me:)
- I believe in promoting authors and their books. Let me introduce you and your books to online readers.
I'm also a happily married mother of three who's trying to break into the Christian writing field. The writing road can be rocky.
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