Sherry here celebrating turning in my tenth book!
Yesterday I turned in my ninth Sarah Winston book, Absence of Alice, and as always I tend to reflect on what led me to this point. Hank Phillipi Ryan interviewed me recently for the Sister to Sister blog from the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime—read the full interview here.
Here is the first question Hank asked me and my response:
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Do you remember the very first time you thought: I’m going to write a book, and I can do it. What was that moment?
SHERRY HARRIS: It started with a short story contest I spotted in a newspaper. I started writing and writing and writing until I realized I was writing a novel instead of a short story. I never doubted that I could write a novel, but boy did I have a lot to learn about writing a novel that was good enough to be published.
The first writer’s conference I attended was in Monterey, California – a small conference with about fifty writers. Everyone who wanted to could read for five minutes. I did. As I stood there reading I was thinking “this is terrible, it’s all backstory and description.” Fortunately, the people at the conference were kind and pointed out the good things. The keynote speaker told me I was a good writer and loved that I was writing a book about the conflict between two sisters. Two sisters? I was writing a murder mystery, but no one could figure that out.
Back to the drawing board. I went again the next year. I’d made some progress, but one woman thought I was writing a horror story. Oops. Everything was over dramatized. Then I realized I needed to take some classes and read some writing books.
I took an online class at a community college, attended a now defunct but fabulous conference in Seaside, Florida taught by the MFA professors at Florida International University (how I wish I could hear them all again with what I know now), and read writing books by Hallie Ephron and John Dufresne among others.
And then, of course, as I’ve said many times before I met Julie Hennrikus at Malice Domestic who told me to join Sisters in Crime and attend the New England Crime Bake. Since then I’ve been surrounded by wonderful writing friends.
I’ve also gotten edits back that were discouraging (one long ago that was so terrible that if it had been my first one I would have given up), stacks of rejections, I have two and a half novels sitting on my computer that won’t see the light of day.
My point is that with writing you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You have to want to learn, to always be better, to reach out to people in the writing community. And you have to do it your way. Don’t listen if someone says you’re not a writer if you don’t write every day or if you don’t plot or if you don’t write in the mornings. Find your way.
Writing isn’t easy, most of us don’t make much money, but there is nothing better than holding your book in your hand, seeing it on the shelf at the bookstore or library, or having someone take the time to write you to tell you they love your books.
Thanks to all of you that have been here with me.
Readers: Do you remember a time you thought of doing something and carried through?