Sherri Duskey Rinker is a mom who loves to garden, cook and collect old oil paintings. She lives in a crazy house, filled with unmatched socks, kids, total chaos, endless noise and a dog who barks whenever she picks up the phone. She is also a #1 New York Times bestselling children’s picture book author.
Tell us about your latest book.
On Valentine’s Day, the long-awaited sequel to GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE debuts, titled MIGHTY, MIGHTY, CONSTRUCTION SITE.
Henry: Will there be rhyme? Will there be heavy equipment!?
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
First, I hope that fans of GGCS will enjoy and appreciate this second offering; I’m so afraid of letting anyone down! Next, the theme of the book deals with friendship, teamwork and cooperation, and I hope the spirit of that comes through — joyfully.
Henry: Breathe! You’ll be fine. 🙂
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
For me, it’s finding the TIME and the QUIET to write in the mix of a busy life — taking care of my kids and our home, promoting books, traveling for school visits, etc. Oh, and editing. I hate editing.
Henry: And yet, revision is key to getting the most story out of 500 or so words. I thought you were going to say creating good rhyme, BTW.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
The stories we put out there can become treasured memories for kids and their families. That’s pretty big. And amazing.
Henry: So true. And those stories can shape lives. I still remember borrowing (over and over again) WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE from my elementary school library. WTWTA was a gateway drug to LORD OF THE RINGS. And LOTR eventually lead me to become a writer.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
I’ve had the opportunity to “talk shop” with authors and illustrators that I greatly admire. That’s been pretty awesome. And, school visits: I love school visits and talking about books with kids. When I mention a book that I love and a bunch of faces light up… wow: such a connection!
Henry: I love answering young reader questions at school events. You never know what they’ll ask. “What’s your favorite color?” “How old are you?”
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read everything in your genre. Stalk bookstores. Read reviews. Read the trades.
Henry: Read like no one’s watching. But write like everyone is.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” — Albert Einstein
(I think this resonates with me because I’ve always felt a little intellectually inadequate — my recollection of history, geography and factoids is limited. I don’t watch much television, so I’m always out-of-the-loop on pop culture conversations. My ability to recall classic literature and romantic poetry is faulty. I fail miserably at Jeopardy. But, perhaps, imagination makes up for that, just a little? Einstein boosts my confidence — a bit, anyway.)
Henry: “This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you work?
I prefer to be showered and dressed — I’m not sure that’s strange, but I hear of authors writing in their pajamas, and that just doesn’t feel like “work mode” for me. Also, I like beverages —Sorry, Henry — Nothing too odd; I’m kinda boring.
Henry: There’s nothing strange at all about writing in ballroom attire… *backs slowly away*
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Does singing count as a superpower? Ok, then — FLYING. Totally.
Henry: Magical singing that produces an extraordinary result most certainly would be a superpower! See “Treesinger” in THE WHEEL OF TIME or Tolkien’s AINULINDALË, the tale of the song the angels used to create the world.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
JK Rowling, Kate DiCamillo and Beverly Cleary — just to bask in their greatness and hear them discuss their work, processes and inspirations with each other.
Henry: I think everyone knows who JK Rowling is. Wikipedia helpfully adds:
“Katrina “Kate” DiCamillo is an American writer of children’s fiction for all reading levels, usually featuring animals. She is one of six people to win two Newbery Medals, recognizing her novels THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX (2003) and FLORA AND ULYSSES (2013). Her best-known books for young children are Mercy Watson series illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.
Beverly Cleary is an American writer of children’s and young adult fiction. One of America’s most successful living authors, 91 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide since her first book was published in 1950. Some of her best known characters are Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy, Ramona and Beezus Quimby, and Ralph S. Mouse.
She won the 1981 National Book Award for RAMONA AND HER MOTHER and the 1984 Newbery Medal for DEAR MR. HENSHAW. For her lifetime contributions to American literature, Cleary received the National Medal of Arts, recognition as a Library of Congress Living Legend, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the Association for Library Service to Children.”
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
I adore Despereaux! — such a dramatic, emotional, unlikely hero with so much surprising inner strength.
Henry: Don’t get me started on fantasy animal heroes! Here are four heroic mice: Desperaux Tilling (from THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX by Kate DiCamillo), Reepicheep (from PRINCE CASPIAN by C.S. Lewis), Martin the Warrior (from REDWALL by Brian Jaques), and Celanawe (from MOUSE GUARD by David Petersen)
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Read a book, work in the garden, bake a nice bread, shop for old oil paintings or antique gesso frames (but, admittedly, I’m running out of wall space). Oh — I’ll confess: I love naps. Especially on Sunday after church, or on dreary days. I. LOVE. NAPS.
Henry: Not enough wall space? “Honey, we need a bigger house!”
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
Thanks for stopping by! Now… go read to a child: It makes all the difference.
Where can readers find your work?
Wherever books are sold. 🙂
Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Sherri!