What led you to writing your first book, “Sara’s Flower Garden”?
After retiring from a 36-year teaching career in high school science, I was moved to write a story for my grandchildren. My mother-in-law passed away and the grandchildren had a difficult time when Nan passed. The story was about the “rhythm of life” centering on the family dog aging and changing. I had no idea what I was doing at the time and then a local honey company asked me to consider writing a story about honey bees. “Sara” emerged as my main character and she began to “speak” to me about how she wanted to tell the story. The book is part educational about honey bees and part about how fear dissolves when you learn about what you fear. Sara and I have a partnership now and book two is in the works after I also created a set of cards for families to use in positive family interactions. I am grateful to Blue Haven Bee Company for the inspiration that opened the door for me to create the first book.
As a new author, what challenges and rewards have you seen on this journey?
The most challenging aspect for me was feeling worthy of putting my story out there in the midst of so many wonderful children’s stories and feeling like I have something unique to offer. The publishing process was daunting for me because it is a world I knew nothing about but I firmly believe that what ever is needed appears if you trust the process. I used a traditional publisher and learned along the way the pros and cons of this means of preparing my book. The wonderful connection that was made through the publisher was the finding of my illustrator, Debbie Byrd. The more I have navigated this world the more I have gained confidence and also thanks to Connie Huddleston’s guidance, I am becoming an independent author with the publication of the second book, “What Would Love Do?” I have been able to gather the resources locally to format the book and the courage to use technology more and more.
What is the overriding message behind your writings?
As more stories with Sara evolved, I wanted to find a way to help children process emotions and find ways to share experiences with family members in a positive way. The second book is about making choices from a centered place of love not anger. Sara also shares a technique that her Grama teaches her about taking a moment to breath and center yourself in order to respond instead of react. I also want to continue to educate children about simple ways they can make a difference and will continue to have the honey bee theme woven in the stories.
Do you ever laugh or cry while reading your own books? Explain.
The most memorable moment for me was when the illustrator showed me the first painting of the book. Sara was brought to life for me, just as I had seen her in my mind, standing in front of her garden. I broke down and wept with joy in the publisher’s office. The connection I have with the illustrator is amazing and she continues to bring the stories to life for Sara and I.
What author, living or dead, would you most like to meet and what would you ask them?
I would love to have met Dr. Suess and now especially as I am entering the world of writing children’s books. I have read and reread his books to so many children, and I would love to ask him how he kept the joy and inspiration in his writing. Each book invites children to step into the world of imagination and curiosity and how do you sustain that over the years.
Learn more about Shari Spokes at:
C.M. Huddleston's review of Sara's Flower Garden:
If I read a picture book, I want a good story with strong illustrations that I’ll want to read to a child more than once. What good is a picture book you can’t read over and over? Sara’s Flower Garden is a contender for a read more than once book. The illustrations by Debbie Byrd are lovely watercolors with lots of detail. The story entertains and teaches. I think children will enjoy hearing the story more than once.
Author Interviews and the Occasional Blog by