Interview with Melissa Sweet

What is your favorite thing you learned while researching the book?

There were so many favorite things. One is that White, by his own account, was not a great reader. Not that he didn’t read, or have a library in his home, he just preferred being outside and doing a myriad of things from shearing sheep to sailing. That made him feel like a kindred spirit. But how then did his writing feel so effortless? That was the key question to answer.

d9f029e390eb6a0097141258d45e294c-683x1024-1-400x600When you finish a project, do you find it’s easy to move on to something new or do you still think about things you’d like to change or add to your previous work?
Moving on from a project is a challenge since a book never feels quite done. But every book is a prototype for the next project.  A long time ago I had an art teacher who questioned why I was redoing a piece of art. She asked if this new art was going to be “better,” or just “different”? It’s a conundrum, and I think about this a lot in making books. Oftentimes the first take is the best one.

Some Writer! was a longer project than other books you have done. How was your process the same or different from a picture book?

There were similarities to other nonfiction projects, especially in researching and designing a book that marries words, images and archival material. But this book was huge, both in content and visually, and keeping it all straight made me lose sleep at night! Taking small bites helped. For instance, one day all I did was write down the thirteen chapter titles. Other days, I built wooden boxes. Many days I would read randomly read any of White’s work all day. It took time to absorb who he was and how he thought. As Some Writer! unfolded it became a hybrid, a chapter book and picture book, or graphic biography. The biggest decisions in this project (and in all writing) was what to leave out.

What is one thing you hope young readers will take away from Some Writer?

My intent was to create a book that would inspire young readers to write. E. B. White never claimed writing was easy, and he was a stickler for editing until the piece was done. (Like the rest of us, White often made small changes up right up to the last minute). After Some Writer! was published I did a series of school visits, and later learned that one student who read the book was asked how it made him feel. He said, “Like I knew him.” That’s all a biographer could hope for.

What can we look forward to reading from you next? What can you tell us about what you’re working on now?

I’m juggling a few ideas for the next book I’ll write and illustrate. This spring I have two new picture books, CRICKET IN THE THICKET by Carol Murray, and BAABWAA AND WOOLIAM by David Elliot. The next book I’m illustrating (in its early brainstorming stage), is by Kwame Alexander, to be published in 2018.

Thank you so much for your time!
Thank you to all the bloggers who made this Cybils Award possible.  I’m honored, especially given the Cybils Award mission that a book be “yummy and delicious.” I’m thrilled  Some Writer! fits that description.