STATS: Name? Sheila Turnage. Born? Yes! In Jacksonville, NC. Background? I grew up on a

farm in eastern North Carolina and went to college at East Carolina University, where I studied anthropology. Today I live on a farm with my husband, a smart dog, a dozen chickens, and a flock of guineas. Deer and wild turkeys wander through our yard from time

to time.

Q.  When did you decide to be a writer?

A.  First grade. I’d written a story with one of those fat pencils, on that paper with the blue dotted lines. My teacher liked it and she let me read it to a class of third graders, who seemed

like giants to me. I remember thinking, this is it. This is what I want to do. I’m going to be a writer. 

Questions Kids Ask Me – AKA Report Info!

Q.  But how does a farm kid get to be a writer?

A.  No matter where you live, if you write you’re a writer. I had a great start. I grew up around fabulous storytellers, plus my parents read to me when I was small. Then as soon as I could read, my mother got me a library card. I always had books, and when you grow up in the country you get lots of time to read.

Q.  Did you study writing in school? 

A.  I took journalism classes in high school and college, and I still take creative writing classes at

my community college. I like knowing other writers. We learn from each other. Creative people are

always interesting.

Q.  Do you write every day or do you wait until you’re inspired?

A.  It depends. If I have a deadline, I write every day. If I don’t have a deadline, I might write but I always keep an ear out for a story or a character and when I hear one I write it down. And I’m always thinking about my next story. As for inspiration – some days I feel inspired and some days I don’t. Writing is easier when it flows, but sometimes what I write when I’m not feeling so inspired is just as good in the end because I rewrite so much. Rewriting is really important for me. Also fun.

Q.  Suppose no characters talk to you?

A.  One great thing about a creative writing class is you learn how to get situations started so characters can move into them and start talking to each other, or to you. It’s fun to do, especially if you don’t worry about how it will all turn out. Some stories work and some don’t. It’s no big deal if they don’t. The worst that can happen is dirty paper, right? 

Q.  What’s the best thing about being a writer?

  1. A. The moment everything clicks and you know a story works. It’s often a complete surprise. I always expect it to click but when it does it’s magic.

  1. Q. What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?

  1. A. Trusting the click to happen!

Q.  I hear writers work in their pajamas – a perk. True or False?

A.  Some writers probably do, but I wear regular clothes. Right now I’m wearing a t-shirt, shorts and no shoes. No shoes is a huge perk for me. Wearing pjs all day depresses me and confuses the dog.

Q.  How do you think up good characters?

A. I don’t. They find me. What I mean is, they tell their story to me and I listen and I write it down. Sometimes it starts with a word. Or a sentence. Or an outburst. I don’t try to get it perfect, I just write it the way I hear it. Then I polish it into a good story. It sounds odd, but this happens to a lot of writers, the same way musicians might hear music in their minds, or a painter might be carried away by light and shadow.

Q.  Let’s say you’re a kid and you want to be a writer. What should you do?

A.  Read books that make you happy. Think about why they make you happy. Listen to the way people talk and watch how they move. Listen to people’s stories. Jot things down – odd details, funny lines, ideas. Write what makes you happy.

Q.  Can people send their stories or ideas to you for advice?

A.  No, I’m not set up for that because I’m busy writing, too. But I think it's a great idea for writers to work together and give each other feedback.  I take a writing class, but if you don't have one at your school you can ask a teacher or librarian to help you form a group.

Q.  What’s some weird stuff about you? 

  1. A. Wow, how do you think of these questions? Okay, for some odd tidbits of information, including an embarrassing experience, click here. If that link doesn’t work for you,
    click here.

Q.  What’s it like where you live?   

A.  I live on a farm in eastern North Carolina. It’s mostly quiet and flat and green. Most people know about North Carolina’s mountains and beaches, but not as much about the coastal plain, where I live. If you want to learn more about it, click here!

Q.  How do you feel about winning a Newbery Honor for Three Times Lucky?

A.  I am thrilled to my toes. The Newbery Honor is a wonderful award. It means librarians – the people who know most about books – picked Three Times Lucky as one of the year’s best. It’s a huge, huge honor – and it’s an honor I never expected to receive. Go Mo and Dale!