SIX MINUTES WITH SHENNEN BERSANI:
Joining LitPick for Six Minutes with an Author is Shennen Bersani, author and illustrator of almost 30 books. Her book, Achoo! Why Pollen Counts, is perfect with spring right around the corner. One of our student reviewers gave it 5 out of 5 stars, saying, “It is a fantastic multi-purpose book that is perfect for anyone who enjoys nature or wants to know more about pollen.”
***How did you get started writing?
When I was very young, my parents sang songs to me. By the time I reached fourth grade, I was writing my own songs, composing them, and singing along with my guitar. As I grew older, I took creative writing classes and expanded my writing into stories. I always dreamed of being an author.
***Who influenced you?
My mother was my biggest influence. She encouraged me to keep journals. I filled my journals with poems, songs, stories, and drawings.
***Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
I am very fond of earth science, nature, and animals. I don’t have a particular favorite book, I simply love learning new things! I gobble up any books I can find on animals and their habitats.
***What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Read, write, edit.
Read as much as you possibly can. By reading the works of others, you get an understanding of what makes a successful poem, song, or story.
Take a notebook along with you; you can keep one handy in your backpack. When rhymes, poems, or story ideas come to you just jot them down. Read your entries over at the end of the day. Add descriptions, including how you felt at the time, if you were happy, sad, tired, hungry; was it cold, hot, sunny, dark, or raining? Expand on these notes to write poems, stories, plays, books.
Then comes the edits. This is the hardest part but most important. It is natural to feel your first draft is fabulous and couldn’t possibly be improved! You struggled over your words, selecting just the ‘right’ ones - and it took so darn long for Pete’s sake! There is no way you will want to change anything, it will kill you to do so! Wrong, and I’ll prove it. Set your first draft aside for a few days, a week, or a month... then reread it out loud to yourself. Time has a way of changing our perspective. You will now chuckle at yourself and find all sorts of words or sentences you will want to change and correct. Oops, there you missed a period, and there’s a misspelled word. I simply can’t stress how important edits are to improve your writing. I just wrote this answer over a dozen times.
***Where is your favorite place to write?
I love sitting alone near my aquarium, surrounded by plants and photos of my family. I have this set up in my studio where I also illustrate books. I write out my research notes and my story arcs freehand on sheets of paper first, then type them up on my computer where I edit, edit, edit.
***What else would you like to tell us?
Don’t ever get discouraged! Follow your dreams wherever they take you. I have piles of unpublished stories. The more books you read, the more you write, the better your writing becomes.
Also research as much as possible. I crisscross the country doing research and asking people I meet countless questions. I try to learn as much as I can about a subject before I write about it.
Thanks for joining us, Shennen. We love how your parents began by igniting this passion inside of you that you continued to fan into flame. Your advice about placing a first draft to the side is very helpful, and we know it will benefit many students and other writers. We look forward to your next book featuring natural elements.