Interview with Author Suzanne Morgan Williams

Suzanne Morgan Williams writes fantastic books for children. After ten published non-fiction titles her first novel, Bull Rider was released in 2009 from Margaret K. McElderry. Bull Rider recently won the Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City and was chosen in 2008 to represent Nevada in the Pavilion of the States at the National Book Festival in Washington DC.

China’s Daughters; Women in Chinese History is upcoming from Pacific View Press. Her other non-fiction titles are mainly multicultural for kids 10 to 14 and include many that she wrote in co-operation with native people. Suzanne’s also the Co-Regional Advisor for the Nevada SCBWI and constantly works hard helping other writers/illustrators to better their craft.

Since this blog is about offering inspiration to writers and artists, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote? If so, why is it your favorite? 
Well, I’m not much on quotes, but sometimes when I’m feeling particularly stressed, I quote myself a bible verse,
“Consider my servant Job.” 
If you know anything about what that man endured, well, it puts things in some perspective.
How much of your life experiences play a part in your writing or the characters you create? 
In my nonfiction books, life experience plays a part in the skills I have at research, interviewing, and truly listening. It also directs my interests. For Bull Rider and my current fiction projects, I piece together a lot of experience – mine and others’. I still interview and listen to get material, and I lend my own emotional experiences to my characters. So even though I’ve never ridden a bull, I have pushed around some cows and I know what their hides feel like. I’ve only skate boarded once, but I used to crash and burn roller skating on the sidewalk, and although my brother, thankfully wasn’t injured in the Iraq War, I do know what it’s like to watch a man you love lose some of his faculties to disease.
If you could go back in time when you first began writing, what piece of knowledge would you take back with you into the future? 
I guess I would have liked to have had a clearer picture of what I had to learn. I always thought my work was great – I’m an optimist – and I think sometimes that got in the way of my learning more techniques. But give me enough time and I figure it out.

When you are done working for the day and your brain feels like slush, how do you rejuvenate it and get writing? 
I don’t. I am a full time writer, so when the brain goes I move on to other things – arranging school visits, doing things for SCBWI, mowing the lawn. Lots of times I stop writing around 2PM and then I do other stuff, finish my day, and I get a great idea at 9 and I go write then too.

In your writing career, who’s had the biggest influence on you? What did they do to inspire you to keep writing? 
I don’t think there is one person. There were lots of little things people said. Sometimes they were comments from people in my critique group or from authors or editors reviewing my work in a critique session at a conference. There is a long list of people in the back of Bull Rider who supported me. The inspiration was always that someone else believed in me and the value of my writing, my work. I can run with that for a couple of months.

Could you tell us a bit about the Western Heritage Award you won recently for Bull Rider? 
That award is from the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City and it was for the best juvenile book written in 2009. Their criteria is that the book must be set in the West and represent the values and people of the West. Marguerite Henry, Louise Erdrich, and Russell Freedman have also won this award. I was pleased to be in such good company. They threw a great party in Oklahoma, too, with award winners from film, music, and literature. I’m also proud that Bull Rider is on the intermediate finalist list for the Nevada Young Readers’ Award and is on the Texas Tayshas (high school readers) and Lone Star (middle school readers) lists.

You have come across many writers and artists in your career. What piece of advice have you given most to writers and artists? 
It’s not too glitzy but this is it. 
“This isn’t a race. Your life is a conglomeration of family, work, creativity. Sometimes you have to do what you need to do right now and you’ll write or paint when you can. Your time will come – because you need to create. In the meantime, be patient with yourself.”

If you could pick one word to describe yourself, what would it be?

Thank you Suzy! You’re so full of life and inspire so many with your amazing talents, especially with all the effort you put forth for the SCBWI. Congratulations on your recent award for Bull Rider from the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma and I can’t wait to read your next book.

If you would like to find out more about Suzanne Morgan Williams please visit her website and follow her blog here.  She is also a Co-Regional advisor for the Nevada SCBWI and throws outstanding events for writers and illustrators!

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