Author Interview: Sue Fliess

Hi, everybody! I am so happy to be interviewing another picture book author today. Let's welcome Into the Wardrobe Sue Fliess, author of Shoes for Me! (illustrated by Mike Laughead and published by Marshall Cavendish). You can click here to read my review of Shoes for Me!.

Hi, Sue! Why did you write Shoes for Me!? What was the spark that set off the story?

Welll, first of all, I DO love shoes. And I know that my children and most children I meet, love to show you their shoes.

So true!

I wanted to write a book about shoes, but knew there were already many out there, so I brainstormed a bit with my neighbor, who also happens to be our local children's librarian, about the topic. The book actually started out as a book about when it's okay to take your shoes off, and when you should keep them on. It just wasn't working. So I tried shorter rhyme, which forced me to to make the topic less complicated. It morphed into a shoe shopping story...and Hippo's journey began!

Sounds like you have an awesome neighbor. ;o) Yay for children's librarians!

What was your writing process like for Shoes for Me!? Is this always your writing process?

I wrote a (very ugly) rough draft. Since this was one of the first stories I wrote that I felt had publishing potential, and I did not yet belong to a writing group, I shared it with my neighbor (the librarian) and she offered me my first critique. I then submitted it for critique at an SCBWI conference, paid for a critique from an editor who was in between jobs, as well as used it to apply for a grant (for which I received an SCBWI Letter of Commendation). I later joined a critique group and began sharing it with them - getting it submission-ready. I revised it 73 times before it was accepted. Now, since I have a critique group, a few online writing friends and an agent, I usually share my drafts with my group for feedback, and when it's as polished as I can get it, I'll send it on to my agent for either her feedback or approval.

That's an inspiring story. Writing is a long process and I'm glad that through your story other writers can see how all the hard work eventually pays off. :o)

What are the five picture books that have influenced you the most as a picture book writer? How have they influenced your work?

Do I have to choose only five? I love William's Doll by Charlotte Zolotow. Having two boys who tell me that when they grow up they want to be makes my heart melt when I read this. What a brave book. Mem Fox's Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes because she captures rhythm effortlessly. The very clever He Came with the Couch, by Tim Slonim - I love his illustrations, and the element of surprise in this book is wonderful. Sandra Boynton - anything by her - but I especially love Barnyard Dance. Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers - it makes that suspended disbelief a reality in a sweet and loving way. Of course a penguin arrived at his door! Michele Knudson's Library Lion gives me goosebumps and I nearly cry every single time. I'm totally serious. What a perfect book. These authors make the picture book look effortless - but I appreciate how much work went into each word. They all bring it home with a satisfying ending. Mostly, though, they inspire me to write the best books I can.

The best writers definitely make it look effortless!

Do you remember the very first time you chose a pair of shoes for yourself? What was your favorite pair of shoes as a child? I remember shopping for black school shoes with my mother, but I never had a favorite pair. . .

Don't laugh. I remember my mom letting me pick out a pair of sneakers - they were purple Roos. They had Velcro across them instead of laces, which, at the time, I thought made me look rebellious or something. Velcro shoes were a new thing, for any young people reading this! Other girls were picking out fancy shoes. I was an athlete. I was so cool in my purple Roos.

Hmmm. Something like this, Sue?

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming books? A Dress for Me! sounds similar to Shoes for Me!. I can't wait to read it!

A Dress for Me! (Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, spring 2012) follows the same rhyme and similar journey as Shoes for Me!, but this time, Hippo has grown taller...School is starting/I've grown tall/Time to buy new clothes for fall. And Mom tells her she can pick out her very own dress. So, together, they go dress-shopping. This will also be illustrated by Mike Laughead. And I just saw the last page color illustration. Hippo looks fabulous!

I always loved back-to-school clothes shopping!

I have another book due out spring 2012 with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Books called Tons of Trucks. It's a rhyming truck book that lets young truck-lovers engage with all kinds of trucks in a new interactive way - beeping, lifting, pulling and more. The illustrations by Betsy Snyder are adorable!

A Dress for Me! sounds fabulous and Tons of Trucks sounds fun! Thank you so much for sharing with us today, Sue.


Simply loved the book! Reads so lovely and my preschoolers love it.