#RisingStarsinKidLit: Sarah Skolfield

Rising Stars in KidLit began as a way to highlight my fellow KidLit creators who are working their tails off to birth their beautiful book babies into the world. These interviews cast a light on the wonderful work of pre-published or pre-agented authors and author-illustrators who are destined to be stars! For the next several features, we’re collaborating with the hardworking creators of the PB Rising Stars Mentorship Program, Kailei Pew and Ebony Lynn Mudd, to highlight the wonderful and talented creators who were selected for the 2022 Mentorship Program. Learn more about the PB Rising Stars Mentorship program HERE.  

​Meet Rising Star
Author Sarah Skolfield

Photo Credit © 2022 Rachel Skolfield

Photo Credit © 2022 Rachel Skolfield

Sarah Skolfield grew up in Maine and still lives there, which makes her one of the luckiest people on Earth. She is also lucky to have a husband, three teenagers, one un-athletic dog and one food-driven cat sharing her world. She spends days, evenings, weekends, and holidays working as a Physician Assistant in the emergency department of a community hospital.  As a writer, she wants to bring joy to kids and parents by making them laugh. She’s willing to drive long distances for the chance to play field hockey. If you are a field hockey player or fan, you are already her best friend. 

Sarah is currently seeking agent representation. 

AD: Hi Sarah and welcome to the blog! Thank you so much for being here! I can’t wait to learn more about you and your work. Let’s start with your experience in the PB Rising Stars Mentorship Program. Can you tell us who your mentor was, what inspired you to apply, and how the program went for you ?

SS: Thanks for having me on your blog, Amanda!​ My mentor was Andrew Hacket. His debut PB Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea, illustrated by Kaz Windness, will be published in 2024 with Page Street Kids. Andrew was extremely generous with his time and the mentorship exceeded my expectations.  We jumped right in with ambitious goals and kept to our schedule. Post-mentorship, I’m more confident in my writing and revising.

I’m always on the look-out for opportunities to improve my writing and I’ve applied to a few mentorships in the past. So, when Kailei announced this mentorship, of course I checked it out. Andrew’s bio stood out to me and even though applicants could apply to two mentors, I only applied to Andrew.  I felt like he would be the best fit for me. And he picked me! I was at work (where there is almost no down time) so I didn’t get the news until I was scoffing down a protein bar for “lunch”.  Then I had to finish my day before I could really soak in the news.

It’s been an amazing experience. Kailei and Ebony put together a top-notch program right out of the gate. I keep forgetting this is a first for the mentors themselves.

AD: So cool! Andrew and I actually connected through the Rising Stars blog a while back and now through our local Massachusetts/NESCBWI connections and other kidlit/teacher communities. He’s awesome, and I’m sure had a wealth of knowledge to share. What a great partnership! Sounds like an amazing experience with a variety of opportunities to grow, learn, and make connections. Alright time for a speed round…

  • Top three favorite children’s books of all time?  Unfair question! How am I supposed to pick only three?? And you didn’t specify picture books. Just children’s books. But I’m going to stick with the PBs. So, if I must pick only three. On this day, I will have to go with:  Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (because of the line “She went boneless.”), Old Rock (is not boring) by Deb Pilutti (Rock is solid in understanding who he is, which is not boring, and I love the slow transition his friends make to better understand and admire him) and Horrible Bear by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah O’Hora (wonderfully subtle but powerful kindness/forgiveness message)
  • Coffee, tea (or neither)? Coffee in the morning. Green tea for cool evenings. Always decaf. Even that AM coffee. It’s my warm, comforting beverage.
  • Where is your safe place? In a bookstore. Or my backyard. Or camp. All of these just bring me peace. The bookstore can be dangerous to my wallet, though. Have to use caution there.
One of Sarah's safe spaces. © Photo Credit 2022 Sarah Skolfield

One of Sarah’s safe spaces. © Photo Credit 2022 Sarah Skolfield

  • Dogs, cats, (or neither)? Both. Dogs are for taking walks and playing fetch (mine is defective in that area, but what can you do?). Cats are for cuddling and amusing you when they try to play it cool after doing something stupid.
  • Early bird or night owl?  Early bird for sure. But I can be a night owl when it is required. My superpower is functioning without sleep.
  • Three words to describe what it takes to make it in the kidlit world…perseverance, optimism, wonder.
Sarah enjoys writing outside on her deck with her dog, Hannah, who often wants attention. Photo Credit 2022 Sarah Skolfield

Sarah enjoys writing outside on her deck with her dog, Hannah, who often wants attention. Photo Credit 2022 Sarah Skolfield

AD: Okay, now down to the serious stuff….please dish us the dirt on who you are and your journey into the fabulous world of children’s books. 

SS: I’ve always loved reading and used to fall asleep reading under the covers with a flashlight. Writing seemed like a fun thing, too, but I never did anything about it. Until the day I was in a bookstore, wrangling my two toddlers and their baby sister. A book about writing while raising kids jumped off the shelf. The idea that I could be a writer occurred to me. It was literally that moment that set me on this path. Writing for kids was the natural choice. The wonder kids have for their world is inspiring. I want to be a part of that forever.

AD: I love that visual of reading under the covers with a flashlight. I think there’s a story in there somewhere 🙂 I also love that your inspiration to write came from a book (and bookstore)! How serendipitous! It sounds like your ‘aha’ author moment came later in life but did you always know you wanted to be an author? Have you explored other paths or had/have other jobs?

SS: I have a lot of interests.  Writing was in the back of my mind but I didn’t consider it a career option when I was younger. I majored in Russian Studies in college to satisfy my interest in foreign language and culture. But I also took science classes and then went to graduate school to become a Physician Assistant. I’ve been working in emergency medicine and urgent care at the same hospital since graduating from PA school in 2000.

AD: Oh wow! Thank you for all you do in your role as a PA. What an interesting contrast to your work as a children’s book author. Considering the different interests you have, I’m wondering what topics or themes do you tend to focus on in your writing? 

SS: I focus on humor with heart. I like stories that highlight friendship or perseverance. I want my stories to encourage kids to read, read, read and to be good people.

The beautiful view from Sarah's deck at sunset. © 2022 Sarah Skolfield

The beautiful view from Sarah’s deck at sunset. © 2022 Sarah Skolfield

AD: Breaking into the publishing industry is not easy! What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far? What have you done to persevere?

SS: My biggest challenge is self-sabotage, listening too much to the inner critic and putting pause on projects I should probably be trying harder to develop. To persevere? I just keep going. I might pause for a while, but I know it’s never permanent.

AD: Yes! As creators (and humans), we tend to focus on the flaws of our creations or areas for improvement. This helps us grow and develop, but we need not forget the many things we are doing well.  With this in mind, what has been your biggest accomplishment or something you are most proud of thus far on your journey?

SS: Hmm…from the big picture perspective, I’m proud that I haven’t given up. It might be easier to give up. And think of all the other things I could be doing. Like laundry and vacuuming! From a more fine-tuned perspective, being chosen for the PBRising Stars mentorship was a big accomplishment for me.

AD: This reminds me of a quote I heard that said, the only way we won’t succeed at something is if we give up. I truly believe that. Good for you for pushing through. That’s definitely something to be proud of.  In a similar vein, what do you feel are your strengths as an author? What makes your work unique to you?

SS: I think I have a good sense of how to “leave room for the illustrator”. And I can’t wait to prove it!

AD: That’s so important-and hard to do! We can’t wait to see! You mentioned you have a lot of interests, what about inspirations…what inspires your work?

SS: Almost anything. Two traffic cones on the side of the road. A mispronounced word. My cat doing something stupid. I write down random ideas and sometimes don’t remember where they came from. It could be a phrase or a concept. Sometimes it’s just a character name. Sometimes a whole story pops into my head (unfortunately, this is rare).

AD: Love this! Inspiration is all around. We just have to be on the lookout and remain curious. Alright, tell us about your creative process and what you do to keep ideas flowing or what you do when feeling stuck?

SS: If I’m stuck because I’m too busy or I’m too tired, I give myself a break. But if I’m well rested and I have time but ideas aren’t flowing, I get up and pace the loop through my living room and kitchen. I leave my notebook on the kitchen counter. Walk in circles for a few minutes. Jot something down. Repeat. It sounds weird but it usually works.  I am also developing a pre-writing ritual. Something that tells my brain “you are about to write.” So far I have a favorite pair of sweatpants (who doesn’t write in sweatpants??? aren’t they required???) and a scented candle. I think I need some quiet background music, too. Suggestions welcome!

AD: Ooo I love this idea of a pre-writing ritual. It seems like from the psychological perspective, that would work. Classical conditioning so our brains associate that ritual with writing. Like the Pavlov’s dog experiment! You’ll have to keep us posted on how it’s going. I really love listening to this indie/pop station on Youtube called, AlexRainBird Music. You can listen to the Autumn/Fall playlist HERE. Love your list of things to do when stuck, can you also share some of the things that have been most integral in your growth as an author?

SS: Hands down my critique partners have been most integral! I have attended conferences and webinars, read craft books and received critiques from agents and editors. All of that is important, but having CPs to help distill that information is priceless.

AD: Shoutout to the CP’s!! Any final advice you have for fellow kidlit creatives?

SS: Keep looking for a critique group until you find one that really fits. And, of course, do all the usual stuff: read a lot of picture books, read craft books, put your butt in your chair (or pace your living room) and WRITE a lot. Some of it will be garbage. Some of it won’t. I guarantee you have to allow yourself to write garbage. I’m still struggling with that one.

 
 
Two of Sarah’s favorite writing spaces in her home-blank walls are waiting for her to decide what pictures to put up 🙂 Photo Credit © 2022 Sarah Skolfield

AD: And lastly, where can readers find out more about you and your work? 

SS: Right now I am only on Twitter: @sarahskolfield but hope to have a website soon.

Sarah, thank you so much for sharing more about you and your work with us and more about the PB Rising Stars mentorship! We can’t wait to read your humor and heart-filled stories!  Wishing you all the best in your search for an agent.  Feel free to drop a comment below to support Sarah and her work. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on the next Rising Stars in Kidlit feature and follow along on Twitter at #RisingStarsinKidlit

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