Sue Fliess is a Sr. Copywriter for eBay, a freelance writer and children's book author of Shoes for Me! (Pinwheel Books), A Dress for Me!, and Tons of Trucks. She's published over 120 articles and has written for 3-person start-ups to large global companies. She lives in northern California with her husband, two sons and their guinea pig, Mocha. Visit her at www.suefliess.com.
I recently reviewed Shoes for Me! and fell in love with the fun rhyme and lovable hippo that's inundated with shoes that zip, shoes that light up, summer shoes that flop and flip, and more! That's why I was excited to have the opportunity to learn more about the book from Sue Fliess herself. . .
Tell us about your path to publication.
The path to publication...well, it was more like a dirt road with some sparse gravel. No, in all seriousness, I feel extremely fortunate to have been published in what I feel like was a short timeframe. When I started out in late 2005, I'd heard of people writing and submitting for 10 years or more before getting published - some longer without a sale. So, to have sold a book only 3 years after I started on this venture, to me, was amazing. I had help from my neighbor/friend and children's librarian (how lucky is that?) who steered me in all the right directions. She gave me links, websites to check out, told me to join SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and offered to read what I was working on. Though that story didn't sell, she never wavered in her commitment to make it the best it could be. With that knowlege, I was ready to start attending conferences. I went to my first SCBWI conference in 2006 and things started happening for me.
I had my first close-encounter with a very nice editor, Andrea Welch (now of Beach Lane Books), and it was my first contact with "the other side." Thank goodness it was a positive exchange. Also through SCBWI, I found a critique group, which helped me work through and shape my manuscripts - enough that I felt confident submitting them. I applied for the SCBWI Barbara Karlin Grant for picture books in 2007 and received a Letter of Commendation (for my Shoes story). I was ecstatic - and it made me more determined than ever to sell that manuscript. In 2008, I received the same honor for another manuscript (Tons of Trucks). I kept writing and submitting. I made a connection with an author (through an SCBWI event - are you surprised?) who thought my stories would be a good match for her editor, so I sent them in. Five months later, I got my first offer letter for the book available now - Shoes for Me!. I can't say enough good things about SCBWI.
What was your inspiration for SHOES FOR ME?
I wish I had a more glamorous answer to this. This book started out as a story about when it's okay for kids to take off shoes and when it's best to keep them on. My own son liked to take off his shoes (and pants) to go to the bathroom. Needless to say, that doesn't work so well in public restrooms - yuck. I started the story and it was going along okay, but I wasn't loving it. I sought out my neighbor for help, and she encouraged me to write it in shorter rhyme. This forced me to change the story, and it became a story of a little girl shoe-shopping with her mom. It doesn't hurt that I absolutely have a thing for fabulous shoes.
What made you decide on a hippo as your main character?
I didn't! The story is written in first person, and throughout the writing process, I envisioned a little human girl. When my editor sent me the revision letter, she asked for more child/mom interaction, and mentioned that she thought it could be cute with animals. When they looked for an illustrator, they looked for someone who could draw animals well. I'm pretty sure she had her heart set on a hippo, and the illustrator, Mike Laughead, did a great job with hippos...so hippo it was.
What else can we expect from hippo? (any more books?)
Hippo will make another shopping excursion starting next March - for the perfect dress! A Dress for Me! is the companion book to Shoes for Me! and this time Hippo needs new clothes for fall -- for the school year. So she and Mom go dress shopping. It follows the same rhyme and meter as Hippo tries on every dress in the store.
Tell us about one of your most memorable shoe-shopping experiences as a kid or a pair of shoes you'll never forget!
Two pairs of shoes I'll never forget... When I was in second grade (I think), I went shoe-shopping with my mom and was allowed to choose any shoes in the store. I picked out purple, sparkly sneakers called Roos. They had two Velcro straps across the top. (this was a rather new phenomenon) Awesome, right? I remember feeling so groovy in my Roos. The other pair is a pair I currently own. I adore Fluevog shoes, but they are quite pricey, so mostly I covet. I'd had my eye on a pair of their black boots for ages. Within days of getting my book advance, I received an alert that Fluevog was having a sale. Guess which pair was marked down? So, I got my boots without guilt and couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the book.
A big thanks to Sue Fliess for taking the time to tell us more about her work. If you'd like to learn even more, please visit www.suefliess.com, follow her on Twitter @SueFliess and like her on Facebook: facebook.com/Sue.Fliess.Author