Congratulations June! All the members of On the Scene in ’19 are proud of you and wish you the best of luck with your middle grade debut, RES-Q TYLER STOP. With such a unique background, you are a modern-day renaissance woman. We know you bring all your life experiences and love of history to your writing. Compiling mountains of research and completing your book is a major accomplishment. Kudos!
What other jobs or careers have you worked in prior to becoming an author?
I have held a wide variety of jobs since I was a teenager. Here's a short list: Babysitter, house cleaner, movie theater usher, pizza maker, insurance secretary, legal secretary, executive secretary, marketing secretary, research and development secretary, library assistant, sewing/quilt designer, columnist, and technical editor. My 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' job since the time I was about four years old was to be a school teacher!
I was blessed to spend twenty-one years as a classroom teacher working with students in Kindergarten through fourth grade. It was an extremely rewarding career, and I told parents I had the best job in the world working with youngsters to teach them the gift of reading—among other skills.
I was a literacy mentor in our district for three years. This involved high-level training in all aspects of language arts. I believe this training from language arts specialists has helped me in my writing for children and adults. Lastly, working with several student teachers and mentoring new teachers allowed me to pass along to the next generation of teachers some of the wisdom I had learned from my mentor and my years in the classroom.
Describe your process of taking an idea and developing it into a story.
Usually, an idea percolates in the back of my mind for awhile before I begin putting it down on paper or on my computer. Once I have the basic story, characters, and setting formulated, I usually use color-coded index cards to write down my thoughts about the plot, setting, and characters. By using a different color for each of these elements I feel like I can stay organized. Being organized is part of my make-up.
I know some authors use Excel spreadsheets, outlines, or story maps. The index card method works best for me because it was how I organized my research projects and term papers in high school and college—in the days before computers were available to schools and consumers! As the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Next comes the research. I do a lot of research for my fiction writing. For this book, 'RES-Q Tyler Stop', which is set in Sonoma County, California in 1968, I borrowed and read numerous books from the library on the history of California, Sonoma County, and the Pomo Nation. I also read biographies of some of the famous characters who are named in the story. My goal was to paint an accurate, authentic, and respectful picture of the Pomo people and the time period in this area.
After I am satisfied I can go forward with confidence to write the best story possible, I begin typing my manuscript into a Word document on my computer. I usually work for a few hours a day, or as much as time allows, until I have the basic story recorded. Then I begin reviewing the story and editing and polishing.
What do you hope your writing will do for those who read your work?
As I mentioned above, I want readers to come away with a sense of an accurate, authentic, and respectful picture of the issues addressed in the story. I hope readers will be inspired to maybe open their minds to an idea or culture they had not previously known about or thought about.
The sacred rule in my classroom was two words, "Be kind." In this middle-grade novel in particular, I would like young readers to feel the compassion for animals and people exhibited by the main character, Weston Gregg, and his family. Perhaps readers will consider transferring these feelings and traits over to their own lives—that would be very rewarding to me as an author!
Are you working on something new at the moment?
I am working on Book Two in this Tyler Stop series. Weston and his younger sister, Wendy, have more adventures in store for readers! I don't even have a working title for this second book yet, but I have the story elements written out on my colored index cards.
Of course, there will be a lot of research for me to work on before I begin typing up the manuscript since this second book will feature new issues and people for the main characters to work with and new problems to face. I hope to have this one ready to publish by early 2020.
What do you do in your free time?
I learned to sew by hand and stitch hand-embroidery when I was around eight years old. Then I learned to use a sewing machine when I was eleven. I've pretty much been stitching, sewing, and quilting ever since! I enjoy sewing clothes, gifts, and home décor. I spend a good deal of my stitching time making quilts for the local women and children's shelter in our county. The quilting group to which I belong also makes comfort quilts with scriptures written on them. When I want to relax, I work on cross-stitch or hand-embroidery projects.
I enjoy spending time touring historic homes, gardens, and art and history museums. I love to walk by the ocean and in parks. I like to cook and bake, and trying out my own recipes is fun for me. Of course, I love to read, write, and blog.
What would you like readers to know about you?
This story might tell you a little about my personality. A few years ago after we had toured a beautiful historic home in Northern California, the docent asked me, "So what did you like about this home?"
Without missing a beat I said, "I loved everything!" The docent smiled and told me she'd never had anyone answer her question quite that way.
I love history and nature, and I love seeing and learning new things. My curious, inquisitive, creative nature has led me to write down my thoughts in the form of books and short stories to share with others. There simply isn't enough time in the day for me to get answers to all of my questions, but I love to try.