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Art & Life with Sharon Skinner

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sharon Skinner.

Sharon, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I have always had a vivid imagination. In fact, my mother once said I had the imagination of ten children. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that once I found books and began to explore the worlds and spend time with the characters inside them, I didn’t want to leave. But all good stories come to an end, so I began writing my own stories in fourth grade, filling pages with aliens, monsters, dragons, villains and heroes.

I knew then that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. However, as with many artistic endeavors, I was discouraged from the idea that I could make a living as a writer. Like many writers, I ended up trying on many different jobs, including cashier, gas station attendant, maid, landscaper, sign painter, biomedical field service engineer, staff development coordinator, videographer, communications coordinator, telemarketer, etc. I even did a four-year stint in the US Navy where I served aboard the first ship to take women to sea on a six-month WestPac (Western Pacific) cruise. Finally, many years later, I had found my way into the grants profession and realized that I was a writer, just not the kind of writer I wanted. So, I changed my goal to be more specific. I want to be a fiction writer when I grow up.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I write novels, short stories, picture books and some poetry. I write to connect, to provide an emotional experience for the reader. My writing took a dark, angst-ridden turn in my teen years and I wrote a lot of very bad poetry. But, as bad as the work was, what I discovered was a way to work through my challenges and big emotions. I found writing to be cathartic, I just hadn’t figured out yet how to shape my writing to provide an emotional connection–to tell the universal story–for others while still engaging and entertaining.

I tend to come at difficult subject matter from a subtle direction, using fiction to delve into things that are often difficult to discuss rationally. In addition to the challenges of their often-heroic journeys, my characters deal with real-world issues like difficult relationships, dark secrets, prejudice, death, domestic abuse, questioning authority, and self-acceptance. I purposely avoid being preachy or didactic and I like to salt a bit of humor and mischievous fun into the mix.

It may seem counterintuitive, but I work very hard create work that will engage the reader in the story to the extent that the words disappear from the page and the journey takes place inside the reader’s mind.

Like many creators, I also dabble in other artistic mediums. I find the kinesthetic aspects of other artistic endeavors to be more meditative than the act of writing, and often exactly the change my brain needs to allow new ideas to rise up out of the subconscious churn. Costuming and fabric arts are among my favorites.

Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
The standards holds true. Stay the course. Ignore the naysayers. Shut down your inner critic during the act of creating and only let that voice guide you during revision/polishing. Don’t ever let the negative voices/thoughts smother your passion.

I am lucky to now have a lot of supportive people on this journey. I hope others can find those people early on. Not just cheerleaders, though they are important, but also honest people who can help you push your art to the next level.

One thing that I wish I had understood much earlier was the importance of knowing my why. Simon Sinek has a great TED talk about starting with why. Knowing why I write—to and create a good story that provides an emotional experience that connects with readers—allows me to judge my success against my personal goals and helps keep me from the spiral of comparing my achievements to what others think of as measurements of success.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
People can find me and my work at book festivals and various conventions, including comic-cons. I just completed a three-month Writing Residency (teaching, mentoring, and writing) at Mesa Libraries that was funded through the Arizona State Library. I also present at various writing conferences and events. I will be at the San Diego Book Festival on August 25, 2018 and will be doing a number of book signings at book stores throughout the southwest this fall. The best way to know where to find me is to check out the Appearances page on my website.

My novels are also available at local bookstores, including indies, though they may have to order them in. They can also be ordered as both eBooks and print books through all online books sellers, and a number of them are now scheduled to be recorded as audio books. My Picture Book, Rocket Shoes (Sterling Children’s Books), can also be purchased from any bookseller, but is only available as a print book. For more information and ways to buy, visit my website for links, check out the online Brick Cave store.

The best way to support writers is to not only buy and read their books, but to post reviews. Even if you didn’t fall madly in love with the characters or the story, a review is still a great way to support. Reviews, good or bad, help create visibility for an author’s work.

Also, if you don’t have the funds to buy all the books you want to read, you can still support authors by asking your local library to carry our books. BTW-there is no rule that says you can’t review a book you borrowed.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Illustrators: Ward Jenkins, Kyna Tek, Thitipon Dicruen, Keith Decesare.

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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