I, like many U.S. children of the 90s, grew up reading Sharon Creech’s writing. Bloomability, Chasing Redbird, and Walk Two Moons were the books I couldn’t wait to check out of the library again and again––children’s books that didn’t deal just with children but with complicated families, growth (both internal and external), and a love of the world for all its beautiful complexity.
Bloomability, especially, left an imprint on my mind:
“I cannot even begin to say why I liked fishing so much. I didn’t really enjoy the part about catching anything and having to unsnag the hook and apologize to the fish and release it back into the water. Sometimes I didn’t even use bait. What I liked was casting the line and then sitting there, watching the water.
First I’d see the water and the banks, and then if it was clear like this river, I’d examine the bottom, and then I’d look at the riverbank and the trees, and then it would happen. I would see things that weren’t outside of me, but were inside me.”
I finished re-reading Bloomability on a Greyhound bus from New Orleans to Mississippi back in September, the beginning of my year of fishing for stories. I saw, within Creech’s writing, a kind of freedom I wanted to live––an interconnectivity of story and place.
And a line I love from Chasing Redbird:
“You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.”
Creech’s work is beautiful, unforgettable storytelling. Through and through.
It is with great joy that I present this interview with the one and only Sharon Creech.
DL: What inspired you to start writing? When and where did it happen?
SC: The impulse to write (stories, poems, and plays) has been there from the time I learned to read. When my own children were in high school, which was also around the time my father died, I felt a renewed earnestness about writing. The time was ripe. I wrote a novel. And then another. And another . . . Something was unleashed!
DL: And gosh, I’m so glad that it was! So many of my friends and I grew up with your words at our side. Bloomability never really left my consciousness. Can I ask a bit about your family? Who told stories? What stories did you grow up hearing?
SC: My father’s large southern Ohio and Kentucky family was full of tall tales. Everything was a story, whether it involved a trip to the grocery or a race across a trestle bridge. Adventure and exaggeration and humor were all essential elements.
DL: Your work so clearly comes from that tradition––it is beautiful. Oral storytelling and storytelling on the page intersect and diverge in many ways. What is the biggest challenge you face in writing?
SC: Finding the time and the clarity of mind to immerse in the story.
DL: Why do you write?
SC: I write to find out what I think, to explore what is possible, to understand others, and to entertain, too. I feel compelled to explore the world in this way.
DL: Talk to me about your time teaching in Switzerland. What stands out when you think of that place? Were you able to write and teach at the same time, or did Bloomability come a long time after?
SC: I love the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, where we lived: the air, the mountains, the language, the villagers, the school, the students. When I taught American literature there, my children were in middle school and I wasn’t writing. Bloomability was written about fifteen years later, while I was teaching in England. Several years ago, my husband and I returned to Switzerland (for a year) and during that time I wrote The Unfinished Angel, set in that same village. And now it looks as if we will be returning to Switzerland again for the 2015-16 school year. I will not be teaching, but I hope to be writing.
DL: What projects are you working on?
SC: I’ve recently completed a novel set in Maine. Its working title is MOO, to be published in 2016.
DL: I’m looking forward to reading it. Ok, so a question about place––how have the landscapes of the places you have lived shaped you?
SC: I am definitely shaped by the places I have lived and by the awareness of how vast and varied and beautiful our world is. I identify with mountains and rivers and lakes and oceans and forests and with the varied rhythms of life that arise out of these different landscapes. So many of my stories grow out of particular places and allow me, at some level, to revisit and explore those places, to unearth what remains with me.
DL: Talk to me about the intersection between poetry and storytelling in Love That Dog and Heartbeat. Were you at all nervous to create a work that defied conventional genres?
SC: The form of those stories grew naturally out of the original images and voices I heard in my head. I was not trying to ‘defy conventional genres’; I was merely telling a story through the voice of the main character. It was fun!
DL: What’s your favorite word?
DL: I love it! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
SC: I love what you’re doing on your trek––you are being shaped by it and you will reap the rewards of it long into your future. Bon viaggio!
Sharon Creech is the author of the Newbery Medal winner WALK TWO MOONS, the Newbery Honor book THE WANDERER, and the U.K.’s Carnegie Medal winner RUBY HOLLER. She has written thirteen other highly acclaimed novels and three picture books. Her latest book is THE BOY ON THE PORCH (2013). After living in Europe for nearly twenty years, Ms. Creech and her husband now live in Maine. You can visit her online at www.sharoncreech.com.