I don’t remember ever wanting to be a writer when I grew up. I just liked to read! So imagine my surprise when long after my first few books were published my mother unearthed my old elementary school report cards, and I read these comments by my 5th and 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Hall:
“Suzy has a good command of the English language and a flair for creative writing…. I hope she will continue to do creative writing as I and the students have especially enjoyed her talents in this area.”
I grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and went to college at the University of Oregon, where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s in library science. My husband and I moved to Renton, Washington (near Seattle), just after I finished college.
I didn’t start writing children’s books until after I’d been a librarian for ten years, and had children of my own. My husband, Mark, is principal trombonist for the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra. We have two adult children, and a toy fox terrier named Toby.
By the way, there are TWO Suzanne Williams who write for children. My books are all fiction, but Suzanne Morgan Williams (who lives in Reno, Nevada), writes mostly nonfiction.
F.A.Q. – Frequently Asked Questions
When did you start writing children’s books?
I liked to write as a child, but I never thought about trying to get published until I was in my thirties. My first book, which is still in print, was a picture book called “Mommy Doesn’t Know My Name.” It was published in 1990.
Where do you live?
I’ve lived in Renton, Washington since 1976. (I moved from Oregon to Washington as soon as I graduated from college.)
How many brothers and sisters do you have?
I have an older brother and two younger sisters.
Did you have any pets when you were a kid?
My family had a dog named Sniffer when I was quite young. He was a medium-sized mutt. Later, we had a white and black cock-a-poo named Tuffy; (he looked like a small sheepdog), and a calico cat named Patches. We also had pairs of mallard ducks from time-to-time. My dad was a nurseryman, and the ducks helped keep down the population of slugs and bugs on the plants he sold. Unfortunately, they sometimes also nibbled on the plants!
Do you have any pets now?
Yes, one dog. Toby is a toy fox terrier.
He was born on January 31, 2003.
How do you get ideas for stories?
A lot of my earliest stories got their start in real life. My children would say or do something funny, and I’d find a way to work what they’d said or done into a story–as part of what a character said or did.. My daughter at age two saying “I’m not a pumpkin, I’m Emily,” in response to my calling her that “pet” name, led me to write my very first book: Mommy Doesn’t Know My Name. Of course, I add and change events as needed to make a satisfying story. One of the fun things about writing fiction is that you can change what really happened to what you WISH had happened! Things going on around me, what I remember from my own childhood, ideas I get from reading books and watching movies, and my personal philosophy of life also influence the things I put into my stories.
How long does it take you to complete a book?
I honestly don’t know because I’ve never kept track of the amount of time I spend on any one story. It may take me only a few days to get down the first draft of a picture book text, but then I’ll usually work on it off-and-on over a period of months, getting feedback, then writing successive drafts. Middle grade books, like the ones in the Goddess Girls series take several months to write. My co-author and I are usually on tight deadlines for those, but we still manage to trade drafts back and forth several times before we send the books to our editor. Then we revise again after she gives us her comments and suggestions.
How many books have you written?
That’s a tricky question. I’ve written far more stories than have ever been published. Many of my early stories will never be published. I consider them practice. But of all the stories I’ve written so far, more than sixty have been published (or will be published within the next year.)
Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite?
Humpf. I don’t play favorites with my books. It would be like asking parents, “Who’s your favorite child?” How could they answer? (Unless you don’t have any siblings!) All of my books are near and dear to my heart for different reasons. The truth is, my favorite book is always the one I happen to be working on at the time. Seeing a book develop and take shape is the fun part for me. By the time a book is actually published I’ve moved on to a “new” favorite. My favorite recently: whichever is the next book in the Goddess Girls, Grimmtastic Girls, or Heroes in Training series!
Did you have any role models as a child and who were they?
Role models? Well, Nancy Drew for one. She was so brave! My parents influenced me the most, of course. They modeled the joys of reading because they were readers themselves. They also read aloud to me and my three siblings, and made sure there were lots of books in our home. I don’t know very many writers who weren’t READERS first.
Do you have any advice for kids (and adults!) who want to write or illustrate?
- Read, read, read! Especially, read the type of stuff you want to write. Then write the type of stuff you like to read.
- Write about the things you know about and CARE about (through experience, reading, movies, research, etc.) If you aren’t passionate about your subject, how will you make your reader feel anything?
- Take risks: be honest, show your true feelings.
- If you’re blocked, try freewriting: to discover topics, to get yourself going, to help get past “stuck” points in a story or characterization.
- Let your first draft be as crummy as it needs to be–just get words onto paper. You can fix them up later. “The first draft is the writer’s clay.” – Bruce Coville
- Don’t be afraid to throw large amounts of writing away. Cutting words–many times, pages of words–improves writing.
- Word choice: Use interesting verbs and specific nouns. Avoid adverbs and too many adjectives. Simple past tense is usually best.
- Learn how to give and take suggestions for improving a piece of writing. Writers need to know how their writing “comes across” to others. Readers can help by asking questions and pointing out places where they were confused, places where the action or dialogue seemed too “unbelievable,” places where things moved too slowly (or too fast), and, of course, places they especially liked.
- Write, write, write. Keep a journal. Try different kinds of writing: poetry, short stories, nonfiction, plays, picture book, essays, personal experience, etc. You get better at writing by learning the skills involved (the “rules”) and by WRITING. It’s the same kind of process as learning to play a musical instrument or a sport.
- Join a writing or critique group.
What are your hobbies?
READING, journal writing, yoga, walking, hiking, travel, doing stuff with family and friends.