Sarah Warren is a teacher and a writer. Her picture books include Beyoncé: Shine Your Light, Everything a Drum (2021), and A Spectacular Birdie. Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers was picked for the 2013 Amelia Bloomer Top Ten Book List and awarded a Jane Addams Peace Association Children’s Book Award honor. Sarah’s family lives in Minneapolis with their dog, Bruce Valentine. Visit sarahwbooks.com to learn more.
1. Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?
I love Beyoncé for lots of reasons. She’s an outstanding artist, entertainer, business woman, and community helper. She isn’t afraid to try something new. She is always working to be the best Beyoncé she can be. It makes me want to be the best Sarah I can be. Every day I can try to be better than the Sarah I was yesterday.
2. Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I am very lucky. My brother is an assistant librarian! He’s helped my learn how to use the library’s research tools. They have zillions. I also use lots of interviews to figure out how my subjects like to describe their own efforts. I mostly write about real life, living heroes. When I can, I try to meet them and walk a little in their shoes. I took a class from one of my heroes. Another gave me a tour of her neighborhood.
3. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Sitting down and doing the work. I find a million distractions. But once my mind gets warmed up I really enjoy myself. It’s the best mix of work and play. Anything is possible. Writing is especially hard right now because my toddler isn’t a fan of my writing process. He is very loud and he prefers to have me playing cars with him at all times.
4. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I felt encouraged! I also felt overwhelmed. It’s funny, despite trying to get published for so long, it was hard to wrap my head around the idea that absolute strangers were reading my story. Sometimes they liked it. Sometimes they didn’t. Either way, I couldn’t even say thank you, or tell them what I meant to say, or point out something I thought they missed. It became even more important to me that I understand the ways readers will interact with and experience my writing.
5. Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
Looking back, it wasn’t so much the writing in picture books that captured me, it was the interaction. Storytime was a party at my house. As a kid and a teacher I loved Al Perkins, Ezra Jack Keats, Nina Crews, Mo Willems, Mac Barnett, Peggy Rathmann, Joyce Sidman, Jules Feiffer, and Nancy Carlson. Their books made me laugh and cheer and dance. I wanted to bring that energy to my own writing.
6. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Too many. I started writing in 2002. I published my first book in 2012. My second came out in 2019. I made up a lot of stories in-between. I’m always writing.
7. What does literary success look like to you?
Sharing stories that start big conversations. I love visiting young scholars and talking with other educators about how we can all be heroic and shine a light!
8. What inspired you to start writing?
I started writing while working as a teacher. My preschoolers were obsessed with superheroes. I wanted to follow their lead and introduce them to real life heroes, but our classroom didn’t have enough books about innovators, artists, and leaders that reflected our diversity, so I decided I would just have to write them myself.
9. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to cuddle with my dog, I take lots of walks with my toddler, and I love to watch TV. I used to love to read, but I got burned out in college. I’m trying to get my focus back with longer books. Right now, I love to read poetry, short stories, essays, and I listen to lots of audiobooks.
10. Do you have a website or social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) where readers can learn more about your work?
Yes! Visit me on sarahwbooks.com