the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog


Posted by Adi Rule on Thu, May 18, 2017 @ 08:05 AM

The wait is over! Waiting for Sophie, Sarah Ellis's new chapter book with illustrator Carmen Mok, is out now from Pajama Press!

WaitingForSophie_Website.jpg“Waiting is my worst thing. I want to jump on waiting and smash it to smithereens and flush it down the toilet.”

It’s hard to be patient while your baby sister is being born. It’s even harder to wait for her to grow up into a  real playmate. Luckily Liam has Nana-Downstairs to help him with wisdom, humor, and construction advice for a very special machine.

Welcome, Sarah! So, tell us . . .

What was the spark that ignited this book?

I had been thinking about the passage of time. For me, time gallops. (Another birthday! Didn’t I just have one?) For children, time crawls. (How many sleeps?) So I asked myself what children have to wait for and I came up with the one human event that technology has not managed to speed up, waiting for the birth of a baby. The other spark was a book by James Gleick, Time Travel : A History, a study that took my mind and bent it like a paper clip. From these two interests I devised the story of Liam who builds a time travel machine to get his baby sister to grow up faster.

Tell us about how you sold this book.  Were there a lot of revisions along the way?

This short chapter book was a kind of assignment. Pajama Press (with whom I had done a couple of picture books) had published a several books in this mode and asked me if I was interested in giving it a try. I adore assignments. And the more restrictions the better! Here’s where it gets to be a fairy tale: I wrote the story quickly. It was easy. I never write quickly. It’s never easy. I gave it a once-over-lightly and then I emailed it in. The publisher replied the same day accepting the ms. as is. As is! That never happens. In the end there were a couple of edits in response to the illustrations, but they were minor. I figure this was my once-in-thirty-years gift from the writing fairies.


What authors do you love for their sentences?

My taste in sentences is omnivorous. For classic restraint I go to Beatrix Potter. (Her punctuation makes your heart sing.)  For lush baroque excess, Frances Hardinge. (Pile on the metaphors. More, more, more, said the baby.) For poetic that is by no means “poetic” I’m currently enjoying Flannery by Lisa Moore. (Is that even a sentence? Who cares? This y.a. novel bypasses your brain.)

Tell us about something special you keep on your desk/wall as you work.

This bear, drawn in ink on rock, was made by illustrator Fritz Eichenberg for Margaret K. McElderry. He came to live with me via Susan Cooper. He reminds me of the amazing people in the world of children’s books and my great good luck in having known some of them.

bear.jpgHis posture is casual, but look at those claws! I bet he's great at revision.

What unusual swag do you wish you could make for this book?

I’d like a small, compact, efficient, well-designed, affordable, solar-powered and reliable time machine that does not involve coltan in its manufacture and will never wear out or require updates. Too much to ask?

I was one of the VCFA students lucky enough to get you as an advisor. You gently whipped my WIP into shape! :) How did teaching at VCFA affect your own writing life?

The acquisition of a group of writerly friends from the pool of faculty and students has been the main legacy of VCFA as regards my writing life. As for my actual writing it was new vocabulary that had the greatest effect. It’s like bird-watching.  Until you know the name of a rufous sided towhee you are unlikely to spot one. Similarly, until I heard “pause button violation” I didn’t see such misdemeanors in my own writing.

What is your favorite VCFA memory?

Graduation July 2007, The Unreliable Narrators. Reneé Critcher-Lyons belting out the Abba song “I Have a Dream” accompanied on the ukulele by none other than moi. (I noticed that subsequent graduating classes did not avail themselves of the opportunity to have me perform. I can’t imagine why. But that just makes the memory all the more special. :)  )

Thank you so much for stopping by the Launchpad, Sarah Ellis! Welcome to the world, Waiting for Sophie!

Sarah Ellis is the award-winning author of over twenty books for children and young adults. In 2013 she was awarded the B.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Award For Literary Excellence. This year she was one of Canada’s nominees for the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Having retired as a children’s librarian and then retired from college teaching she is now writing and reading fulltime in the rain in Vancouver.

Visit Sarah online at

Topics: chapter book, Sarah Ellis, 2017 release, Pajama Press, Carmen Mok

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