Sherri L. Smith
Faculty, MFA in Creative Writing Program
Residency Site: Plainfield VT
Sherri L. Smith is the award-winning author of YA novels Lucy the Giant, Sparrow, Hot Sour Salty Sweet, Flygirl, Orleans, and the bestselling middle grade historical fantasy, The Toymaker’s Apprentice (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). Her books have been listed as Amelia Bloomer, American Library Association Best Books for Young People, and Junior Library Guild selections and appear on multiple state reading lists. Flygirl was the 2009 California Book Awards Gold Medalist. Sherri was a 2014 National Book Awards judge in the Young People’s Literature category. She is a three-time writer-in-residence at Hedgebrook retreat in Washington State, as well as a resident at Wassard Elea retreat, in Ascea, Italy. Sherri has worked in film, animation, comic books and construction. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her clever husband and difficult cat.
MA in Humanities with a concentration in Creative Writing, California State University Dominguez Hills
MS in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, San Francisco State University
BFA in Film and Broadcast Journalism, New York University
Areas of Expertise
Fiction, Graphic Novel, Young Adult/Middle Grade
I was my first student. There were stories inside me waiting come out, and I wrote them in the only way I knew how: short form. Every English class I’d ever taken only allowed me a few pages to get an idea across. And then two things happened. I was describing a story idea to someone who stopped me halfway through and said, “This is a short story?” Clearly it was not, but novels were intimidating, giant constructs. Then, my mother found a simple message in a book at a yard sale: “If you want to write short stories, write short stories. If you want to write novels, write novels.” I had worlds in my head, which would grow if I let them. I was a novelist. Or I could be, if I could learn how.
That is my approach to teaching. It’s my belief that we teach ourselves to write by writing and reading, thereby creating our own, individually-tailored tool kit to achieve our writing goals. While there is undeniable magic in the writing process, a sense of connecting to and channeling the story, there are also real world techniques that can help the process. My work in story development at Disney gave me a strong sense of story structure. Structure provides the bones on which to build any story. Structure can be taught and, once the basics are understood, it can be altered to suit. My years of reading, and writing existing characters taught me character voice, and therefore character motivation. Listening actively, talking to people, questioning choices–a lifelong practice that helps me to understand human motives. All of this can be applied to writing in any genre. But I do not believe in characters without a story, or story without strong characters. Fortunately, the tool kit I have developed can be used by anyone to get through the first draft.
I believe in going where the story is, regardless of genre. My books range from historical to speculative to contemporary. To date, I am the author of five award-winning young adult novels and a bestselling novel for middle grade readers. I’ve also written comic books for The Simpsons characters. I am currently writing my first non-fiction book, and have sold my first graphic novel to Scholastic. I can’t wait to discover where the muse leads next.
- Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen?Penguin Workshop2018
- PasadenaG.P. Putnam and Sons2016
- The Toymaker's ApprenticeG.P. Putnam and Sons2015
- OrleansG.P. Putnam and Sons2013
- FlygirlDelacorte Press Books for Young Readers2009
- Hot, Sour, Salty, SweetDelacorte Press Books for Young Readers/Laurel Leaf2008
- SparrowDelacorte Press Books for Young Readers/Laurel Leaf2006
- Lucy the GiantDelacorte Press Books for Young2002