Sherryl Clark on How Writers Work

Today I welcome Sherryl Clark to talk about her journey into writing, her books and other things.

How did you get your first book published? 

My first children’s book, “The Too-Tight Tutu”, came from a writing workshop I did with Meredith Costain. She told me to work on it and send it off, so the first place I tried was Scholastic. It was rejected, so then I tried Penguin – yes, I was one of those very lucky unsolicited subs! My story landed on a desk there just when they were starting the Aussie Bites series. It was the right length and they didn’t have a ballet story, so I had my first acceptance. It was such a shock. I had been writing poetry and short stories for adults for years, and teaching writing workshops in the community. I think my short story writing helped me with chapter books – all that condensing and action. I didn’t have a mentor, but I remember Michael Dugan helping me enormously with all the contract stuff, information about children’s publishing, and then putting me onto Macmillan Education, where my next two chapter books were published. It all rolled on from there. I’ve never forgotten Meredith’s and Michael’s help, and I try to pass that on to my students. That’s what I love about children’s publishing – the way everyone shares – the SCBWI conferences are great fun.

What is your daily writing routine? Do you have any rituals before you start your writing day?

I don’t have a routine. I’ve been teaching for years, 3 days a week plus the prep and marking, so I have to fit writing around that. It means I read and write a lot in the holidays! I have learned that if I have a block of time, I really have to make myself sit down and write, no matter what. Sometimes I have to bribe myself – just one page and you can stop. And then I never do, I just keep going. A good day for me is about 2000 words, or six poems. Since my husband retired I have started writing in cafes, and gone back to writing first drafts by hand and then dictating onto my computer (my computer-induced neck problems have led to this), but I am taking a year off teaching next year to finish my MFA (Masters in writing for children and YA) and write, so I think I might need to create a routine to make sure I actually work. I’ve never been a person who can sit and write all day, though. I tend to do a lot of thinking, and then sit down and write it all out really fast, hence the first draft never scares me. It’s the revision that takes the discipline.

Tell us about your writing room

Hmm, which one? Cafes are good as long as there are no screaming kids. I used to like the kitchen table until the house was no longer my own space. I guess you could say I am in the middle of making a new space right now, and once all the rubbish has gone to the tip and the paper to the recyclers, I might actually have something that works.

What is your latest book or WIP?

I’m working on two things right now. One is a historical fantasy novel about the plague – it veers between historical and fantasy all the time and might settle down by the second draft. The other project is a multi-voice verse novel, which is an experiment. There are days when I think it’s all rubbish and I should give up, and other days when I love it. My next book coming out with Penguin will be one of the very last Nibbles – The Littlest Pirate and the Stinky Ship – and then a couple of months after that will be a new verse novel, Runaways.

My website is at and I have a teaching/writing website at


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