An Interview with Sally J. Pla, by Yasi Erwin

As reported in “All Natural Teen” Magazine, Summer 2016:
by Yasi Erwin, Student and Journalist, age 13

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Yasi: What inspired you to write?

Sally: I’ve wanted to be a writer since second grade. I finished my first novel when I was nine – 42 pages about a rat who lived at the dump – and I bound it with black yarn to look like rat tails. I was an English major in college and graduate school, and worked as a journalist for many years before deciding that enough was enough, and I wanted to try to write stories for young people, about rats and cats and dogs and people and life and love and growing up and all that important stuff again!

Yasi: What is the backstory of The Someday Birds?

Sally: I’d always wanted to write something about the many road trips our family had taken together – and how challenging these adventures were for my middle son, whose OCD and sensory issues means he hates being uprooted from familiar routines and being plunged into the unknown. That’s all become part of the adventure story I felt Charlie was asking me to write.

Yasi: Are you working on any other books currently?

Sally: Yes! The story of Stanley, a very fearful, timid, 12-year-old comic-book fanatic who gets roped into entering a wild, crazy, comic-book-trivia treasure hunt all around downtown San Diego! He must compete against his ex-best friend—and face his deepest fears—in order to win. There’s also a loud, brash, giant girl in this story named Liberty Silverberg, who is very brave. I totally love Liberty, and Liberty totally loves Stanley… but Stanley’s not so sure… Anyhow, that book is slated for January 2018, from HarperCollins.

I also have a children’s picture book, tentatively titled “Burrito Brothers,” under development with a different publisher.

Yasi: What/how long is the process from writing a draft, to publishing a final copy?

Sally: This is different for every writer. In my experience, the first draft takes about 9 months, and I do a bit of revising as I go. When I finally like what I have, I send the manuscript to my literary agent. She reviews it, makes suggestions, and when we both like it, my agent submits the manuscript to a group of editors at the traditional publishing houses. And if an editor there likes the manuscript enough, he/she will make an offer to buy it.

At that point, a contract gets signed and the real work begins! The new editor and I will carefully burnish, revise, cut and re-draft until the story really shines. Then the copy editor and I get to work on nit- picky stuff, and the art department gets to work on the cover, and the marketing and publicity departments rev up. If you are interested in more about how a book is made, there is an excellent series of YouTube videos from if you search “Harper Kids” and “how a book is made.”

Yasi: Did any author(s) inspire you?

Sally: Oh, yes! There are SO many wonderful middle-grade authors. I love
Kate di Camillo (Because of Winn Dixie, Flora and Ulysses, Raymie
Nightingale). Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me). Richard Peck (A Year
Down Yonder). Rita Williams Garcia (One Crazy Summer). Neil Gaiman
(Coraline, The Graveyard Book). Ingrid Law (Savvy). Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan)… I could go on and on!

Yasi: What is your favorite book and why?

Sally: Oh, my. I can’t name just one. I binge on books and even on subjects sometimes. One year I read nothing but Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories. I like mysteries sometimes, and stories of adventure, other times, and stories of strange and quirky family dynamics. Last year I was really into non-fiction science books to help me understand quantum physics (although I still don’t think I get it) and for a while I read a lot of philosophy.

Yasi: Is there anything else I should include about you in my article?

Sally: Hmmm. I like to play the piano. I currently have a broken leg, which is kind of a bummer. (Try not to do that, everyone. Don’t break your leg!) My giant golden-doodle knows how to smile, to our endless amusement (we call our dog The Attention Vortex – he pulls us in). Also, I have gotten pretty interested in the history of comics, and am working my way through watching all the Marvel movies in story-order (when I’m not staring at my dog!) I should also say: please come visit me anytime at sallyjpla.com — all the latest news on The Someday Birds can be found there.

Yasi: Do you have any inspirational words or advice for teenage girls?

Sally:There’s so much in culture, now, that makes us think our superficial exterior is what’s important, when it’s not. A young friend told me the other day about a Beyonce concert she went to. Some girls in front of her spent the whole concert looking at their own images, in their phones, as they recorded themselves singing along. They missed the concert, because they were so busy staring at themselves! There’s a whole world out there, beyond our screens. All kinds of interesting things to learn, real experiences to have. Sometimes we forget.

I’ve always loved what Audrey Hepburn said: “The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart.” If you are healthy and strong and have goodness in your heart, a goodness towards others, it will shine out of your eyes and make you beautiful. That’s all that matters.
Also, my Irish grandmother told me four words of advice once that I think are great. No matter how giant a catastrophe, to take a deep breath, shrug your shoulders, and remember that: “This, Too, Shall Pass.” ###

If you’d like to read the full “ALL NATURAL TEEN” magazine by Yasi, you can find it by clicking here: All Natural Teen Magazine

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