Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Sharon Griffin

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and where you live and work.

My name is Sharon Griffin, from Houston, TX, and I work as an adjunct professor, teaching General Psychology. Previously, I worked as a Program Coordinator in NASA Johnson Space Center's (JSC) Education Office, placing high school and college students on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) internships and planning conferences, workshops and events, as well as supporting outreach events in the community.

2) Describe your journey to becoming an author.

I've always been good at writing, but oddly enough, I didn't like doing it for enjoyment, that is until recently. While working at JSC, I had the opportunity to meet many amazing, smart and talented women, both in technical and non-technical positions; however, they were still the minority in comparison to their male counterparts. Last April, while on a work trip in El Paso, TX, I had this light bulb go off in my head for a great idea. I did some internet research on children's book pertaining to male dominated fields. The only items that populated were articles about the small percentages of women in male dominated fields, hence why those career fields are still called that. After conducting the research, that's when I came up with the premise of my children's book. I wanted to write a children’s book that showcased the different career paths a little girl can pursue, all the while portraying different ethnicities for the various careers. I wanted little girls everywhere to be able to relate with the book and envision themselves doing those jobs. When I was a child, I never felt I connected with the characters in the books I read because I never saw any that looked like me. Having four biracial daughters of my own has inspired me to want to shed light on this issue and the desire to see more diversity in children's books.

3) Who is your ideal reader?

Although the book caters more so to early childhood to 5th grader, the ideal reader for my book is ANYONE and EVERYONE! The great thing about my book is that even though it is geared for little girls, it is teaching little boys that we as females are equal and can do the same jobs as males. I believe the sooner boys are exposed to this type of thinking, the more open minded they will be as adult males. This book allows mommies and daddies to let their daughters know, at a very young age, that girls can do anything boys can and that we should be treated equally.

4) Describe your path to publication. Has this experience met/exceeded your expectations?

I knew I had a great concept for a children’s book, but didn’t want to wait around for a publishing company to pick me up. Instead, I decided to pursue publication through an established self-publication company; however, after speaking to several company representatives and the fact that I would lose creative control by using one of their illustrators, I made the executive decision to publish the book through my own publishing company. Thanks to the Houston chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, one member took me under her wing and provided me step by step instructions on how to launch my own publishing company. A coworker at JSC also suggested a mutual friend of his wife’s to do my illustrations. After viewing samples she created for one or two of the professions in the book, the ethnicities I wanted portrayed and my vision for the illustrations, I knew she was the right individual to do the job. Veronica Sepulveda did an amazing job bring my words and vision to life with her illustrations.

This experience has by far exceeded my expectations because it taught me to not accept anything until I was 100% sure of the results and that it had my approval. Thinking in hindsight, I know I made the right decision in my path to publication and wouldn’t have changed it if I was ever given the opportunity.

5) How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?

Currently I am promoting my work through the use of social media, such as: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and my blog. I am in the process of scheduling author signings at local elementary schools in the Houston and surrounding areas. I participate in local author events that I find out about through the Houston chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Another avenue I use to promote my work is LinkedIn groups, where I have opportunities like this, and the ability to do interviews and have my book reviewed to generate interest and book sales.

So far the method that has worked for me has been Facebook and the creation of a fan page for my book. I’ve held a contest where the individual who brings the most “likes” to my page wins an autographed copy of my book. Now I am seeing that using the LinkedIn groups is generating more interest and support of my book, as well as helping me build a network with people in the same profession.

6) Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?

My favorite authors are Jhumpa Lahiri, Robin Cook and Stephen King. I’ve loved the Harry Potter movies, but haven’t had a chance to read the books yet. Currently, my reading list consists of what my daughter is reading for school. She’s fallen in love with my Shel Silverstein books and has been reading them to me. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to some of my all-time favorite books as a child.

7) Describe a typical day in your life.

On a typical day, I drop off and pick up my eldest from school. In between, when I am not taking care of my daughters or taking care of my household, I am usually on LinkedIn promoting my book or finding ways to promote my book through different outlets. Also, I am currently looking for full time employment. Also, I am in the process of schedule school visits, where I will read the book and do some activities with the children in elementary schools.

8) What projects do you have in the works?

I am in the process of creating a YouTube channel, where I will be interviewing women who hold positions in male dominated careers and give them the opportunity to talk about their path and the struggles they dealt with and had to overcome. In conjunction with the YouTube interviews, I will be posting those interviews, in detail, on my blog. I am also coming up with lesson plans to go with the book so that teachers can implement the book into their classroom curriculum.

9) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Don’t give up on your dreams of getting published. If you feel your story is worth sharing with the world, take initiative into your own hands and make your dreams come true. Always have faith in your abilities, trust your instincts and never let anyone tell you any different. That is what is going to distinguish you from others who don’t strive to make their dreams a reality.

About the Author

I was born in Muscat, Oman and lived in India until I was 5 years old. On December 24, 1986, my family and I made the journey to the United States. For the past 26 years, I have been living in the Houston, TX area. My parents have been married for 31 years and I am the oldest of three daughters. I hold both a Bachelors and Masters in Psychology, and graduated with both my degrees from the University of Houston – Clear Lake. Of all the grandchildren on my dad’s side of the family, I am the only college graduate. I have been with my husband for the past 10 years (married for 5 of those years). We have four beautiful daughters: Mackenzie, 7 ½ years old, Madison, almost 5 years old, Makayla, 3 ½ years old, and Malia, 4 months old. Previously I worked at NASA Johnson Space Center, in the Education Office, and as an adjunct professor, teaching General Psychology. Some of my hobbies include: spending time with family and friends, reading, shopping, photography, scrapbook and planning social gatherings/events.

Contact Sharon

Website: http://www.griffingirlspublishing.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SharonVGriffin

Facebook: http://facebook.com/sharonvgriffin

Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/GriffinGirlsPublishing

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/SharonVGriffin