Who We Are
Sherri L. Smith
My goal is to help you to get to the heart of the matter with your work. I believe every story wants to be told, and each draft offers gifts waiting to be opened. Come with a willingness to search the work and excavate the gems hidden therein.
How I Began: I was my first student. There were stories inside me waiting to come out and from elementary school on, 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.
Working With Writers: Understanding character wants, shaping the story, creating a road map to write by are all central to my methods for completing a project. But there is also room for play and for exploring the mysteries of creative work. I’ll urge you to dive into mythology, folk lore, fairy tales. Seek out the places they echo in your work, and deepen them so that your story resonates with a sense of truth and knowing. We are on a hunt for wonder. Let’s chase it down together.
Fruitful Dreaming Salons
Myth and Fairytale Consultations
“Sherri spoke to our group of 70 or so about finding the structure for her latest novel, The Blossom and the Firefly. It was a master class in the craft of fiction: a detailed explanation of the structure she had wanted to use (along with diagrams), examples of how other stories have used it, and a narrative about her own attempt to write within it and the changes she made according to the needs of her manuscript. Her lecture was funny, personable, and incredibly useful to writers of all experience levels. Several people came up to me afterwards to say that the structure Sherri described might be just the thing to get their manuscripts unstuck. I can’t recommend Sherri as a speaker highly enough.”
—Michael Noll, Program Director, Writers’ League of Texas
“It was an experience we will never forget; the girls learned so much from you and they appreciated your warm attention and enthusiastic presence.”
— K. Warwick, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy
“You have inspired me to always be creative and always do my best.”
— J. Patrus
Work With Sherri
Sherri is joining Two Trees for our first mini virtual writing retreat. She offers generative and intuitive sessions as well as deep dives into structure, planning and craft. Stay tuned for future offerings, and feel free to contact her directly, using the Send Her A Message contact below.
The Blossom and the Firefly
“…Smith immerses her readers in a war narrative not often told to American readers, as well as a conflict-filled love story. Smith does not shy away from the horrific consequences of war and its victims; the novel encompasses comfort women; Asian countries affected by Japanese imperialism; and ritual suicide. The imagery of the title evokes the Japanese code of bushido and the fleeting beauty of existence.” ( The Horn Book, Starred Review)
“…Smith offers a vivid and realistic portrayal of a world ravaged first by Mother Nature and then by human nature as cruelty, prejudice, and despair become the dominating forces within the Delta…” (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (BCCB), starred review)
The Toymaker’s Apprentice
“Part Nutcracker with a dash of Pinocchio, this middle grade debut by YA author Smith is an absorbing tale of adventure, invention, family loyalty, and sly humor. Bursting with unforgettable characters of both species (and a few others), the novel rushes along to its inevitable final battle and enlightening conclusion… Fans of both genres will relish this highly recommended historical fantasy.” (School Library Journal, Starred Review)
Lucy and the Giant
“Lucy, the 15-year-old heroine of this bittersweet debut novel… with compelling descriptions of the harrowing storms at sea, backbreaking yet satisfying work on board and the heroine’s deepening friendships with several crew members….her first-person narration is affecting.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Gifted novelist Sherri L. Smith has written a passionate and important book about a young woman who heroically risks everything when she discovers her dreams and her identity are, heartbreakingly, at odds. A wonderfully readable story that illuminates a too-little known chapter of American history.” (Michael M. Cart, Former President, YALSA, and Chair, 2007 Michael L. Printz Award Committee)
“Enthralling! From page one, I was inside the life (and death) of Pasadena. Smith has created a world that is at once startlingly real and heartbreakingly unreal. Smith’s novel had me leaning forward in my seat trying to remember to breathe. In Jude, there is something of all of us– knowing deep truths but hoping for something else, hoping somehow to change a history already set in motion.” (Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award-winning author)
Sherri L. Smith is the author of nine award-winning books for young people, including the 2009 California Book Awards Gold Medalist, Flygirl,—a World War II adventure the Washington Post named a best book of the year. Her middle grade historical fantasy The Toymaker’s Apprentice, and her contemporary YA noir mystery, Pasadena, are both winners of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Award. Her nonfiction book Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen? is part of the NY Times bestselling Who Was? series. Her novels appear on multiple state reading lists and have been named Amelia Bloomer, Junior Library Guild, Children’s Book Council, and American Library Association Best Books for Young People selections. She is also the recipient of the Elizabeth George Foundation Award and the University of Kansas Alyce Hunley Whayne Visiting Researchers Travel Award. Sherri was a judge for the 2014 National Book Awards in Young People’s Literature and has been a writer-in-residence at Hedgebrook, the Wellstone Center, and Wassard Elea. She’s worked in comic books (The Simpsons, James Cameron’s AVATAR), animation (Disney, Tim Burton) construction (at LAX!), and make up special effects (Grimm). She holds a Certificate in Enchantivism from Pacifica Institute. Sherri currently teaches in the MFA Writing Program at Goddard College and the MFA in Children’s Writing Program at Hamline University. She returns to World War II with her newest novel, The Blossom and the Firefly, which tells the moving story of two Japanese teens— one a kamikaze pilot, the other a schoolgirl who serves on the base from which he will fly his final mission.