"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Former Debut: Suzanne Morgan Williams, Class of 2k9

Today I am so happy to welcome friend and author Suzanne Morgan Williams as my former debut! I've had the pleasure of attending a few librarian conferences with Suzy, and every time has been not only an honor, but so much fun, too!

So here's Suzy!


Welcome to the blog, Suzanne! So happy you are here!

Name: Suzanne Morgan Williams
Debut Group: Class of 2K9
Debut novel: BULL RIDER, Margaret K. McElderry, 2009

PJHoover: Okay, so it’s been 3 years since you graduated from your debut class. Personally, I miss the heck out of knowing what my classmates are up to. So give us the low-down. What have you been up to in the last few years? New books? New degrees? New pets? What has been going on, and what do we have to look forward to from you in the future?

SMW: The last three years have flown by. When Bull Rider came out I started doing a lot of speaking at schools, teacher and librarian conventions, and writers’ conferences. In the last three years I’ve spoken to tens of thousands of students in twenty-one states. Bull Rider ended up on seven state award nomination lists (the latest is the Wyoming Indian Paintbrush nomination for 2012) and winning a Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City. There were months that I felt more at home in the Reno airport than at my house. I’ve also been working on new projects – one is out on submission now – and I had a nonfiction book published, China’s Daughters; Women Who Shaped Chinese History (Pacific View Press, 2011). No new degrees, but I was incredibly honored to be given the SCBWI Member of the Year Award for 2012. That award recognized my helping to gather information for the organization in support of more diversity in kidlit. In a group of so many giving and talented people, I was thrilled and humbled to be chosen. What you have to look forward to from me? – I’m not going anywhere. I’ll keep writing and keep connected. Hopefully, I’ll have a new title to announce soon.

PJHoover: If you could summarize to a debut novelist the best part of being a member of an author group like the “Class of” groups, what would you say?

SMW: At first, being in the Class of 2K9 was a bit overwhelming. It was a lot of work to get everyone talking and agreeing and aimed at the same goals and there were days that I wondered how big the pay off would have to be to support all that input. But once we had a cohesive group, I discovered I’d just met some of my new best friends. We continue to visit with each other, support each other with recommendations for speaking engagements, and with opportunities like this one – a chance to blog with P.J. Hoover whom I met because of being in the Class of 2K9. (She’s 2K8 and classes often share across years too.)

BULL RIDER (Margaret McElderry Books, February 24, 2009)

PJHoover: Though I absolutely loved being a debut author, I’m really thrilled with all the experience I’ve gained since. What advice would you give to those who are debuting now? What do you wish you had known when you started out?

SMW: This is an odd question for me because I’d had ten nonfiction books published before joining my debut class as a novelist. I already had some knowledge of the industry, although not of the world Bull Rider offered me. I guess my advice would be don’t feel compelled to do everything at once, to do everything that’s suggested. Find what you do best – whether that’s blogging, school visits, teaching workshops, online networking – and concentrate on that. You can drive yourself crazy trying to master all the promotional techniques at once. Do a couple well, then move on. Oh, and help your fellow authors. Kindness doesn’t go unnoticed and good Karma is always – well good Karma.

PJHoover: In addition to writing the next mega-million bestselling novel, what do you want to accomplish in the next five years? Do you want to write five more books? Get your black belt in Kung Fu? Walk the Great Wall of China? Let’s hear it.

SMW: I’d love to see two manuscripts that are very close to my heart published. I want to continue to speak to middle schoolers in particular. I’d like to raise a service dog. I love traveling and hope that’s in my near future, but more than that, I like talking to people, hearing their stories, connecting with their hopes and concerns. Being an author has allowed me amazing opportunities to open conversations. I’m hoping for many, many more.

PJHoover: Anything else you want to add? Five reasons to read your book? A picture of your writing space? How you celebrated when you signed your contract? Your choice!

SMW: So, five things I’d like you to know about Bull Rider – in no particular order:

1) I think after many revisions it turned out to be just the book it was meant to be – thank you, wonderful Emma Dryden and S & S.
2) I hear from parents, teachers, and librarians that Bull Rider is often the first novel their reluctant boy readers have finished. That makes me happy
3) The story is fiction but the situation is real. We have hundreds of thousands of veterans of the Middle East wars and they and their families need our support. I’d love you to find out what your community is doing to help. Visit www.IAVA.org for information or go to my website www.suzannemorganwilliams.com and open the “For Veterans” page. There are listings of many organizations that are helping as well as ways for readers to support overseas active duty military.
4) Nevada is not a big empty desert full of sand and palm trees. It’s an amazing, mountainous, often snowy place with unique and fabulous people. Don’t write it off. Come visit
5) Bull Rider’s success depends on day to day word of mouth from people like you. It’s a book that could have slipped under the radar but it has a big reach. I want you to read it. And if you like the story, pass it on. That’s why I wrote Bull Rider – for you to read.

PJHoover: Thank you so much for being here! And good luck with everything in the future!

SMW: Thanks to you P.J.


Suzanne Morgan Williams is the author of the middle grade novel, Bull Rider (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009) and 11 nonfiction children's books with more books on the way. From the time she wrote her first book, Made in China, Ideas and Inventions from Ancient China, (Pacific View Press, 1997) to the present, her work has taken her into classrooms to connect with students, to universities and museums to work with experts, and to communities to share experiences.

Suzanne has traveled four times to the Canadian Arctic to work with Inuit people, writing The Inuit Franklin Watts, 2003, and has worked with Indian people from various tribes on books and projects. She is known for careful on site research, which for Bull Rider included interviewing professional bull riders, ranchers, and care givers who work with severely wounded veterans.


Thanks for helping me celebrate former debuts! If you are a former debut and are interested in being featured, check out this post here

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