Wendy S Swore lives on a farm with a corn maze and pumpkin patch where she raised her five kids, a dog, two geese, seven peacocks, eleven ducks, nineteen cats, and two hundred thirty seven chickens. She farms in the summers, writes in the winters, and would rather chew her leg off than eat something spicy.
Wendy is the author of A Monster Like Me (2019), The Wish And The Peacock (2020), and Strong Like The Sea (2021)
Her "grown up" Bio is at the end of the Q&A.
Links to interviews with Wendy are here.
BookTrib is an awesome service that sends free books to bookclubs and reviewers every month. Here's my interview with them in Feb 2020.
Michelle McAvoy's podcast, My Messy Muse, is a wonderful resource for hearing about excellent middle grade books. I loved visiting with her June 2019.
Shadow Mountain asked me to talk about A Monster Like Me and the story behind the story on video Feb 2019
Q: Why did you include codes, cyphers, and riddles in STRONG LIKE THE SEA?
A: When I was a kid, my best friend and I wrote notes back in forth in a code we made up so the teachers couldn't read them if they found a note. (We didn't write anything bad, just normal stuff). I still can write in that code almost as fast as I can write in regular handwriting. When I grew up, my kids were always figuring out what their presents were before Christmas, so I started writing their names in codes, cyphers, picture/word puzzles, etc so they spent all their time trying to figure out WHO the present belonged to instead of what was in the box. They've had to use books, maps, and all sorts of things to learn who gets to open which present. We don't have big Christmases, but they take more time because the codes slow the opening down. It keeps them on their toes. And--not gonna lie--I might have a little evil villain inside my head going "Muahahaha" when they hit an especially tricky code and have to work together to solve it. .
Q: In The Wish And The Peacock, why did you decide to write a story about a farm girl?:
A: Because I am a farm girl! I've been farming for over twenty years with my husband and five children, and my girls are tough! Farm kids know how to do things that city kids don't usually know, like how to pull a calf, unclog Rainbirds, and do all sorts of jobs and repairs. I wanted to give people a glimpse of what life is like for these farm kids.
Q: How did you get peacock feathers to show at schools and give away?
A: Peacocks grow their long tails every spring--up to five feet long! Only males have the long pretty tail. The girls (Peahens) are mostly brown so they can hide while they sit on their eggs. Then in late summer, the peacocks drop their long feathers for the winter so they don't have to carry all that weight all winter long. We pick the discarded feathers right up off the ground. It doesn't hurt them at all.
Q: Have you ever pulled a calf?
A: Yes. I've helped cows, goats, and all sorts of animals have their babies when they were struggling. It's very important to have some veterinary skills as a farmer because we have to be able to help fast when an animal is in trouble. My farm is small, so every animal has a name, and we know each little personality. We love our animals and do everything you can to help them.
Q: Do farmers really have to worry about losing farmland to developers?
A: Yes! It's amazing to see how much farmland cities gobble up. It's called Urban Sprawl. Just look at these 2 pictures from Boise, Idaho.
When my husband and I bought our family farm, we were one of many farm families in the area, but now, 20 years later, we are one of the last. Our way of life is disappearing as urban sprawl takes over more and more farmland. I needed a story where change is coming, but the characters find a way to overcome it and have a happy ending anyway.
Q: In A Monster Like Me, what made you write about a character who has a hemangioma?
A: When I was a child, I had a hemangioma on my forehead that stuck out far enough that my bangs could not cover it no matter how hard my mother tried. I remember feeling my heartbeat pulsing inside it. When the hydra lady in the first chapter says, “Hey look kids! That girl doesn’t even need a Halloween costume. She’s already got one!” that’s word for word what a woman said to my mother and me at a grocery store. Eventually, my hemangioma deflated and was removed. I traded it for a scar.
Q: Did you get bullied a lot because of the Hemangioma?
A: Yes. There were kids and adults that were cruel about it. My dad recalls chasing off a pack of bullies that followed me home one day making fun of me and pushing me into the street because of my birthmark. Even though I did sometimes wish I could hide from bullies, I didn’t let my birthmark stop me from making new friends or doing activities. Everyone gets bullied at some point because of where they’re from, how they look, how they talk, how they dress, or for some other silly reason. The challenge is to never let the bad things bullies say define who we are.
Q: What do you like to read?
A: Almost everything. I listen to audio books ALL THE TIME when I'm farming, driving, cleaning, etc. I love to read a variety of genres. I've started posting pictures of what I read on Instagram. Some of my favorites that I'll go back and read again are the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, The Ryiria books by Michael J Sullivan, The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill, and and... too many more to list.
Q: When did you start writing?
A: I had a fourth-grade teacher that did writing exercises in class. We wrote poetry and did creative writing exercises. I wrote a cheetah story for class where the cheetah grew up, had kits, grew old and died. Fourth-grade-me shed tears over my beautiful, long, wonderful story. Year later I found this “epic” tale and laughed to see it was a half-page long including pictures.
Q: What is your writing process like?
A: When I get the idea for a story, I like to free-write the first chapter and explore this new world. Then, if I want to finish, I’ll brainstorm what I want to have happen in the story, outline the rest of the plot, and keep going. I listen to movie soundtracks on my earbuds to help me focus, and sometimes I sit on an exercise ball while I write because it’s hard for me to sit still. I write my books in the winter because I’m a farmer, so I’m usually outside working in the fields and greenhouses during farming season.
Q: What else can you tell us about you?
A: Let's see,
* I lived in Spain for 4 months. I wanted to be cool like my big sister (who went to Costa Rica) and speak Spanish, but I don't like spicy food, so started saving money when I was 11 to go to Spain as an exchange student after high school.
* Other countries I've visited: England, Poland, Sweden, Puerto Rico, China, & Canada.
* I'm a 3rd Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do
* I love sushi! (not spicy)
* I am allergic to strong perfumes. Strong perfumes and chemical scents give me migraines and can make it hard for me to breathe.. I am not a fan of smelly candles or air fresheners. Scentsy or Essential Oils parties are dangerous for me.
* I enjoy drawing, painting, and sculpting.
* I'm too chicken to watch scary movies. Since I spend 3 months out of the year walking around in corn fields, I will never, ever, EVER watch a scary movie with a corn field in it.
* I'm a nerd. Marvel, DC, X-Men, Star Wars, Star Trek, Sherlock, Dragons, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Hamilton, Supernatural, Avatar the Last Air Bender, etc.. Yes, please! All the LOVES.
* I like to wear funny or ironic shirts.
* My dad was a crop duster so we moved a lot (following bugs and blight) when I was little and I used to climb into the cockpit with him and fly over fields while sitting on my dad's knee. I've lived in Sacramento CA, Portland OR, Logan UT, Walla Walla WA, and now in southeast Idaho.
Wendy is represented by the amazing Agent Stacey Glick, Vice President of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.
Wendy S. Swore farms full-time with her husband and 5 children. She writes part-time, particularly in winter when her farming chores give her time to plant seeds in her imagination. She is a member of SCBWI and is the author of A Monster Like Me & The Wish And The Peacock.
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