Allison's Book Bag

The Tireless Sarah Weeks

Posted on: March 6, 2015

SarahWeeksFor the past twenty-five years, Sarah Weeks has been writing picture books and novels for young people including the best-selling So B. It. In addition to writing, Weeks is an adjunct faculty member in the Writing Program at the New School University in New York City, where she teaches the second-year MFA workshop on Writing for Children. Weeks is also a founding member of ART, a traveling troupe of authors who perform reader’s theater at conventions and conferences across the country.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

Weeks was born in Ann Arbor Michigan in 1955. Her father was an English professor at the University of Michigan. He loved words, and books, and telling funny stories. Her mother stayed home with Weeks and her two siblings until all three had gone off to college, at which point she went back to work. In her About Me, Weeks describes 1955 as a time when “there was no color TV, milk came in glass bottles delivered by a milkman, Barbie dolls came in only two varieties – blonde and brunette, and girls had to wear dresses to school every day, even in the cold, harsh Michigan winters when the temperature often dipped below zero.”

When the time came for college, Weeks studied music composition and later went on to get a MFA from NYU writing for musical theatre. In 1976, she moved to New York City to pursue a career as a singer songwriter. She performed in clubs with a band, spent a year singing in an Off-Broadway revue, and eventually found herself writing songs for Disney and Sesame Street.

When an editor from Harper Collins heard some of her songs, Weeks was asked if she would be interested in writing picture books based on her songs. Since that time, Weeks has become a professional author. However, she remains an accomplished singer/songwriter. She has written for television, stage, and screen. A number of her picture books include songs which she both writes and sings for the accompanying CD’s.

In 2005, Sarah helped found A.R.T. (Authors Readers Theatre), a group of authors, which includes: Avi, Bruce Coville, Cynthia DeFelice, Katherine Paterson, Richard Peck, Pam Munoz Ryan, Brian Selznick, and herself. A.R.T. performs dramatic staged readings at large venues throughout the country.

Viewed in her Long Bio as a tireless promoter, Weeks likes to visit classrooms around the country, talk to young people about writing and read her books, serve as author-in-residence, and speak to teachers and librarians at national conferences. Besides writing, Weeks likes to hang out with family and friends, talk to her 95-year-old mother on the phone, watch little league games, and go to the movies. To recharge, she likes to bake.

Her favorite place to be is home. She is married to a high school history teacher, which her Long Bio describes as funny because history was one of her WORST subjects in school, and has a step-daughter. She lives in a little green and yellow house in a town called, Nyack, New York. Finally, she has a pet, a Labrador Retriever/Pitbull mix.

WRITING BACKGROUND

So B. It was her first young adult novel. It appeared on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list, was chosen as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and as a Booksense 2004 best book of the year, and received the 2004 Parent’s Choice Gold Award. It continues to be a best seller, winning numerous state book awards and currently being in production to be a live action movie directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal. Author Turf notes that it also took the longest, four years, of all her books to write. In addition to her novels and picture books, Weeks has also written pop-up books, board books and early readers. Her titles have sold well over a million copies, including several foreign editions.

The inspiration for So B. It, Weeks explains in Are You Writing a Book Report?, came from an old abandoned house by the side of the road Weeks saw one summer day while driving around in the Catskill Mountains with her sons. Something about that house called to her. Weeks went back later and took pictures of it. Looking at those pictures, especially the one of the front door with its tattered lace curtain in the dusty window, started a story unfolding in her head. Weeks knew from the start that the story was going to be about a girl named Heidi. She was going to be lucky. And she was going to go on a long journey and end up outside that door with the lacy curtain in the window, looking for something. Herself.

Unlike some books which the development happens in big chunks, the ideas for So B. It came in small pieces, which eventually began to take on the shape of a story. One thing Weeks remembers thinking about as she began working on So B. It was the idea that people are like locks, and in order to find out what makes them who they are, you have to find the right key to unlock the mystery. Once she settled on the key for Mama would be the word, soof (which reminds Weeks of words like moon and truth and soothe), Weeks began to hear the word all around her.

It took Weeks four years to write So B. It. She explains in Are You Writing a Book Report? that she wrote many, many, many drafts. Sometimes Weeks got so frustrated that she had to put the book aside and work on something else until she was ready to try again. In the end she realized that although So B. It was much longer than either a song or a picture book text, it still needed to have the same shape, the same arc, the same three basic parts (beginning, middle and end) and that helped her to finally be able to finish.

Weeks views the best thing about writing as getting to spend all day doing what she likes best. In her About Me, Weeks notes that sometimes when she’s working on a book she completely loses track of time and when she finally stops writing she’s amazed to find that it’s dark outside. Other times, when she feels blocked and the ideas aren’t coming, she cleans house, bakes cookies, or vegetates in front of the TV until she feels like writing again.

I’ll be back later in March with a review of So B. It. Because I have spring break, March will be a little different for my posts. The first week I’ll post daily teasers and the second week I’ll post daily reviews. Save the date for my review of Weeks’s book: March 13!

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