One of the people I've had the pleasure of getting to know over the past 12 months is author Susan Harris. Based in Canada, her books are beautiful tomes of information and stories, ones which can be used in every day life. She kindly agreed to an interview so, without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to the wonderful Susan!
RG- Thank you for agreeing to talk to me. I really appreciate it!
SH - My pleasure,Rae.
RG-You live a really interesting life and now live in Canada. Tell us a little about yourself and your life.
SH- I was born in the idyllic island of Trinidad, and moved to Canada 15 years ago. I'm married and have one daughter, and with the cats, we live on the prairies of Saskatchewan. I was a teacher for 12 years and later worked in Human Resources and project management. Over the last few months I've become a full time writer and speaker- and it has been rewarding, hectic and fun.
RG- You have two books out at the moment, Golden Apples in Silver Settings and Little Copper Pennies. They're both beautifully written and really inspiring. What inspired you to write them? Where did the ideas come?
SH-I actually have three books:
First, Golden Apples in Silver Settings: Having been a Christian speaker for some time now, I wanted to celebrate a legacy of 20 years. I’ve also always wanted to write a book, so I merged the two together. I had kept some notes on the talks I did, so it was easy to compile them into a book. God’s word never changes, and I thought that words that blessed people years ago will bless them today. The title was inspired from Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver (KJV). The silver settings are interpreted as the geographic locations where I spoke.
Second, Little Copper Pennies: Celebrating the life of the Canadian one-cent piece (1858-2013).
As a (former) teacher, I was in the habit of making up stories to bring across abstract concepts to students. As a mom, I entertained my daughter with tales and imagination. So when I heard the news that the penny was going to be eliminated, I immediately thought: “If this penny could speak, what would it say of the 155 years it has been in existence?” And the stories began. I interviewed people and got the once-upon-a-time worth of the purchasing power of the penny, used my own experiences, and added history and factual information for an educational component.
Third, Little Copper Pennies for Kids. When I shared my manuscript for Little Copper Pennies to a teacher -librarian friend she commented: "Let me put a bug in your ear. Have you considered a picture book for children?" I thought about it, ran with the idead, and that book was published on December 7 last year.
RG- I really love Little Copper Pennies and am saddened by the loss of the Canadian penny (even though I'm from the UK!). It feels as though a piece of history is being wiped out. What provoked you to write the book? Do you think it's right to phase out the penny? Do you feel a sense of loss at its demise?
SH- The main reason for eliminating the penny is that it is a liability on the balance sheet. It cost 1.06 cents to make a penny which is worth 1.00 cents. So the sheer economics of the penny, coupled with the fact that billions of pennies are hoarded by citizens are good reasons. Others include the environmental impact through recycling the coins and the time and cost by institutions to process pennies. I feel a sense of sadness at the removal of the penny. It was created in 1858 to introduce the decimal system, so it is truly historic. I am fond of it but I recognize that an ending to all fine things must be (and it gave me two books!)
RG- You held a retirement party for the penny. How did that go?! What did you all get up to?
SH- The penny retirement party was fun filled and nostalgic. Though the stormy weather and the flu bug deterred a few, we had a scrumptious buffet dinner, followed by a game of penny toss. It was neat to see adults have so much fun as each tried to get their five pennies to the dish. The prize was penny candy (now worth 25 cents each). There was a "guess the number of pennies" and the prize was a coin folder that holds small cents (the size of the penny was reduced in 1920. I showed a PowerPoint presentation with some highlights from my appearances to schools, and images of significant pennies from 1858-2012. There were two speeches including greetings from the member of Parliament for my locale. I finished by reading the Eulogy found in Chapter 16 of Little Copper Pennies. Many described the evening as historic.
RG- What inspired you to become a writer?
SH- I read avidly as a child and youth, and my English teacher at high school would often read my compositions to the class. I guess the seeds were germinated in those years. People enjoyed hearing me speak, and it boosted my confidence that they might likely enjoy my writing too.
RG- You work really hard on the promotional side, something many people struggle with. Where do you get your ideas from? What drives you in your work? What advice would you give to other authors?
SH- I am driven and self-motivated. I use my experience in project management to scale my timeline and work within deadlines. It is imperative to have deadlines, milestones and measurable objectives in any project, and I am cognizant of these in my work. I've outlined in practical terms how to do this in Chapter 2 of my book "Golden Apples in Silver Settings". The chapter is called "Turning dreams into Reality". I'd advise authors to create a detailed plan and have someone hold them accountable to it. Treat your writing seriously. Write first and edit later. Don't let the editorial aspect block your creativity. Keep a notebook and pencil handy to jot down thoughts when inspiration hits. Look for freshness in mundane topics around you. Join a group to get encouragement from other author. (I'm accepting friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter.)
RG- What advice would you give to new authors, particularly those who are looking for publishers or agents?
SH- E-readers offer a fresh, untapped world to authors who are rejected by publishing houses and agents. I'd say try your hand at an ebook and get known. Call your local television station and newspapers. These media likes to showcase local talent and you can get publicity there. Then try again with the agents.
RG- You really are a beacon of hope, light and inspiration, something which this world desperately needs right now. What message would you give to the world?
SH- My inspiration and hope comes from God, and the faith I have that He will open doors for me that no one can shut. I'd advise anyone to include God in their plans, knowing that those plans are for good and not for evil, to give a future and a hope. Keep the company of optimistic people, and always be an encourager to the not-so-happy ones.
RG- Finally, where can we find you online?
RG- Thank you for taking the time out to talk to me, Susan! Take care, and speak to you soon!
SH - Thanks Rae.