Sue Fliess – Shoes for Me

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

My most recent book, Shoes for Me!, is a children’s picture book published by Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books as part of their Pinwheel Books line of books. Shoes for Me is the rhyming story of a little hippo girl who, after discovering her feet have grown, gets to pick out her own pair of new shoes. She and her mom head to the shoe store, and after trying on every kind of shoe under the sun, she finally finds the perfect pair.

Tell us something about yourself.

I was born in California, raised in New Jersey, and am now back in California – so you could say I’m an open-minded Jersey girl. I have been writing in some form all my life, from poems for my family when I was very young, to angst-y teen poetry and essays as an adolescent, and despite my lack of psychology qualifications, I even wrote a Dear Sue column for my college newspaper. But it wasn’t until my first job out of college with Putnam Berkley (now Penguin USA) as a publicist for the Berkley trade and mass market paperback division, that I became serious about writing. I was constantly surrounded by authors, writers, editors and the excitement of New York City, and joined my first writing group that encouraged me to start writing a novel. When I moved out to Silicon Valley in ‘97, I was quickly swept up in the Internet frenzy, holding PR, copywriting, marketing and event planning positions for start-ups and established high tech companies for nearly a decade. When I had my first son in 2003, I picked up my pen once more, and went back to what I loved most: writing in rhyme. But this time, my audience was children. And last year was an amazing year: I sold my first, second and third picture book. Marshall Cavendish will publish Shoes for Me in 2011, A Dress for Me in 2012, and Harcourt Children’s Books will publish Tons of Trucks in 2012.

What inspired you to write this book?

I wish I could tell you it was because I love shoes (which I do). But truth-be-told, this book started out as a book about when it is okay to take your shoes off and when you should keep them on – because my son kept taking his shoes off in public restrooms. It was called Shoes on, Shoes off. Boring, right? Right! So, after about 75 iterations of the manuscript, it became what it is now, a girl who needs new shoes and gets to pick them out by herself. It’s bouncy and fun and was a joy to write.

How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?

I submitted this manuscript to many editors – editors whom I’d met at conferences or editors at houses that published similar types of stories. I would love to be able to say I decided on Marshall Cavendish, but the reality is, they decided – and took a chance – on me. Of course, I wouldn’t have submitted to them if I didn’t think they would be a great publisher for the story. They are known for giving first time authors their start and I had heard great things about them. I submitted three manuscripts. Five months later, I got a large envelope with a letter – the editor rejected two of my stories and invited me to revise one. I revised Shoes for Me and she bought it – my first sale!

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

Downtime for some means kicking up feet, maybe pouring a glass of wine, and watching TV or listening to music. When I have downtime, I race to my computer so I can write that idea that just popped into my head yesterday that I’ve been dying to flesh out. That’s how I know I’ve always wanted to do this. Though now, sometimes I’ll grab wine first.

After I wrote a first draft of an outer space book for my son, I knew I was going to have to learn the children’s writing industry from the ground up in order to actually attempt getting published. So, I talked to my neighbor, who, fortunately for me, is also our city library’s children’s librarian. She pointed me in all the right directions: SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), some online publications and websites, put me in touch with a children’s author that she knew, so I could ask some basic questions, and even offered to critique my space manuscript. That gave me a great start.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

For me, it’s finding time to write and staying confident that what I’m writing is good. I started my children’s writing career in early 2005 when my kids were two and a half years old and one year old. Already that is one of the hardest, craziest times in a new mom’s life, let alone trying to learn something new and produce anything of quality on top of it. I was lucky to get a shower, which I would often forego, if I had thirty minutes to write during a child’s nap. My next challenge, when they are both in elementary school, will be to be as productive as I was when I had no time to write!

How do you do research for your books?

It’s a mix of the Internet, physically going somewhere, and checking out books at my local library. It’s probably easiest to give an example. My second book coming out is the follow-on to Shoes for Me, called A Dress for Me. The most valuable research I did for this story was visiting children’s apparel stores, walking through the girls’ dresses area, jotting down notes about fabrics, textures, designs and styles, and carefully observing the dynamics between the girls and their mothers.

Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?

I learned that even when you think your manuscript is ‘done’ or ‘perfect’, the editor’s vision may be different (and usually is) from yours and you should be open to making more changes. I didn’t have to change too much, but my editor wanted to see more interaction between the girl and the mom, so I had to revise. And the stanzas I added turned out to be the funniest and sweetest two stanzas in the book – which made the story that much better.

What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I love literary fiction. Some of my favorite authors are Tim Sandlin, for his ability to write about things to which we can all relate, John Irving for his beautiful and masterful way with the English language, M.T. Anderson for his daring and respect for young adults, Mem Fox for her perfect word nuggets, Emily Gravett for the way she can tell a story through illustration, and Mo Willems for his clever sense of humor.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I am working on four books right now, actually. Two picture books, one about a guinea pig and one about a leprechaun, a fractured fairytale early reader, and a middle grade novel about a girl who discovers a boy from another world.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Submit, write, then submit some more — to editors, to agents, to your critique group. And while you’re waiting for answers, write as much as you can. Half the battle is finishing a project, the other half is divided between submitting it for publication and good timing. If you don’t finish anything, you can never submit it, and if you don’t submit your work, you can be sure it will not get published.

What are you doing to promote your latest book?

I’m doing in-store book signings, hopefully some school visits, and interviews like this one. I’m also promoting it via Facebook and Twitter, my blog, other social media outlets as well as hoping for some positive book reviews.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Readers can visit my web site at Shoes for Me is also listed on, and ask for it in your local book store.