August 17, 2013

Shirley Skufca Hickman

Relive Coal Mining with Shirley Skufca Hickman

Shirley Skufca Hickman was brought up in a Colorado coal mining town and wrote about those early years in her first book. She graduated with a B.A. from Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado and later earned two Master of Arts Degrees. Hickman founded the Porterville Writer’s Workshop and has published poetry and prize winning nonfiction. She makes her home in Central California.


How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?
Since Sarah Darlin’ takes place during the Gold Rush in San Francisco, I did extensive research about the period. Tom McGuire, who hires Sarah and her family to work in his Jenny Lind Theater, was a real person. I combined real people and fictional characters.
I used the Internet for earlier books and found a 1942 Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog and a Croatian dictionary. 

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
As a child, I loved to read and planned to write a book when I grew older. I told myself, “You have to remember what happens so you can write about it. 

How does your family feel about having a writer in the family?
They are proud, supportive and buy my books. When I was writing about our family in an earlier book, my sisters said, “Write whatever you remember and we’ll swear that’s how it happened.” 

When did you first decide to submit your work? Please tell us who encouraged you to take this big step.
I self-published my first book because I wanted to sell it at a town reunion and trying to find a traditional publisher would take too long. I also self published my second book for the same reason. Both books won awards.
I entered Sarah Darlin’ in an Oak Tree Press’s romance writing contest and won first prize. When they published my book, it was a turning point in my career. I now have an outstanding editor and a marketing advisor. 

When you have writer’s block, how do you break free?
I don’t have writer’s block, but I am a perfectionist and worry that my writing might not be good enough. It has taken many years, but finally I’ve given myself permission to make mistakes and not be perfect. It’s a liberating feeling. 

Do you have a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
I taught a Creative Writing class at our community college and from this initial group we formed the Porterville Writer’s Workshop. We meet at my house every Wednesday. The members are an invaluable support system. I would never have become a published writer without their constructive criticism. 

Is there anyone who mentored or inspired you to keep writing until you were finally published?
Marilyn Meredith has taught me all I know about publishing and is a dear friend. 

What was your first published work and when was it published?
In 2000 I self-published, Don’t Be Give Up, a nonfiction book about my family during World War II. I am still selling copies of it. 

How can readers find out more about you and your books?

Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
My novel, Fall in Love with an Orange Tree or a Book, is about young illegal immigrants and the shadow world in which they live. The title comes from a former student’s mother who told her, “I brought you to the best country in the world. Fall in love with an orange tree or a book. By this she meant, work in the fields or get an education. Her daughter made her choice and went to college. She is now the Director of Migrant Education in our community. Although the book is fiction, everything in it has happened to someone I know.

English aristocrat, Richard Moresby, travels to the California gold fields hoping to make a fortune to reclaim his ancestral estate. But when he meets spirited Sarah O’Malley, an actress at the Jenny Lind Theater, his thoughts of England begin to fade.
Accustomed to rebuffing male attentions in 1850s San Francisco, Sarah is surprised to find Richard intrigues and excites her, but she knows Moresby’s rakish reputation and fears damaging hers, so she rebuffs him.
Moresby persists, and continues to pursue her, but before they can declare their love, they must deal with prejudice, a murder trial, a lynching party, a fire at the Jenny Lind and a terrible secret from Sarah’s past.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Thank you, Shirley, that was nice. I love our critique group, so glad you're willing to put up with us nearly every week. (She's always great, just sometimes she has something else to do on Wednesday nights.)

DelSheree Gladden said...

This was a great interview :) I loved how your family said they'd back up whatever you wrote! That's serious support :) I really enjoyed Sarah Darlin' and I hope it continues to do well!

Jann McGuire said...

It's a privilege to be part of Shirley's critique group, which is helpful and supportive. I love Shirley's stories.