In the Spotlight: An Interview with Children's Author Sherry Dunn

 by Suzanne Lieurance

Children's Author Sherry Dunn

Sherry Dunn is a new children's book author. 

Her first picture book, Maddie & Jasmine, was released this past June and is already an international best-seller. 

Sherry is also a speaker and an animal rescue advocate.  

Recently, I interviewed Sherry to learn more about the secrets to her success.

Suzanne Lieurance: Tell us a little bit about yourself as a writer and children’s book author. How did you get started? What kinds of things do you write?

Sherry Dunn: My journey as a writer started from a place of deep passion and love for animals, especially those in need of rescue. Growing up, I was always surrounded by books and stories, both real and fiction. I also grew up with pets around the house, several of them rescue animals. At an early age, I started forming unbreakable bonds with animals, not yet realizing I was forming a desire to advocate for the voiceless. When I decided to jump into the world of writing, it felt only natural to merge my love for storytelling with my advocacy for animal rescue. My aim was, and still is, to write stories that not only entertain and delight young readers but also communicate the values of compassion, empathy, and responsibility. 

My first children’s picture book, Maddie and Jasmine, is a prime example of this blend, illustrating the beautiful bond between children and animals while highlighting the importance of rescue and care. I predominantly write children's books and stories that revolve around these themes. I believe stories have an incredible power to shape young minds, and if I can inspire even one child to grow up caring deeply for animals, then I've achieved my goal. On my website,, I write weekly blog posts that resonate with animal lovers and avid readers. My monthly content includes an animal shelter spotlight, a children’s picture book review, furry friend stories, and pet care insights.

Each month, I highlight a commendable, no-kill animal shelter, discussing their invaluable contributions, sharing success stories, and discussing the impact they've made in the community.  It's my way of applauding their relentless efforts. I dedicate one post to reviewing a children's picture book that centers on the themes of animal rescue and adoption. I love to explore and to share these stories that foster empathy and awareness in young minds. In a special segment, I invite guest bloggers to recount their personal journeys about their adopted pets. These heartfelt stories never fail to tug at my heartstrings. As a gesture of gratitude and support, I donate $100 to the guest blogger's animal shelter of choice provided it is a no-kill shelter. Lastly, I share informative pieces on pet care, offering readers valuable tips, best practices, and insights to ensure their furry companions lead healthy and happy lives.

SL: How do you usually get the ideas for your books? Please explain.

SD: My ideas come from the real world. I work closely with several animal rescue/sanctuaries and have had the privilege to witness several heartwarming, and sometimes heart-wrenching stories of animals and the people who connect with them. These true stories are a collection of inspiration, filled with genuine emotion, challenges, triumphs, and the raw beauty of human-animal bonds. Sometimes, my idea might start with a story or article I see about a puppy or an older dog finding its forever home after a tough beginning. 

Other times, it's simply observing the sweet interactions between children and cats and dogs at a shelter. I try to keep my inner child alive and always active. When I think of a concept, I ask myself, as a child, would I like this story? Children have this natural sense of wonder and curiosity, and by channeling my own childhood emotions and experiences, I want to create stories that resonate with young readers. So, in essence, my stories are a blend of real-life inspiration from the world of animal rescue and my vivid imagination of adding a child to the human-animal bond.

SL: What is your favorite part of the writing process? 

SD: The writing process has its ups and downs, but my absolute favorite part is the creation phase. It's that magical moment when the characters, often inspired by real children and animals I've met or heard about, start to take shape in my mind.

I wrote a children’s story based on my own situation as an adult. I fell off my bicycle and broke my wrist. I was upset because I had just started taking piano lessons. I wrote a story about a little girl who was in the same situation. I had to introduce a rescue animal in the story. Ideas started to form, and I added a three-legged dog I saw at a shelter to my story. The characters grew, developed personalities, hopes, and fears and a story was born.

The process of setting my characters in a world, facing challenges, and watching them evolve is satisfying. I often find myself emotionally invested, cheering for every rescued animal, and feeling the genuine warmth of every bond formed.

I also love the research phase, especially when it involves interacting with children and animals. 

Since I write a blog post every week, I frequently need to research true experiences and ensure that the stories I write are genuine emotions and scenarios. It's a reminder of the very real impact of the stories I'm creating and the change they can arouse in young minds.

SL: What do you find to be the most challenging part of writing and freelancing?

SD: The world of writing is as rewarding as it is challenging. For me, one of the most challenging aspects is finding the right balance between my vision and the expectations of readers. Writing from the heart is critical, but there's also a need to ensure that the stories resonate with my audience. My mission is to share the stories of shelter pets and help them find their forever homes. Not everyone has this mindset. In Maddie and Jasmine, I take the reader on a journey of self-discovery, overcoming life’s toughest critics, and learning to love everything that makes you different. It's a delicate balance between staying true to one's voice and adapting to market demands.

I don’t do a lot of freelancing. However, beyond my books, one of my most cherished projects is the bi-monthly children's story I write for a local animal shelter newsletter. This allows me to delve into individual tales of shelter pets, highlighting their journeys, and the hope that they will find a forever home. It's both a responsibility and a privilege. To gather content for these stories, I often visit a shelter, spend time with the pets, and sometimes even talk with the staff to glean insights and anecdotes that can inspire my next story. These visits are not just research; they're a constant reminder of why I do what I do.

Feedback, edits, and rejection are part of this writing journey. Every author, no matter how renowned, faces criticism and rejection. J.K. Rowling rewrote the first book in her Harry Potter series 15 times. I rewrote the first book in my Maddie and Jasmine series 15 times. I think it is essential to learn to discern constructive feedback from the rest and using it as a tool for growth. I also believe an author must maintain the confidence and belief in one's unique voice and vision. Love your writing and believe in it!

SL: What is a typical writing day like for you? 

SD: My typical writing day usually starts early. I’m a morning person. I often find my best ideas come to me in the shower just as the world is waking up. My morning routine includes meditation and writing in my gratitude journal. Then I settle down with a cup of green tea at my desk and start to write. The first thing I do is read what I wrote the previous day. This helps me transition back into my story and gives me a fresh perspective. I write until my personal development class starts. When class is over, I practice the piano. I start writing again in the afternoon. The target I set usually coincides with deadlines. This tangible goal helps keep me focused and motivated. By mid-afternoon, I usually sit down and do additional writing or do researching for my blog articles, networking, or managing the business side of things. I take regular breaks, which usually involve Tai Chi practice, or more piano practice. If I don’t take these breaks, I could sit and write for several hours. These moments of pause are essential. They often bring bursts of inspiration.

I believe in the importance of a balanced day, so I always ensure to set aside time for personal reading, which not only relaxes me but also exposes me to different writing styles and enriches my own craft. Evenings are typically reserved for relaxation with my rescue cat, Jasmine, but sometimes, if a story is particularly insistent, I might find myself jotting down ideas. Throughout the day, Jasmine keeps me company, acting as a sounding board, and a constant reminder of the mission behind my stories.

SL: What types of things do you look for in your own manuscripts when you’re are revising them?

SD: Revising is an integral part of the writing process, a phase where I get to refine and polish the raw material into a cohesive story. When I dive into revisions for my manuscripts, there are several key elements I look for. Given that my stories are centered around the bond between children and animals, it's very important that the emotions come through genuinely. I pay attention for those moments that may tug at the heartstrings, ensuring they feel authentic and not forced. Whenever I do a reading of Maddie and Jasmine at events, I always have to stop and take a deep breath at the last page of the story. To me, it is very emotional, and the emotion is authentic.

Children's books, especially, need to have a smooth narrative flow that's easy to follow. I pay close attention to transitions between scenes and check that the pacing feels right. Children connect deeply with characters. I ensure that my protagonists, both human and animal, are consistent in their actions and developments, making them believable and relatable. Being an advocate for animal rescue, it's essential that my core message is clear without being preachy. I always check to see that the themes of compassion, empathy, and responsibility are subtly woven throughout the narrative.

Writing for children means being mindful of the language. I make sure the vocabulary is age-appropriate, but I also love introducing a few challenging words here and there to stimulate curiosity and learning. I don’t dumb it down.

While I may not be the illustrator, I still visualize how certain scenes might translate into illustrations. I ensure there's a balance between descriptive text and what can be conveyed visually to create a seamless experience for readers.

Before diving into revisions, I share my manuscript with my writing coach. Her feedback is invaluable, and I make sure her constructive critiques are addressed, and usually incorporated into the draft. I take a step back and look at the story as a whole. Does it come full circle? Are there any loose ends? Does the climax feel satisfying and have a great twist?All of these things ensure my children’s books and stories are written according to industry standards. While revisions can be challenging, they're also incredibly rewarding. With each pass, I see the story evolve, getting closer to the version I imagine.

SL: What do you think is the most common mistake made by new children’s writers?

SD: From my experience and observations, new children's writers are incredibly passionate, which is a fantastic trait. One of the most prevalent mistakes I've noticed is self-doubt, and it's a significant barrier that many new children's book authors, or any author, face. This lack of belief in their own writing can manifest in several ways and can severely hinder their progress and success. Writing is an intimate act. It's a piece of the author's soul translated onto paper. This vulnerability can make new writers hyper-aware and self-critical, causing them to second-guess their work continually. I think it's essential to remember that every author started somewhere, and each voice is unique. Also, the fear of rejection looms large for many new authors. This fear can be paralyzing, leading some to avoid submitting their work altogether. Lack of belief in their writing often convinces them that rejection is inevitable, even before they've begun. Believing in oneself is easier said than done, but it's crucial. I have noticed that self-doubt is a common challenge for new children's book authors. It's essential to recognize it is just a challenge, not an insurmountable barrier. In their quest for perfection, many new writers believe that their work must be flawless before it sees the light of day. This pursuit of the "perfect manuscript" can lead to endless revisions, rewrites, and eventually, stagnation. The beauty of children's literature often lies in its simplicity, where a single, focused narrative can resonate deeply with the reader.

SL: Your picture book Maddie & Jasmine was released in June. What has the marketing process for this book been like? Give details, please. 

SD: Marketing Maddie and Jasmine has been a truly enriching journey. Given the book's theme, it was essential to tailor my marketing approach to emphasize both the joy of children's literature and the significance of animal rescue. Emphasis was made on the fact that a percentage of proceeds from the book will be donated to animal rescue initiatives. The marketing process has been immensely rewarding. Not only has it amplified the book's reach but also shed light on the crucial issue of animal rescue. It's a testament to the power of literature in making a real-world impact. 

My marketing process began before I had a book cover design and before the book was published. When the book cover was complete, I had something tangible to give to people. I had bookmarks made with a picture of my book, my website, and my contact information. I handed out bookmarks to everyone, including bookstores. I introduced merchandise such as posters, wrist bands stamped with paw prints and “Adoption. A great option.”, and temporary Jasmine “catoos” for children. Plush toy cats based on the Jasmine character from the story are currently being developed. I had a very proactive approach of telling everyone I could about my upcoming book, Maddie and Jasmine. Word-of-mouth is always a good start, especially from an enthusiastic author. I loved my book, and I was enthusiastic! I told my friends, my neighbors, the produce manager at my Publix Supermarket, a table waiter at my favorite restaurant, and the CEO and President of the local performing arts Lyric Theatre. That same CEO later asked me to do a book signing event at the Lyric. 

Sherry Signing Books at the Lyric Theater in Stuart, Florida

I visited animal shelters and businesses in my area and received their support. I built a platform for my book by starting a website and blog dedicated to my writing and my passions, rescue animals and children’s literacy. My platform,, allowed me to share regular blog content about animal rescue which was perfect for marketing my book.

I frequently reminded my followers on Facebook about my book and my book launch. I had a virtual book launch the day my book was released to the public. I’m proud to say that by noon, on the day of my book launch, I had earned International Best Seller status. I feel having a wonderful book along with early and constant marketing made it happen. I still market enthusiastically and continually. 

Even though Maddie and Jasmine has been released to the public, my marketing job is not done. I had two successful book signings and have three more in the process of scheduling. I still hand out bookmarks. Maddie and Jasmine was featured on several animal shelter social media pages and websites. I also sent copies to influential children's book reviewers. I work closely with libraries, donating copies to each library in two counties of my state. I will work with those libraries to organize regular reading sessions, paired with talks about the importance of animal compassion and care. I am currently setting up a schedule of school and library visits. I am collaborating with local animal shelters for marketing opportunities.

My advice is to continue to write. The best marketing for your book can often be your next book. I plan on my readership growing with each publication. I am now working on my marketing plans for the second book, Maddie and Jasmine Go Shopping, in the Maddie and Jasmine series. (Do you see what I did here? I promoted my next book.) Marketing is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It's essential to understand where your audience spends their time, what their interests are, and how best to reach and engage with them. Persistence is the key.

SL: How do you stay focused on writing on a regular basis? 

SD: Staying focused on writing, especially with the myriad of distractions in today's world, can indeed be a challenge. However, given my passion for both storytelling and advocating for animal rescue, I've developed a few strategies to keep myself consistently engaged. I set a daily writing routine. I have dedicated hours where I commit to writing. This disciplined approach ensures that I'm consistently making progress, even on days when inspiration might not strike. My frequent visits to animal shelters and interactions with children provide a constant source of stories and emotions. These experiences rekindle my drive to write and share these narratives. I set clear goals. Whether it's a word count, or finishing a draft, I always have a tangible goal in mind. I reduce distractions. I have a designated place in my home where I write. My office is set up specifically for writing. It is my writing sanctuary where I can create.

I am a life learner and continual learn about writing children’s books. I attend workshops, webinars, and read books on writing. I read children’s books and have a library of children’s books for reference. This continuous learning process not only hones my craft but reignites my passion for storytelling. The key lies in recognizing the profound impact stories can have, especially on young minds. Every time I think about a child resonating with my stories or being inspired to care for an animal, it's all the motivation I need to stay focused and keep writing.

SL: What is your best tip for writers? This can either be a writing tip or a marketing tip.

SD: My best tip, LOVE YOUR BOOK! 

Especially for those writing with a mission or message at heart, is to write authentically from a place of passion. Authenticity resonates deeply with readers. Children, in particular, have an uncanny ability to sense genuineness, and they engage more profoundly with stories that come from the heart. When it comes to writing, delve deep into what truly moves you. For me, it's the bond between children and animals and the incredible stories of rescue and compassion. This genuine passion shines through in the narrative, making it relatable and impactful. 

Know and connect with your audience. Today, it's easier than ever to interact with readers.

Listen to their feedback, understand what resonates with them, and involve them in your journey. Whether it's through social media, book readings, or school visits, that direct connection can offer invaluable insights and foster a loyal readership. 

Your enthusiasm for your book is contagious. By showing your excitement, you make the event more enjoyable and engaging for your audience, and you pique their interest in reading your book.

For more author interviews, visit While you're there, don't forget to get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge and have writing tips and other resources delivered to your emailbox every weekday morning.

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 40 published books, a writing coach, and speaker.



Karen Cioffi said...

Suzanne, interesting author interview. I've found that a number of kids' authors are going beyond just promoting their books, like Sherry. Several of my clients have created plush toys for their brand.

Unknown said...

Sherry's Work is genuinely amazing! Her passion and the movement she creates to improve animal shelters and help rescued animals is inspiring! My son loved the book, Maddie & Jasmine and he loved even more the fact that it was supporting such a noble cause! I commend Sherry for all the efforts and love she puts into it!

Danielle Martins
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