Sheila Solomon Klass
SHEILA SOLOMON KLASS has been writing fiction for young adults for nearly five decades. Her books include The Uncivil War ; Shooting Star: A Novel About Annie Oakley; and Little Women Next Door. Ms. Klass lives in New York City.
Where did you grow up? Williamsburg, a slum neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York.
What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
Two elementary school-age memories: I entered the Stuhmer's Pumpernickel
Contest: Finish the sentence "I like Stuhmer's Pumpernickel because-" Money was the prize, but I won a large pumpernickel. (A consolation prize) Nonetheless, there was family jubilation. LATER, I had a limerick published in the Pen & Ink school magazine:
Mrs. Astorbilt once had a poodle,
She fed him on apple strudel.
He became temperamental;
Wouldn't eat beans or lentils;
So they shot him right through the noodle.
The joy and local fame these writing successes brought have never been equaled.
What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
The incredible unfairness of the NYC school system; I taught in a junior high school in Harlem in the 1950's and the callus, opportunism of the white administrators needed to be written about. I hoped my first novel, Come Back On Monday, would bring reforms.
Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
Yes, but then I use everything.
What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?
Little Women and all the other Alcott books; Heidi, Pinocchio, the various colored fairy books: (i.e. The Red Fairy Tales, etc.) of Andrew Lang; Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Dickens' novels, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Later, Green Mansions, The Good Earth.
What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
I love to travel and have lived in Trinidad and India for extended periods. Exotic foods entice me; I enjoy the theater and good movies. My great pleasure is teaching people who want to write fiction; I still teach at CUNY because it is such a joy for me.
Who are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators? What is it about their work that inspires and interests you?
Maurice Sendak's off-beat humor and wild imagination charm me; The Madeline books have always been a pleasure; I still love and reread Alcott. Stuart Little and the Garth Williams; illustrations are a pleasure.
What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?
Read, read, read and then you will find your own way.
Sheila Solomon Klass
Holt Books for Young Readers
Henry Holt and Co. BYR Paperbacks
In the 1700s, women's responsibilities were primarily child rearing and household duties. But Deborah Sampson wanted more from life. She wanted to read, to travel—and to fight for her country's...