A Peek at the Creative Space of Susanna Leonard Hill

Susanna Leonard Hill is the author of numerous picture books including Punxsutawney Phyllis; Not Yet, Rose!; and The House that Mack Built. Her most recent titles are April Fool, Phyllis!,  a follow-up to Punxsutawney Phyllis, and Can’t Sleep Without Sheep, a story about a girl who takes so long counting sheep to fall asleep the sheep get tired and quit, but then finding their replacement proves to be harder than they thought.

On her blog, Susanna hosts many entertaining and informative features for writers and readers alike. Perfect Picture Books is a collection of picture book recommendations organized by category. Every Friday, anyone is invited to submit their suggestions for the list. Would You Read It? is a weekly feature posted on Wednesdays for writers to try out pitches for their works-in-progress. Visit Susanna’s blog to learn more about all the fun resources she offers.
To learn more about Susanna, visit her website, her Facebook page, or Twitter to learn more. 

Describe your workspace.
I am a wanderer 🙂  I do–technically–have an office. My printer lives there, as do many books on writing craft, and shelves and shelves of picture books.  Also a piano–which helps with writing more than you might think 🙂  But my office only gets sun from an east-facing window in the morning.  And I don’t like to sit in one place.  So I do a lot of work at the kitchen table (where there is sunshine whenever the sun is out). 
When I get tired of sitting, I stand at the kitchen counter.  If the weather is nice, I sit on the back porch steps, or the mudroom steps–I like steps 🙂  In winter, I sit on the edge of the fireplace a lot (it’s warm . . . and just like a step 🙂 )  And since a lot of writing is thinking time, I do a lot of my work out walking or running with my dogs, or while I’m driving–I have a lot of kids and I do a lot of driving 🙂 

Describe a typical workday.
Sometimes I think it would be nice if there WAS such a thing as a typical workday–maybe I’d be more organized and make better use of my time 🙂  But one of the things I like best about writing is that it allows me to work on my own schedule.  If I need to make an eagle costume, or serve lion cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday, or go to a soccer/football/volleyball/basketball/lacrosse game or a wrestling match, or visit a kindergarten class to share one of my books, or go to a class play or a jazz band concert, or spend the day snuggled on the couch reading stories with someone who has a sore throat, I can.  So typical?  Not in my house 🙂

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.
#1 Sunshine.  Of course I can’t control it, so sometimes there isn’t any, but I’m convinced my brain is solar powered and I think much better when it’s sunny 🙂
#2 My dogs 🙂  They keep me company.  They make me get up and go for a walk.  I can read them anything I am working on and they never say anything mean 🙂 
#3 Picture books.  I have A LOT.  They are beautiful–both words and pictures–and I find them so inspiring.  When I feel stuck, it always helps to remind myself of what I’m aiming for.
I also have a bunch of stuffed animals and puppets that represent characters from my books.  

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.
I don’t really have any rituals.  Show up and work–that’s about it.

What do you listen to while you work?
I don’t listen to anything while I’m working.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?
I usually have a cup of coffee on my desk.  It has usually been reheated way too many times to actually be potable.  But I keep it there anyway.  It’s comforting 🙂

What keeps you focused while you’re working?
I don’t know.  When I’m working, I’m working.  I am so focused that people can walk into the room and talk to me and I don’t notice . . . Maybe I just like my work? 🙂

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?
I write picture books, so they aren’t that long, and I write all my first drafts longhand and then type them into the computer.  I don’t know why, but I think better with pen in my hand and I like the physical act of writing.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?
I don’t have a system.  I usually get a piece of an idea, and after letting it roll around in my head for a while (an amount of time over which I have no control) it will join up with another piece of an idea and suggest a story that could work.  Then I write it and see where it goes.  Very scientific, no? 🙂

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?
Since, as I mentioned, I tend to move around, I often share my workspace.  I like having my kids around, and often do my work while they do their homework.  It’s companionable.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?
Write the stories you want to write, and don’t give up.

24 Responses to “A Peek at the Creative Space of Susanna Leonard Hill”

  1. Elizabeth Rose Stanton

    Jenn- thank you for the peek into Susanna's world. Is so great to get to see and read about such a creative person–one who seems to have unbounded amount of energy and talent! Those pups are adorable 🙂

  2. Beth Stilborn

    Wonderful to learn about Susanna's writing space(s) and get a feeling for what makes her very creative brain tick. Thank you!

  3. Elaine Kearns

    Ahhhh, the similarities we share! I love the pups! My pup keeps me going too, and she is so nice during the revision process. 🙂

  4. Teresa Robeson

    Thank you both for this wonderful little peek into Susanna's world! Such cute doggies… Like Elaine, I, too, have a lot of similarities with Susanna: the moving around the house to write habit, the reheated-too-many-times beverage (both coffee and tea), and having no rituals nor anything to listen to while I work parts. 🙂

  5. Linda

    Susanna, to see your process is…well,I can't say. Stuffed animals, messy kind of workspace, etc. It's so much like what I do that maybe, perhaps it's why I feel so comfortable sharing stuff on your blog? Except I don't let anyone in my work space WHEN I am working (hence why I work at 4:30 or so a.m.) Great interview of Susanna, Jennifer!

  6. Susanna Leonard Hill

    That pretty much sums it up, Ruth – my space is wherever I'm working! I should have hired you – this interview would have been a lot shorter 🙂

  7. Susanna Leonard Hill

    Yes, well, Linda, actually this is pretty tidy for me – I straightened up a little before the photos 🙂 I did forget to call attention to Phyllis's tiara collection though… she has 3 now. She gets them annually on Groundhog Day and they have A LOT of glitter on them 🙂 I hope you noticed them. And I'm very glad you feel comfortable over at my blog. It's all about the comfort 🙂

  8. tinamcho

    How fun to learn more about you, Susanna! I love that idea of having stuffed animals around for characters. I think between my two kids, we have 100. Thanks for sharing, Susanna & Jenn!

  9. Vivian Kirkfield

    Love love love the stuffed animals, real dogs and sunshiny table.:) Thanks for spotlighting Susanna, Jenn…and nice to meet you, by the way.:)
    I work at my dining room table that is next to the sliders that lead to our little back patio…I call it the Zen garden. Working in the light provides inspiration, I think.:)

  10. pennyklostermann.com

    Susanna, I loved seeing your workspace, and reading about various aspects of your day! I agree that sunshine helps with creativity…at least in my case! Thanks, Jenn, for having Susanna on your blog. She's a special person!

  11. Susanna Leonard Hill

    Actually, the characters came first and then I found stuffed animals and puppets to match, but then people started giving me stuffties to be characters – my mom gave me a bunny and an otter, and my husband brought me a lamb and a scottie dog from Scotland 🙂

  12. Susanna Leonard Hill

    It's a little horrifying, I know 🙂 but I swear I know where everything is 🙂 I'm wishing for some sunshine today – it's snowing and sleeting with a high wind – ick! Where's spring?!

  13. Dana Carey

    Nice to get a peek into your day-to-day, Susanna. I like sun too but I live in a place not known for sun all year round. I don't have curtains on any of the windows (except my daughter's) so at the very least I get daylight, sunny or otherwise. (Luckily, our windows don't face anyone else's.)The dogs look like fun.
    Fun interview!
    Thanks, Susanna and Jenn!

  14. Susanna Leonard Hill

    Thanks, Dana, glad you enjoyed it 🙂 And yeah, we don't have a single curtain in our house… but we live in the middle of the woods so no neighbors to peek in except the deer… and the bears… and the bobcat…