July 21, 2012 in Washington Voices

A passion for stories

Local writer, illustrator teaches lessons via kid’s books
By The Spokesman-Review
 

When Sharon Cramer wrote and illustrated a little story at the time her youngest son, Chase, was born, she never dreamed of publishing it. The inspiration for the story “Lost and Alone” came from Chase’s two older brothers who sometimes quarreled mercilessly like only siblings can.

“They were boys and they were tearing my house apart,” said Cramer with a smile. “I wanted to do something especially for Chase, who was much younger than them. Now he turns 19 in August.”

That little homemade story turned into the first children’s book Cramer published, and it also became the first in her series, “The Cougar Cub Tales.”

Two more books have been added to the Cougar Cub Tales, and on Aug. 1, Cramer publishes her next children’s book, “Marlow and the Monster.”

“It’s about a little boy and this monster who thinks he’s all that and a bag of chips,” said Cramer, flipping through the book. “In the end, and with the help of his sister, it turns out the monster isn’t scary at all.” The book is illustrated with detailed black-and-white drawings – only the monster is brightly colored.

“I actually think the monster is kind of cute,” Cramer said.

This will be Cramer’s fourth children’s book, and early on in her writing career she decided to embrace independent digital publishing, sidestepping big publishers.

“Electronic books were just getting started at the time,” Cramer said. “It used to be that if you were independently published it was because you weren’t any good. That’s not so any longer.”

Cramer said she jumped in with both feet: She built a website, joined Facebook and Twitter, started a blog and then she hit the pavement promoting her books.

“I do a lot of presentations. I don’t think there’s a school class out here who hasn’t had a visit from me,” Cramer said. She joined the Independent Book Publishers Association and the American Library Association, and today she owns Talking Bird Books.

Last year, Cramer went to the Book Expo of America to promote her books.

“I’ve gone to the fair, I’ve done every show in town you can think of,” Cramer said. “Yes, I sell books. Yes, I work really hard at it. And no, you don’t become a millionaire over night.”

Cramer, who’s married to Daryl Cramer and lives in Greenacres, said she’s always been a writer. She was born in Jamestown, N.Y., in 1960 to a mom who was an art collector and a dad who was an engineer. In fourth grade she wrote a poem titled “I’m an alcoholic” that was so realistic her family got a visit from Child Protective Services.

“I was not an alcoholic. I didn’t drink,” said Cramer, laughing. “It’s just that I had written the poem so realistically the teacher thought it was my own experience. I’d just seen some of my dad’s friends drunk.”

Cramer works part time as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at smaller clinics, a job that allows her a flexible schedule so she has time to travel and promote her books. She holds a minor in fine arts and has always been painting and drawing.

“My books are always about kids’ issues and how to find a way to deal with, for instance, the fear of monsters,” said Cramer, adding that “Marlow and the Monster” comes with a parenting tip sheet on how to help children who are afraid of imagined monsters under the bed. “Next up I want to do a blended family book. It could be about a hedgehog who is raised by porcupines or something like that.”

Cramer is also working on a sci-fi fantasy book for young adults titled, “The Cerulean Star,” and has also published the historical novel, “The Execution,” set in France in the 1400s.

“People often look at the children’s books and my grownup books, which are kind of dark and wonder exactly how I go from one to the other,” Cramer said, “but I do. To me it’s not that hard.”

Does she ever run out of ideas or things to write about?

“No. If you are a bit like I am, you can’t not write,” said Cramer. “I dream it, I live it, I probably write at least a thousand words every day.”

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