Local writer Sherri Cadmus created and published her first children’s book, Knuckles, Grandma Bea, in memory of her children’s beloved late babysitter.
Q&A by Maureen Kingsley with Sherri Cadmus
This month, the children’s book Knuckles, Grandma Bea, by local resident Sherri Cadmus, becomes available for purchase on Amazon. Sherri says this story was more than ten years in the making, inspired by the sudden loss of her family’s beloved babysitter. Calling on her background in art, English language, and marketing, Sherri turned her grief into a work of creativity that she hopes will resonate with other families, too.
Read on for details about the book and its author’s creative process.
The El Segundo Scene (TESS): What is your background, and how long have you been writing?
Sherri Cadmus (SC): I’ve always enjoyed writing for myself—journaling stories, for example—but I never imagined myself becoming an author. I have helped other people edit their stories, and I was an English as a Second Language Instructor at universities in the United States and at a language school abroad, so I have been around writing for many, many years, but my more recent profession has been in the art world. About five years ago I opened a retail space in El Segundo called ArtSpace. We held art shows for local artists, classes for all ages, team-building workshops, and events. I loved it, but I couldn’t keep up with the high cost of keeping a brick-and-mortar business, so unfortunately it only lasted 15 months. Now I’m mostly focused on my book; although I do continue to help promote some artist friends’ work.
TESS: What inspired and motivated you to write a children’s book?
SC: I’ve had a number of ideas for children’s books in the past. I took them to various stages of development, but this book is one I have been wanting to complete for over ten years.
TESS: What was your inspiration for the storyline and main theme of the book?
SC: Knuckles, Grandma Bea is based on a true story. My girls had the most incredible babysitter, who died fairly suddenly. There was an event shortly after her death that is somewhat described in this book. I based the narrator on my oldest daughter, as she and our babysitter had a particularly close relationship. Many of the activities in the book are based on actual activities my kids did with this babysitter. There’s also a fairy-angel-craft theme that runs throughout the story. Right after the real Grandma Bea died, I found some fairy angels she had helped my daughters make. I had a profound reaction holding those angels. It’s actually what prompted me to write the initial story—that and the goal of preserving our babysitter’s memory for my daughters, who were very young when she died. To this day, those angels are a large part of our lives. One of my daughters has perfected the skill of making them and has brought so much joy to people when she gives them as gifts—so much so, she is considering opening an Etsy store to reach more people.
TESS: What was your writing/creative process during this project?
SC: I first wrote Knuckles, Grandma Bea as a short story about ten years ago. Then over the years I worked on it a bit here and there. Last Christmas I was visiting with my family. My brother-in-law had just published a children’s book. He knew I had a background in marketing, so we spent a lot of time together discussing it. At that point I thought, “Why not try to publish my own book?” I have a background in art and graphic design, but I am not an illustrator. I knew that would be the largest hurdle to overcome. However, as fate would have it, my nephew married a woman who was just starting out as a part-time illustrator. I fell in love with her work, and in May, [a couple of months after] COVID hit, she had time at home to start a new project. I continued to edit my book and also started sketching and mapping out what the book would look like illustrated. My illustrator took all of my rough sketches and turned them into much, much better sketches. Then we edited back and forth until she was ready to line the sketches. Then we edited more. Finally we added color. Then words on the page. We designed the cover and figured out what we needed for the back cover. The whole process was creative. There was a ton of editing involved, of both the words and images.
TESS: What has been the general timeline, from conception of idea to publishing and marketing?
SC: I’ve had the concept and rough book in my mind percolating for over ten years. However, the actual timeline from truly committing to producing the book was May 2020 until now. Knuckles, Grandma Bea will be officially released March 1, though it is in finished form already. I started marketing back in October. I was listed on the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ BookStop.
TESS: What was the collaborative process like with your illustrator?
SC: I was fortunate that my new niece is an illustrator, but I know a lot of writers go to sites like Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to look for their illustrators. If an author wants to publish with traditional publishers, finding an illustrator is actually frowned upon. The publisher wants to handle that itself. One of the reasons I wanted to self-publish is that I had very clear images in my mind of what the pictures in the book should look like. If I had not self-published, I would have had little control over the final product.
TESS: How can readers purchase the book, and how will you promote it?
SC: Knuckles, Grandma Bea will be available in paperback on Amazon immediately. It will also be printed as a hardcover book and will be on lists to hopefully be purchased by bookstores, schools, and libraries. I’m hoping therapists and counselors will like the book and spread the word as well. Since there are few opportunities for traditional book signings at the moment, I will host online events, such as “About the Author” and “About the Illustrator” talks. I am also hoping readers will visit my website, where there will be instructions for making flower fairies as well as a gallery to share them. I am also planning to make a remembrance rainbow wall on my website, and possibly a page for caretakers to share stories about working through grief. I am hoping to find inspirational quotes to share on my Instagram page. Marketing is a living thing. As my readership develops, how I promote the book will develop. I’m just so excited to get started.
Sherri’s website is sherrilevittcadmus.com, and look for her book on amazon.com.