Student Success Stories: Charlotte Watson Sherman

I recently discovered that Charlotte Watson Sherman's Brown Sugar Babe released last month, so we're celebrating her book's release with her. Better late than never, right? I'm excited that this beautiful book is out in the world.

You can enter to win a copy of Brown Sugar Babe at the end of this post. Isn't this a glorious cover?

Myrna: What is your profession?

Charlotte: I really don't claim a profession. I worked for many years in various social service positions—jail screener, child welfare caseworker, literacy program volunteer coordinator, research interviewer—before completing library school and becoming a librarian. But the overriding occupational thread throughout my life has been: writer.

Myrna: That's so relatable for me. What made you want to start writing picture books?

Charlotte: Like many other kidlit authors, I've read a lot of picture books to little ones, and I thought I could give it a shot.

Myrna: I'm so glad you did! Could you tell us about your recently released picture book and why the book’s message is important to you?

Charlotte: Brown Sugar Babe is about a brown-skinned child who wants to be something other than what she is. To refute that, the beauty of the color brown is explored poetically through the senses. I wrote Brown Sugar Babe to help instill self-love in children, particularly black and brown children. My hope is that the book will help all children see brown as the lovely color it is.

The book's message is important to me because at this moment, in the U.S., we have a crisis of Black children committing suicide. There is also a crisis of Native American youth committing suicide. To transform the grief of that reality into something beautiful, I wanted to help create a book that would make Black children feel so loved, that sensation could grow to be enough armor to repel any thoughts of self-harm as they aged.

Myrna: The thought of any child committing suicide is heartbreaking. Thank you for sending a more positive message to children. Do you have any advice for writers who want to share a message in their picture book?

Charlotte: Study the writers who do it well. I continue to struggle with didacticism. With learning how to show and not tell. That's where I turn to resources like the Storyteller Academy for help.

Myrna: Yes, Arree has a tendency to call manuscripts out on being didactic, doesn't he? Actually, Melissa just did it on Saturday too. When did you start taking Storyteller Academy classes?

Charlotte: I joined Storyteller Academy during its November 2018 Black Friday event and began by trying to take two workshops that overlapped once they were available because I was super excited and didn't want to miss out on either one: Arree's Crafting Picture Book Stories and the Submission Ready workshop. I was also taking a Radical Novel Revision workshop outside of Storyteller Academy and working part-time in a library. I should've listened to Arree's admonition to only take one course at a time. 

Myrna: Yeah, that sounds like a lot. How have you benefitted from being a Makers Pro member?

Charlotte: I've benefitted most from the flexibility of being a Makers Pro member. As my work and life schedule allows, I can dip in and out of workshops, take intensives, listen to replays at my leisure, plus download course materials and work on them at my own pace. I'm not an illustrator but love what they do, and enjoyed a Vanessa Brantley-Newton class where she demonstrated how she builds a character—it expanded my approach to character building as a writer. 

Myrna: Oh, I love Vanessa's class! She is just so inspiring, and she simplifies concepts to the point where those of us who don't have a background in art/illustration feel empowered to play with art.

But going back to your experience, could you tell us about your book deal with Boyds Mills and Kane Press? Did the merger between the two publishers affect your book at all? Did you get to choose your illustrator? Details, please!

Charlotte: I pitched the idea for Brown Sugar Bab during the April 2018 DVpit event. An editor and an agent “liked” the pitch. The agent passed, and the editor wanted to see what my vision for the book was, so after a telephone call, we struck a deal. My editor, Jes Negron, was with Kane Press at the time, and I believe Brown Sugar Babe was the first book she acquired for them. She later acquired a second book to be published in 2021.

Jes found illustrators she admired and sent links to their portfolios for me to review. I've been crazy hands-on about artists involved with my projects in the past and decided to fall back and trust Jes and the process. I'm so happy I did because I love Akem's illustrations.

I became a little nervous in 2019, when I learned Kane Press had purchased Boyds Mills because, by that time, my editor had become my beloved editor. And sure enough, she accepted a job to do important work outside of publishing and left BMK a few days before my pub date. The merger may affect my next book due out in 2021 because the new team has a different vision for the book. Will we be able to work this out? LOL—I don't have a clue.

Myrna: That’s so interesting. Thank you for sharing! I hope you work things out with the new team for your second book.

Do you have any advice for our readers?

Charlotte: Invest in yourself and your craft. Take advantage of as many Storyteller Academy courses, intensives, extra trainings, and community as you can. Read as widely as possible in- and out-side of your genre. And never give up.

Myrna: That's great advice! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

What's next for you?

Charlotte: Hopefully, another picture book in 2021.

Myrna: Yes! Where can we find you on the Internet?

Charlotte:

Myrna: Where can we buy your book? 

Charlotte: 

Myrna: And there you have it, readers! It's probably also available at your library (or will be soon).

Here's the book trailer:

Book Giveaway Details

I am giving away a copy of Brown Sugar Babe. To enter, let me know something that you've learned from Charlotte in the comments by midnight on March 7. You don’t have to buy anything or be a student to enter. 

Please share this post on social media for extra entries, and paste the link to wherever you shared as a reply to your original comment.

Thank you for reading!

Blog Contributors

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems. 

Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award. 

Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.

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8 thoughts on “Student Success Stories: Charlotte Watson Sherman”

  1. First, I want to congratulate Charlotte on her fabulous book. It looks amazing! And then thank her for her advice to never give up. Also I learned to say cool and calm during big changes at publishes should they merge, and should editors up and leave.

  2. Thanks, Charlotte, for sharing a bit about your process at Kane Press in terms of illustrators. I hope the new vision for your acquired book works like that trust in illustrator choice, rather than conflict with your own vision. Like Myrna, I appreciate what you said about your “profession”. For myself, thoughI was a teacher in many capacities for decades, and did a variety of other jobs – with animals, with dance, and even with public art projects, underneath it all I felt and saw myself as a picture book illustrator. Sometimes writing has been part of that and other times not sure…. and good to know you got writing support from SA including from some classes geared to the art. I often feel that interplay between to two in the variety of class of SA.

    I hope many children get the good feelings from your book to love the skin they are in. When I was teaching art to middle schoolers, I shared many POC artists and talked about the beautiful range of colors we all are, and opened many discussions about the difference between political constructs and chosen identifications vs actual skin color when we look without those labels, but as artists. I am hopeful many who are now teaching will utilize your book to bring acceptance and self-love and other-love to their classrooms.

  3. Congrats to Charlotte, and thanks for sharing your journey. I appreciated hearing about where Charlotte is at in her next project. . This post reiterated for me the importance and potential impact of the editorial process of a manuscript. Best of luck to Charlotte!

  4. Barakah Iqbal

    Something I learned from Charlotte was her recommendation to take classes from Storyteller Academy. I have previously heard about the academy, but I had no idea that students who took courses from Storyteller Academy had any success. I am glad a woman of color got such an amazing publishing deal from the skills she learned from taking this course.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I learned how important the Storyteller Academy courses were to Charlotte. How exciting that she’s been published and has a deal for another book next year. Congratulations!

  6. Congratulations, Charlotte! It’s so gratifying to see this picture book out and to know that your remarkable writing talent is still a part of our literary landscape – you too!

  7. Yvette Murray

    Congratulations on all of your success! I learned how in publishing things change sometimes and how much it can affect you as a writer. This a part of the business and we have to be flexible enough to roll with it! Thanks for sharing!

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