Jenna Hlewka and Sue Farrell Holler

Interpreting the World from a Childs Perspective: An Interview with Sue Farrell Holler

I’ve always admired children’s authors as my fondest childhood memories came from reading. I was thrilled to be able to explore the mind behind a children’s book! Sue is a children’s author, columnist, and presenter; graduating with an Honours Degree in Journalism from the University of Kings College (UKC) in Halifax. She is a member of the WGA, past president of the Grande Prairie chapter of the Children’s Literature Roundtable, member of the Canadian Authors’ Association, and a member and former director of the Young Alberta Book Society.


JH: What motivated you to pursue writing, specifically children’s literature as a career?

SFH: I’m not sure exactly what happened as the pressure to choose a career mounted. English was easy, and I was already a fast writer. Although I was an avid reader, I had never met a writer and didn’t know if there was a viable way to make a living with words, but then came a recruiter from UKC seeking students for its journalism program. It seemed a perfect fit — the opportunity to get paid to write. I turned to children’s literature when my first son was born. By the time my first child was a toddler, I was reading vast amounts of children’s books. Many of them were awful. I thought that surely, I could do better. Of all the writing I’ve done, I like writing for kids the best. [It] lets me explore my vivid memories and tap into childhood emotions.


JH: In your book “Lacey and the African Grandmothers” you portray a young girl’s desire to help others. Compared to the other books you have written, this one was based on a true story. What about Lacey Little Bird inspired you to share her story?

SFH: Actually, all of my children’s books, including my forthcoming young adult (YA) novel Cold White Sun, are based on true stories. Cold White Sun is about an Ethiopian refugee. I fell in love with this boy’s story, just as I fell for “Lacey’s.”  I had known “Lacey’s” story from a short article I’d written when she first started making purses. The day I heard about the African grandmothers travelling to Gleichen to meet her, I nearly fell off my chair. Here was a girl doing what she could, but in the grand scheme, a small thing. But it was no small thing to the women she helped; it was love in action.


JH: You also offer a wide range of workshops for children and adults. Out of all the workshops you offer, which one do you enjoy the most and why?

SFH: So many people say they are not writers, my favourite workshop turns those doubts upside down. I use visual and/or “first line” prompts in a hands-on workshop that sees participants writing quickly and lucidly for two-hour stretches. The work they create in the workshop is unbelievable and often turns into jumping off points for longer works. There are lots of reasons I like leading this workshop: There’s a vibrant energy. Participants are engaged. They take risks. They surprise themselves. Most importantly, it’s where those sometimes shy and awkward kids have a voice.


Sue’s forthcoming YA novel “Cold White Sun” is to be released in March 2019. Sue also passed on advice to anyone looking at pursuing a writing career. Her advice is to “Read! Reading is crucial if you want to write”. From interviewing Sue, I learned that a passion for children’s literature cannot be synthesized, as her passion and personality shone through her responses.


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