We had the good fortune of connecting with Sharon Skinner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sharon, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factor behind my success and the success of my brand is that I sincerely love helping other writers improve their work and their craft. I want to not only support my clients in accomplishing their goals of writing the stories they are passionate about, but to help position them for success in the ultra-competitive field of publishing. When I say, I offer book coaching and editing with honesty and heart, I mean it, and I do my level best to show up and do that every single day with every single client.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The name of my business is Book Coaching by Sharon, and my mission is to provide book coaching with honesty and heart, to support writers in writing forward, improving their skills, telling powerful stories, and creating the best books possible.
A Book Coach is a combination of cheerleader, project manager, editor, and friend, who is by the writer’s side through each step of the writing and revision process as they complete and polish their book, ensuring it is the best it can be for submission to agents and/or editors or for self-publishing. A Book Coach is also a professional editor, who can support the writer through the creative ups and downs and help them conquer the challenges of writing a novel or book. As a Book Coach, I work to help writers connect meaningfully with their readers. I believe in the vision of my clients and want to help them succeed with their writing goals.
Part of what sets me apart in the industry is my deep connection with books and the depth and breadth of my experience. I have an MA in Creative Writing from Prescott College and am an author of Poetry, Short Stories, Speculative Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Paranormal, Steampunk, etc., with published works ranging across Picture Book to Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult novels. As the Regional Advisor for the Arizona Region of the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), I am perfectly positioned to understand the local writing community and the ongoing needs of writers.
Additionally, as an acting Arizona State Library Writer in Residence for three years running (2017-2019), I got a great deal of practice working with writers, discussing their work, helping them to identify ways to restructure and/or re-envision their work and write forward. Some of those writers I met with have gone on to publication with their work, which is extremely exciting to see. All of this, along with working as a freelance editor, writing instructor and mentor, in addition to being a life-long learner and voracious reader, positioned me perfectly for becoming a Book Coach.
With all of this deep experience, when I came across the opportunity to become a Certified Book Coach through Author Accelerator, I knew I had found my perfect niche. So, I signed up, completed the coursework and attained certification.
Running a business isn’t easy, especially for someone who likes the more creative aspects of creating books. There are so many moving parts, like financials, client management, website development, marketing, and branding. I have been lucky to work with some fabulous professionals, including an incredible graphic designer and illustrator, Tanja Bauerle, who also happens to be my Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI AZ. She guided me through the branding process and created my amazing business logo. The most important takeaway for me is to focus on what I am best at and outsource whatever don’t know how to do to people with the skills and know-how to do them really well. What I do really well is to help writers weave their words into stories that shine.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
That’s a great question, and because I am a fiction writer and will now pretend there is no COVID, we have a lot of ground to cover. So, let’s get moving.
First we sneak out of town and head up north to the Grand Canyon. We’ll take the scenic route with a jaunt through Prescott and stop off in Jerome for lunch at the Mile High Grill, then drive through Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. We’ll spend the night at the El Tovar, then in the morning we’ll walk along the south rim, stand on the edge, and shout our dreams into the canyon. But, we only have a week, so we have to get moving.
We road trip back down to Phoenix and take a short hike up around Papago Park and visit Hole-in-the-Rock, so I can show them where my Middle Grade novel, The Nelig Stones, starts and ends. We’ll have lunch at the Desert Botanical Garden and spend some time there, because one must learn about the amazing flora and fauna to really appreciate the Arizona desert.
The next day, we have breakfast at Essence Bakery Café, then spend the morning at the Arizona Science Center, check out the great exhibits and ride the high-wire bicycle. Then we are off to the Heard museum where we will lunch in the Courtyard Café and spend the rest of the day wandering the exhibits and the sculpture garden. For dinner, we’ll slip over to Pitic, my favorite little out of the way Mexican restaurant near the airport.
It’s day four and after we stop in at Xanadu Coffee and say hello to Randy & Jessica & the crew, we are headed to MIM (Musical Instrument Museum). There is bound to be something special going on, and I can’t wait for us to take turns playing the Theramin! Lunch is at the Phoenix Public Market, then we’ll bop over to the Irish Cultural Center and spend some time touring the current exhibit and the McClelland Library. It’s the Cornish Pasty Company for dinner, where I’ll be having mushy peas and a beautifully poured pint of Guinness.
Day five, we spend the morning at the Phoenix Art Museum and lunch there at the Palette Restaurant. Then, it’s time to head east. We spend the afternoon checking out Mesa Grande Cultural Park. Dinner at the Blue Adobe Grill. I cannot get enough of their blackened salmon lettuce wraps, or their salsa! After that, we head to Main Street in Downtown Mesa and stop in at my all-time favorite coffee shop, Jarrod’s Coffee Tea & Gallery to grab a vanilla lavender latte, and ogle the fabulous art and jewelry, and maybe catch some music or spoken word.
Day six, breakfast at First Watch and then a tour of the Arizona Museum of Natural History: dinosaurs and meteorites! Lunch at Nunthaporn’s Thai Cuisine. I’ll have the Spicy Basil, please. Then we’ll walk over the Mesa Art Center, shop in the boutique and take in a show. Afterward, it’s a short walk over to 12 West Brewing where we will sit out on the balcony and eat gourmet munchies sipping amazing locally brewed beers.
It’s our last day, and I have just the spot. We are packing a lunch and hiking the Pass Mountain trail at Usery Mountain Regional Park. We’ll take our time because we’ve been running hard to see all the things. We’ll chill out and take in the desert vistas. Afterward, we’ll stop for dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant, Guru Palace, where we’ll make plans for a future visit, because there is so much more to Arizona that we didn’t get to see.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First off, my mom. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but she really did nurture my love of reading and knowledge. She paved the way for me to have access to whatever books I wanted to read and pushed back any time anyone said the reading matter I was drawn to was too mature for me.
I absolutely have to recognize the Brick Cave Books publishing family, publishing staff, editors, illustrators and writers. I couldn’t ask to be counted among a better group of creators. I also have some amazing Beta readers, who I could not do without.
SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)—especially co-founders Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser—as well as all my Kidlit colleagues for all the amazing connections and resources.
All the readers who are drawn to my work and find themselves connecting with the stories and characters I have created. Thank you for being an incredibly important part of what I do! And the writers who have allowed me to participate in their own writing journeys, either by attending a workshop (I always learn when I teach), through editing, or as book coaching clients.
And, finally, Jennie Nash, founder and owner of Author Accelerator, as well as the staff and all the other book coaches, for encouraging me to formalize my freelance work into a business that can uplift and support other writers at next level awesome.