Interview with Gretchen Griffith, Versatile and Talented Author of Books for Children and Adults

Gretchen Griffith
Gretchen Griffith, Author

“Interview with Gretchen Griffith, Versatile and Talented Author of Books for Children and Adults” by Joan Y. Edwards

Dear Gretchen,
Thank you for being a guest on my blog. Your idea of writing me a letter for the interview is a good one. Let’s begin.
Dear Joan,
Hi. Thank you so much for inviting me over to your blog today. I’m excited about sharing my writing experience with you and your readers. (You’re welcome.)
I am amused at the question on how I did in English as a kid. I’ve read through the responses other writers gave you and laughed with them. Perfection on grammar was not always what we were looking for back then! I grew into an appreciation of language structure when I took a class on linguistics and syntax at Appalachian State University. I’m not always the Grammar Ninja I’m accused of being, but I am conscious of when something just doesn’t work. That class helped me develop the ear.
As for the literature aspect of my high school years, I’m the one who sat in geometry with a good novel hidden under the textbook. That’s all I need to say about that. I can’t put my finger on a single favorite book because whichever book I had my nose stuck into at the moment was my favorite. If I didn’t like it, I set it aside. I am partial to long narratives like those by Michener that trace a story through generations.
In fact, the manuscript I’m working on now is structured like that, a story told through generations, and I’m talking nonfiction here. The outline has been easy to develop, falling into eras. I’ve already published two nonfiction books that follow the same pattern.

The first is a collective memoir of a school in Burke County, North Carolina, Lessons Learned: The Story of Pilot Mountain School. I interviewed over eighty people on this project and spent hours and hours with what became my best friend, the microfiche. Most of the research for that was to follow up what I learned during an interview. It didn’t take me long to realize many of the “facts” they told me turned out to be based on opinion. Lessons learned on that!
Your question, “Did you cry while writing one of your books?” brings back many poignant moments during my interviews. Often I sat in silence waiting for the person at the other end of the recorder to compose himself and go on with the story. Some memories are vivid after fifty years, and believe me, permanently etched into the mind. When I later worked those sections into the overall narrative, I couldn’t help but remember the expression of anguish on the faces of those who spoke. I felt an obligation to be accurate, to have the reader understand the depth of emotion. Yes, I cried more than once.
The good thing about having nonfiction characters is that they are real and can appear at the most unexpected times, even those who have died. Some readers knew the characters personally and have shared more stories with me that I could have included. Just last week after my presentation at a luncheon a lady came up and started talking about one of the principals at the school. I could write a sequel.

My second book, Called to the Mountains: The Story of Jean L. Frese, is not as complex. It is the memoir of my mother’s cousin. Our interview sessions involved my pressing the record button and then listening as the story flowed. I did have to do a bit of follow-up research to clarify things for the reader, but the entire book comes from her first person account.

On the other hand my experience with my picture book characters is a little peculiar. I created Eduardo, my main character (MC) in When Christmas Feels Like Home, completely from scratch. I worked with him and his personality for six years. Yes, you read that right, six years. I thought I knew him. When I finally saw the illustrations for the book I was blown away; thrilled. My goodness what beautiful art! Strangely, though, it was like meeting Eduardo for the first time. I had to get to know him all over. Here is a picture of my granddaughter, Reagan with me at the book launch for it.

I sold a fiction article to Highlights for Children that I’m hoping will be out soon. It’s a story from my husband’s family that I upped the action a bit, but the characters are real. I didn’t even change the names. I can’t wait to meet them in illustrations to see how they compare with the real person. That’s going to be an experience.
But then again, all writing is an experience. It doesn’t end when the final revision goes to the editor or when a set of pictures comes through an email attachment or when you rip open the first shipment and out comes this unforgettable new book smell that only the author can appreciate. Those make up the first half of the life of a book. The other half is the fun. Meeting readers. Sharing experiences with fellow authors. Learning new techniques to apply to the current work in progress.
I’m fortunate enough to have found a critique group that is supportive and brutally honest. We don’t just read each other’s manuscripts and give opinions, we seek out ways to improve our writing. Right now we are working on a series of lectures by Brooks Landon, Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft. It’s very technical and goes into such detail that I wonder if I’ll ever write a decent sentence again. I prepared an assignment yesterday for lesson 15, “Degrees of Suspensiveness” and even though I’ll probably never write a two hundred word sentence again, I at least know the technique of saving the suspense for the last word.
Another professional development book we’ve worked our way through is Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin. With the subtitle, “Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew,” how could we be steered wrong? One exercise I remember doing was to write a description of an object without using adjectives or adverbs. Verbs allowed. Nouns in clauses used as adverbs permitted. Try it by describing the room where you are. You’ll see the paragraph come alive when verbs replace adjectives. To this day, I am super conscious of how I write descriptions because of that one exercise.
Another exercise that I so vividly remember, although I don’t think it came from this book, is writing a paragraph in second person. It’s not an easy assignment. I probably will never use it again, but my radar now is more sensitive to point of view. Try it. Think of writing again about the room where you are using only second person (you) this time. Here’s a good example of how changing point of view is not just about changing from “I” to “it” to “you.” There’s more involved than switching out functional words.
At lot of my self-instruction comes from what I pick up on the internet, reading blog posts that I stumble upon as I’m scrolling through Twitter. I click on hashtags that sound promising (#askeditor, #amwriting #kidlitchat) and find all sorts of topics I never would have investigated. I have a regular routine of blogs I follow to keep up with writers I cross paths with. Many were featured here in the last months, Joan.
There’s so much more to writing than I ever imagined, I must admit. I was an elementary teacher for many years, taught writing to fourth graders. I’d love to pull all of them back in and add what I’ve learned. I’m glad I’ve taken it one step at a time, though, and I’m also glad I’m still on the journey. It is so worth it.
Please visit me at my blog, Catch of the Day at and my webpage I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you, Gretchen for your delightful letter interview. It’s amazing how you write for children and adults. Plus you write fiction and non-fiction. You are very talented and versatile!


Gretchen Griffith on the internet:
Facebook Author Page:
Twitter: Note the spelling of her last name. She had to drop the second “i” because someone already had the regular spelling.
Celebrate you every day.
You are a gift to our world
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

The free book giveaway is over. Thank you for reading my blog.


36 thoughts on “Interview with Gretchen Griffith, Versatile and Talented Author of Books for Children and Adults”

    1. Dear Molly,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you enjoyed Gretchen’s letter and how she approaches her writing. It is interesting how creative you and Gretchen were when your name was already in use for your website and her Twitter account. Good going, Molly and Gretchen. I’m sure other writers have had the same experience.
      Celebrate you.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

    2. Thanks for responding, Molly. When I was deciding how to do my name, I tried all kinds of combinations. Leaving the second “i” out seemed to be the best. griffth/griffith See how the “eye” plays tricks on the mind and you barely notice.
      Gretchen Griffith or is it Gretchen Griffth???

  1. Gretchen, Thanks for visiting Joan for an interview. Congratulations on your books. I especially love Eduardo’s story…he is a cutie, for sure.
    Thanks again Joan for bringing us another writer’s journey.

    1. Dear Mona,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview with Gretchen. You are right, Gretchen’s Eduardo in When Christmas Feels Like Home is definitely a cutie.
      Celebrate you.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Dear Susanne,
      Thank you for writing. I’m glad you enjoyed Gretchen’s letter interview. You’re right. Gretchen’s idea of doing a letter interview was unique way of letting people know about her. Thanks for wishing her success!
      Celebrate you
      Never Give Up

  2. I am fortunate to be one of Gretchen’s brutal critique partners and yet I’m blown away by her approach to your interview and the way she wove her writing experience into it. Her books are wonderful! And even though I’ve traveled the journey with her on each of them and thought I knew all there is to know about her, this interview opened my eyes to more unique aspects of her writing life.
    Thank you Joan for posting Gretchen’s excellent letter.
    And Gretchen, much love and success to you now and in the future.

    1. Thanks, Sandra. You’ve been on the receiving end of the critiques quite a lot and taken everything in stride. We are better writers because of our Soup Critique Group. Every writer should be so fortunate.

    2. Dear Sandra,
      Thanks for writing. You’re welcome for my interviewing Gretchen. You’re right, Gretchen’s letter did weave her writing experiences in a delightful way. How lucky you and Gretchen are to be critique partners!
      Celebrate you
      Never Give Up

    1. Yes, we could have been friends, only you need to hear one story that got everyone looking at me. I was reading Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and got to a part that made me gasp. The whole class, teacher included, stopped and stared at me and I didn’t even notice since I was so involved with the book, until the giggles. Friendships just go so far sometimes.

    2. Dear Carol,
      Thanks for writing. It’s great that you found a common bond with Gretchen – reading during your Math classes in high school. I’ve put your name in the hat for a chance to win one of Gretchen’s books.
      Celebrate you
      Never Give Up

  3. Thank you, Joan, for another wonderful interview shared with your blogger fans!:) And thank you, Gretchen, for taking the time to share so much. I also love the “letter” approach to the interview…nice touch! Another homerun for you Joan!:)

    1. Dear Brenda,
      Thank you for writing. You’re welcome for the interview with Gretchen. I’m glad you loved the “letter” interview approach. It was completely Gretchen’s idea…pretty clever. I’m so lucky that you’re one of my blogging fans!
      Celebrate you
      Never Give Up

    2. Thanks Brenda. I’ve always used letter writing as a way to get over writer’s block. When I can’t think of how to say something, I write a letter and things start to flow. Sounds strange, but it works for me.

  4. This is a really nice way to do an interview. I enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to reading some of Gretchen’s books. Lessons Learned particularly interests me.

    1. Dear Rosi,
      Thank you for writing. It’s great that you believe writing a letter is a nice way to do an interview. I’m glad you’re looking forward to reading Gretchen’s books. I know you’ll like them.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

    2. Hi Rosi, Lessons Learned is dear to my heart because I am a teacher, but also because my early school years overlapped a lot of the experiences of the people I interviewed for the book. I anticipated writing about a unique school, and I did, but what I didn’t anticipate was that much of what I wrote was similar to many experiences of the readers. In fact one man said I could have erased the name of the school and replaced it with the one he attended and the stories would be almost the same. Thanks for your comments.

  5. I’m impressed with your commitment to writing exercises, Gretchen. I’d like to try writing a paragraph in 2nd person sometime.
    Reading on microfiche. That is one addictive, time consuming habit and I usually feel a need for a trip to a massage therapist or chiropractor afterward.
    Sign me up, please. I’d love a copy of Lessons Learned.

    1. Dear Joyce,
      Thank you for writing. You are right. Gretchen’s commitment to writing exercises is impressive. Your name is in the hat for the drawing to see if you win a free copy of Lessons Learned or another of Gretchen’s books.
      Never Give Up

    2. Hi Joyce, thanks to you and a post on your blog I’ve found a new tool to become addicted to beyond microfiche…ngram. I blogged about it this week, so check it out.

  6. Gretchen,
    I’m a big fan! You have written and published so many great stories and books too. Congratulations! I loved your interview in letter-style. Please place my name in this drawing!
    Thanks for getting Gretchen to share her backstory and what publication is coming out next. Enjoyed it all!

    1. Dear Linda Andersen,
      Thanks for writing to congratulate Gretchen on her writing and getting so many great stories and books published. I’ve placed your name in for this drawing.
      Never Give Up

    2. Thanks Linda, If I remember correctly you were one of the early readers of my Christmas book manuscript way back when it was in its infancy. It’s been some trip and I’m glad you’ve been a part of it. I’m enjoying being a part of your journey as well, reading your blog posts and cheering when I hear of your publishing successes.

  7. Hi Mrs. Griffith! I was lucky to have you as both my third and fourth grade teacher. My son just turned 14 months old and he loves story time. I can’t wait to add When Christmas Feels Like Home to our collection!

    1. Dear Susan,
      Thank you very much for writing. I know that Gretchen is going to be thrilled to hear from you. You’re going to enjoy When Christmas Feels Like Home.
      Celebrate you
      Never Give Up

    2. Oh, wow, yes I remember you! Thanks for getting in touch. I’m thrilled that you have a little one at home and just as thrilled that you are reading to him. Way to go, Mom!
      Gretchen (you can call me that, now)

  8. I loved this unique letter-view, Gretchen & Joan! And as much as I thought I knew about you, Gretchen – I learned so much more! You are indeed a fascinating author. I love the way you have connected us to all of your many talents. Thanks for sharing! (And, yes, please, enter me to win one of your books!) 🙂

    1. Dear Ann,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you loved this unique letter interview. I’ve placed your name in the hat for the drawing to win one of Gretchen’s books.
      Celebrate you
      Never Give Up

    1. Dear Gloria,
      It’s good to hear from you. Thanks for writing. You’re welcome for the interviews. I learn a lot about writing from interviewing different people. I hope you find information to inspire you. I have put your name in the hat for a chance to win one of Gretchen’s books.
      Please consider subscribing to my blog from the left-hand column. You get a free Never Give Up image.
      Celebrate you and your Caretta sea turtle book,
      Never Give Up

  9. Thank you to the 12 people who left a comment for the Interview with Gretchen Griffith, Versatile and Talented Author of Books for Children and Adults. You help make my blog interactive and more meaningful.

    1. Molly Jones
    2. Mona Pease
    3. Susanne Drazic
    4. Sandra Warren
    5. Carol Federlin Baldwin
    6. Brenda Madole
    7. Rosi Hollinbeck
    8. Joyce Moyer Hostetter
    9. Linda Martin Andersen
    10. Susan Lovins Lackey
    11. Ann Eisenstein
    12. Gloria Glenn

    I asked to choose a number between 1 and 12. It chose #8. Therefore, Joyce Moyer Hostetter won a free copy of one of Gretchen’s books.
    Joyce, you stated in your comment that you would like a copy of Lessons Learned. You can change your mind, if you like. Please send me your snail mail address and the title of Gretchen’s book you chose to my contact address in the left-hand column. I will forward it to Gretchen.
    I’ll put all this information in a new post. Please respond to it.
    Thank you very much.
    Never Give Up

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