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Rising Stars: Meet Phyllis Wheeler

Today we’d like to introduce you to Phyllis Wheeler.

Phyllis Wheeler

Hi Phyllis, I’m so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work life, how can you bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Like you, I was a creative child. We all are when we start. But, like so many of us, I forgot. I played the piano and violin. I drew horses and horses and more horses and gathered lots of praise.

I wanted to write books. When I was seven, I wrote and illustrated a little book about a pony who wanted a saddle. When I was 13, I wrote poetry and dreamed of writing a children’s book. But, as I got into high school, my life got busy and stayed busy.

Gradually, the creative outlets became fewer. I stopped drawing because it took so much time. I stopped taking music lessons in college to allow more study time. And I stopped writing, too, except for the writing that became my job: writing news stories for a daily newspaper. My creativity just got squeezed out of me.

But I didn’t let it go entirely. I took up photography and discovered I still had an artist’s eye. I took voice lessons when I was 28 and found I could sing solos, and people didn’t wince. And when I was 30, I dusted off that dream of writing a children’s book and sat down to write.

I didn’t show my middle-grade story to any other fiction writers. I sent the manuscript, typed on paper, to a publisher. This publisher said it was “promising, but …” When I re-read it, I could see that my characters were wooden.

I concluded I wasn’t ready. I needed to live my life. So I did, for 25 more years. I became an engineer, remarried, raised four children, homeschooled, and at age 55, finally remembered my dream: to write a children’s book.

Through God’s help, I am now the author of three award-winning books for kids and teens, with more on the way. The moral of my story is this: remember the creative child you once were.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I write time-travel fantasies for kids and teens. These are family-friendly stories perfect for homeschoolers. I’ve won several awards.

Learning how to write fiction took me a long time. I attended several writers’ conferences, in person and through audio. I listened to every single session multiple times to get tips on writing. I read books written by experts, too.

What’s expected these days differs from the slower-paced novels of a hundred years ago. The art of cinematic storytelling takes some effort to learn! I’ve learned a lot from other writers. Fiction writers form groups and swap chapters, giving each other valuable feedback. This is so critical to learning all this new stuff.

It took me a while to settle on a genre. The writers’ organization I started with a focus on writing romance, and there’s a big market for that. So I tried writing romance, only to find out I’m not cut out for that. I tried “women’s fiction,” too.

I have a virtual pile of books I worked on for quite a while and then abandoned. Finally, I returned to my first love, writing for kids and teens, and found a wonderful sweet spot there.

Journalism shaped my writing, so my prose is very readable for young people. They say it takes ten years to learn to write a good book. For me, it was fifteen years. Looking back, I wish to spend money on a good editor/writing coach to speed up my learning. I’m using paid editors now to speed things along, too.

What changes will you expect in your work and industry over the next five to ten years?
The publishing industry is in transition. The “big five” publishers are publishing quality books, but relatively few books are coming out; getting into the lineup is very difficult, even for a terrific book.

Independent authors and small publishers are also publishing quality books. These books can find readers in the online marketplace, and their influence is growing. I do hope that the libraries, schools, and major awards organizations will soon be able to open their minds to indie books.

Right now, indie books can be submitted for lesser-known book awards, but not for the big ones like Caldecott and Newbery. Indie books need help being accepted by big library systems because the main magazine of Publishers Weekly does not review them. Bookstores, too, have a variety of lists of books they promote, and indie books are missing from them. So, what if the best book of the year is indie and doesn’t become well-known?


  • The Dog Snatcher, Book 1 of the Guardians of Time for ages 8-11, $10.99 Paperback, $4.99 ebook, $5.99 audiobook, $24.99 hardcover
  • Secret of the Lost Dragons, Book 2 of the Guardians of Time, $10.99 paperback, $4.99 ebook, $24.99 hardcover
  • The Long Shadow, a YA time-travel story, $10.99, ebook $5.99, audio $5.95

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Phyllis Wheeler, Emilie Haney

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