Sheila Grinell

Sheila Grinell

Local writers looking to fine-tune their work can turn to Mesa Public Library’s ‘Writer in Residence’ program that author and retired Arizona Science Center CEO Sheila Grinell will host through April.

Grinell, whose newfound love for creative writing comes after years spent as the Science Center’s founding CEO, hosts free one-on-one consultations and larger workshops in partnership with the library. 

The author of “The Contract” and “Appetite,” both products of a switch to fiction writing, Grinell said one benefit of starting to write later in life has been that “a lot of the things I learned in my first career applied” – such as self-confidence, sticking to a time budget, taking chances and knowing when to ask for help.  

The biggest challenge, Grinell, 65, said, is that life’s too short and that she thinks of life in “five-year clumps.”.

“I wish I had 25 five-year clumps in front of me instead of just a few,” she said. “Each book would get deeper, and better, and more territory to explore, and I’d like to keep doing that forever.” 

She advises aspiring writers to simply “practice” and “start.” She said practice must be disciplined.

“You need to set aside the time and just work at it –  I’d say one hour a day for 21 days to get yourself going.” 

 Grinell said the landscape for publishing works nowadays is a spectrum, ranging from major publications to simple online posts.

 Social media is important to get noticed.

“These days, if you’re not Steven King, you need to support your published work with a marketing campaign,” Grinell said, adding that agents or publishers will almost certainly ask a writer what their platform is. 

In her “Social Media for Writers” workshop next month, Grinell said she will help writers “conceive of what their platform is, and ways to support it through social media.” 

Grinell said that other than the Writer in Residence program, she is working on her third novel.  She said the novel is in early stages and doesn’t have a title yet, but it is set in Phoenix in the near future, after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.  

“I’m making some assumptions about how this all works out.” Grinell said.  “They are assumptions. I sure hope I’m right, otherwise I would have to do a lot of revisions.”

Her first book, “Appetite,” revolves around the family tensions that arise when an American girl returns home from India with a young guru she intends to marry. “The Contract” is about a hard-driving designer who seeks acclaim by developing a Middle Eastern museum only to discover the project’s real value is not what she imagined/ 

Mesa Public Library’s ‘Writer in Residence’ program has been in place since 2016, according to Red Mountain Librarian Stephanie Foster.  The program is funded by the Arizona State Library Archives and Records Department, Foster said.  

“I was just amazed when we first started doing this, because there is really a huge local writer community, and they’re very enthusiastic, and they’re really willing and ready to participate in these kinds of programs,” Foster said.

Foster said Grinell and other authors participating in the program write at the library, which she said helps them because it “allows them to relate to people that are working on their own writing.” 

Grinell is “very pleasant to work with,” Foster added.  “I’m proud to have her as one of our writers in residence.” 

Grinell said her most recent book, “The Contract,” will be on sale as an E-book for 99 cents through March 7 on all major platforms.  

Her consultations and workshops are virtual for now and are available through Zoom, Skype or a phone call, Grinell said. She said she hopes to begin in-person consultations by mid-March, or after she has received the COVID-19 vaccine.  

Other workshops Grinell will host at Mesa Public Library include “Many Paths to Publication” on March 12 and “Social Media for Writers” on March 27, her website said.  

Grinell offers 30-minute consultations 2-4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.  Aspiring writers interested in the program can register by clicking the event link at events.mesalibrary.org.

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