Sondra Smith is the author of Unicorns and Rainbows, and Harry the Snail (a series for the adventurous reader).
Hi Sondra, please tell everyone a little about yourself.
Sondra: I live in Elkton, Virginia with my husband Troy. During the many long hours waiting for Troy at the hospital, while he received radiation treatments for cancer, I started working on the research for my fourth book, Write the Right Word. Having the desire to give something useful to help the people in this world who are learning and using the English language, I’d already started working on finding same sounding words (homophones and homonyms); findings that led to the writing of Whata Ewe Mean Bye That? (What Do You Mean by That?).
Besides writing, I love to paint (oils on canvas), garden, and watch the abundant wildlife around our home. We also take care of eight feral cats that came to us for food and shelter.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
Sondra: I knew in high school that I wanted to write. It seemed to be a natural for me. I started out writing children’s/young adult novels, packed with adventure. The first published was Unicorns and Rainbows, followed by Harry the Snail. Whata Ewe Mean Bye That? and Write the Right Word are about writing the correct homophone and homonyms properly, when writing the English language. They are for anyone writing the English language.
When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Sondra: Unicorns and Rainbows, and Harry the Snail (a series) were written to entertain readers. To give them a story that would take them away from their current environment and put them into a make believe world, excited to learn, what’s going to happen next? Whata Ewe Mean Bye That? and Write the Right Word were written to help and teach people around the world to learn, understand and use the words properly when writing English. I understand homophones and homonyms are taught in school, but have been told by numerous teachers that there is not enough time to teach the subject in depth. So, students are left to study on their own, to find, learn, and use homophones correctly, often with great confusion and not knowing how to find the other word(s), especially if they are unsure of how the word is spelled correctly.
Is there any doubt left within your mind as to why there are so many misused same sounding words?
Sondra: I was one of those guilty people. I had a lot to learn on my own.
What about students that are learning English as a second language?
Sondra: They are challenged with learning a new language, then someone tells them about writing same sounding words … oh my. There are only 2,680+ such words to learn and use properly when writing English. No big deal! Right? I truly felt there is a need for such a book and an app, because spell checkers did not correct homophones if the word was spelled correctly. The writer may not have any idea that they have misused a same sounding word. If they did know there was a possibility of using the incorrect word, how would they find it in the dictionary? The same sounding words do not necessarily begin with the same letter, therefore giving the writer stress and confusion. For example, often a reader will see the misused homophones, such as, affect and effect. They sound almost the same when you say them, but mean two entirely different things when written. Actually, all the words have different meanings.
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
Sondra: Write the Right Word is a stand-alone app, to be uploaded and used on Apple devices. The reader can put in part of a word or the whole word, using the keypad. It will go immediately to the group of same sounding words to review and reveal a detailed description and meanings of the words in the group, including if they are nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. For example: CHOIR n., an organized company of singers adj., professed to recite or chant the divine office v., to sing or sound in chorus QUIRE n., 24-25 sheets of paper, same size and quality. The reader may also click on any letter of the alphabet and the entire chapter with the homophones will come up to review. This will help the reader to become aware of all the same sounding words and use greater caution when writing. They now know the differences. My goal is to teach people to learn and use the same sounding words properly. It is quite educational, fun, and easy to use. I have taken out the “guesswork” of using the correct words when writing English.
What’s the hook for the book?
Sondra: To teach/help people worldwide to write the right word when writing English.
How do you develop the skills of writers with this kind of problem?
Sondra: By using the incorrect homophone, writers are often judged by the way they write. The app will help them to overcome their problems and improve their writing skills.
Are there other ways that the app can be used?
Sondra: Yes, teachers often misuse same sounding words on purpose to demonstrate how the app can be used to find the correct word. It is also useful to avoid the embarrassment of using a misused same sounding word that might be brought to the attention of their boss after writing and publishing that important report.
How much effort went into producing the app?
Sondra: It took months of research to locate the 2,680+ words, but the experience was worth the effort and gave a great feeling of satisfaction now that it is complete.
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Sondra: As I matured, I understood the importance of a good education. As a youth I could have cared less about education. I was very bored with school and did not apply myself. We moved several times and I was unable to take any electives I would enjoy. The classes had already been filled by students who had been attending the same school and had first choice on their selections of electives. I had nothing to keep my interest in going to school. One day I was thrown to the wolves and realized how immature and thoughtless I had been. I grew up and realized I had to support myself! Then the desire to do something constructive and of importance came into being of interest. I faced many challenges and searched my soul to do something of importance. I lacked an education about knowing how to do many things. The teaching of one’s self began and continues today. My goal is to make one thing in the list of life’s challenges easier for those who want to learn. I was one of those who would write the incorrect homophone. I was embarrassed more than several times by my mistakes. Being a lousy speller definitely added to the challenge of using the proper words. Thank goodness computers came along and have spell check. When I started the project to find all the homophones and homonyms, I thought there would be only a couple hundred. To my surprise, I found over 2,680! I soon enjoyed the challenge of finding the words for myself and others. There had to be others out there in the world that were as uninformed as me, so I worked to find all the words that I possibly could for them as well as for my own knowledge.
Share the best review (or portion) that you’ve ever had.
Sondra: Thus far, I have not had a review for Write the Right Word. Once the app is published, I do hope to have some. The review from Meredith Green – Reviewer, The San Francisco Book Review, reads…
“I had the privilege of reading and reviewing Sondra Smith’s Book ‘Whata (What do) Ewe (You) Mean Bye (By) That?’ and found it a well-thought-out resource not only for students and writers, but also those learning English as a second language. Not merely proffering a dry text-book, the authoress manages to make navigating English homonyms interesting and–at times–quite amusing.” May 23, 2010
What are your current projects?
Sondra: Which one? My next top project is…to have the game I invented about homophones published and on the market, as a boxed game, available in retail stores and as an app, online game. It is quite fun, challenging and educational. Even the simple words (there/their) can be quite a challenge in this game and sure to help teach/learn same sounding words. The game is on three levels. There are more than enough words to do a couple games on each level without repeating a word used prior. 2nd. To separate the 2,680+ words into groups for the grade schools, middle school and advanced. For the grade schools and middle schools, I will have an animated app made to go with a lot of the words to retain the users’ interest in the words. As we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words. I have numerous skids on the drawing board to use in the apps, in hopes the skits will help teach them the words.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events.
Sondra: Write the Right Word is available at the Apple store for the reader’s I-Pod/Pad. There is also a possibility to be published on Kindle later on. My email address is, email@example.com My book, Whata Ewe Mean Bye That?, may be found on my website, www.whataewemean.weebly.com and I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org The publisher for Unicorns and Rainbows is no longer in business, but can be found sometimes on Amazon.com. I am actually considering republishing it and perhaps make it into a screen play as well. I still own the copyright to it; therefore can go for it if I choose. Harry the Snail can be found on Amazon.com as well. You may buy it as an e-book or hard copy. Both Unicorns and Rainbows and Harry the Snail are under the name of Sondra J. Short (I have remarried and became a Smith).
The app can be found here: Write the Right Word
Thanks for joining us today, Sondra.
Sondra: Thank you so much!