Book by FHS graduate nominated for Oklahoma Book Award
'The Cloud Artist' focuses on young Native artist
FARMINGTON — A Farmington High School graduate and children's author who retains several ties to the area will find out in early April if her most recently published effort is a winner in the 29th annual Oklahoma Book Awards.
Sherri Maret, a 1981 Farmington High School graduate who now lives in Newville, Pennsylvania, had her book "The Cloud Artist" published by Oklahoma City's The RoadRunner Press in September. The book, whose main character is a Native girl who uses the sky for a canvas and clouds for paint, was illustrated by Choctaw artist Merisha Sequoia Clark.
Maret's publisher was so pleased with the book, she entered it in multiple competitions, including the Oklahoma Book Awards, which are presented by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. "The Cloud Artist" was one of six books named a finalist in the children/young adult category.
The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony April 7 in Oklahoma City.
During a telephone interview from her home on Friday, Maret said she was grateful simply to be considered for the award.
"To win, I don't even think about that," she said. "I'm thrilled."
Maret describes the book as partly a work of historical fiction, part fantasy and part tall tale. She was inspired to write it after dreaming that a children's book she had written had been nominated for a prestigious award. She woke up crying with joy, she said and quickly put all the details from her dream down on paper.
"The Cloud Artist" is the result of that dream, she said. Within a couple of months, she had a finished manuscript in the hands of potential publishers, and a couple of months after that, she had a signed contract with The RoadRunner Press.
Though Maret had had another book published before "The Cloud Artist," this is her most successful writing project after a 20-year career as a teacher.
"I was a late bloomer," she said, laughing.
Maret described that first career as stressful and said she came to the realization that all the attention she was devoting to her profession was getting in the way of her dream of becoming a published author.
"Education has just gotten very difficult to deal with," she said. "I just didn't have the energy or time to put myself out there and get published."
So she retired from the classroom and took up writing full time. It's not a decision she regrets.
"I loved teaching kids," she said. "I miss that, but I don't miss all those extraneous things."
Maret credits much of her success to three of her teachers from her days at Farmington High School — Mary Lemmon (English), Sandra Bell (business) and Doris Johnson (English).
"I had some amazing teachers," she said. "I do kind of give them credit for giving me the inspiration of what I wanted to do."
Maret's ties to Farmington weren't severed when she went off to college and later got married. Her father continued to live here until recently, and she maintains many friendships in the area, including one with Amy Henkenius, owner of Amy's Bookcase in Farmington, where signed copies of "The Cloud Artist" are available for purchase.
The book also allowed Maret to get back in touch with her Native roots, she said, noting that both her maternal grandparents were part Choctaw. The book has been translated into the Choctaw language, and Maret said the experience of becoming immersed in that culture has been gratifying for her.
The book has been very well received among the members of Oklahoma's Choctaw community, she said, and the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City and the Tulsa City-County Library each bought more than a dozen copies. The book's success has led to opportunities for Maret to teach writing workshops in communities around the southern Great Plains – something she said she would love to do in her old hometown.
"I would love to come to Farmington and talk to kids in schools," she said. "It's neat to see kids react to your book."
Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.