Fair Oaks Elementary school teacher Sandy McGinnis is doing more than encouraging her fifth grade students to dream big and work hard. McGinnis is modeling it through her own life.
The elementary school teacher was surrounded by students as well as family earlier this month for the launch of her recently released book “Extraordinary Birds” at Barnes and Noble, Modesto.
Released by Bloomsbury Publishing, the book is the result of years of early morning writing sessions and a lifelong labor of love for the educator.
“My book launch was really cool,” McGinnis said of the most memorable part of the journey thus far. “It was really cool because I had my students there, I had my family.”
The teacher has worked six years for Oakdale schools and has spent 16 years as an educator. She has her Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, sharing she’s always been inspired to write.
“I’ve been writing since I was probably in my mid-20s, so quite a long time,” McGinnis shared of her passion for storytelling.
While she has written books in the past, “Extraordinary Birds” is the first she has had published. She worked on and off on the book for five to six years before it went to print.
“On and off because I have young kids (10 and 8),” McGinnis said. “So I get up early in the morning and write about an hour and a half.”
The book follows the journey of an 11-year-old girl, December, a foster child who has a passion for birds as a result of childhood trauma. The main character believes a scar on her back is where wings once unfolded.
“It’s her way of dealing with the tragic accident and where she really got her scars,” McGinnis said of December, noting that the inspiration for the character came from a newspaper article reporting on a mom high on drugs physically attacking her daughter.
“The way I work as a writer, is it’s always about the character,” she continued, sharing her passion and commitment to December. “That’s my passion as far as writing. To be able to capture and be intimate with a voice.”
To assist with character development and ensure accuracy within the storyline, McGinnis consulted with California Foster Care on certain details.
“It took me a long time to get an agent,” the teacher said. “My first draft was just her talking to me. I know it sounds kind of crazy but the characters start to talk to you. That’s how usually books start for me, is just that voice.
“When I started writing this one, I revised a lot,” she added. “I kept rewriting and rewriting and then finally I submitted. In the spring of 2016 I was offered representation by an agent.”
With two young children, a full-time career and a husband, McGinnis shared maintaining a regular schedule was pertinent to seeing this project through. A journey which while it may have been a long time coming, has been monumental with each step.
“Surreal,” McGinnis admitted of having a published book. “It’s funny because when you’re doing traditional writing you think, man if I could just secure an agent that would be it.”
Once that box was checked, it was on to the next – a publisher.
“So the line in the sand just keeps getting higher and higher,” she said.
The fifth grade teacher noted the joy she’s experienced in sharing the journey with her students as well.
“What was really cool was to see my students carrying around my book and then they start to read it,” the author said. “It’s just really kind of surreal. You’re kind of distant from it a little bit. It’s great but is this real?”
At the time of signing with Bloomsbury Publishing, McGinnis took on a two book commitment, another surreal undertaking in the process. The first draft of that book was due in late fall of 2018. She’s currently working on revisions and is hopeful that the trend will continue.
“I love to work. I like to write, so that’s what keeps me grounded,” she said. “It’s just my thing.”
McGinnis’s book “Extraordinary Wings” can be found locally at Barnes and Noble, as well as online and on Amazon as well as area Target stores.