* Sarah Sullivan will sign copies of her new youth novel, "All That's Missing" at 5:30 p.m. today at Taylor Books on Capitol Street.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There are some things about completing a 358-page novel that are easier than completing a children's picture book, says Charleston author Sarah Sullivan.
Mind you, her first novel was actually begun in the fall of 2004 and is out this month.
Still, Sullivan said the process was very different because it was all about the writing this time. No worrying about finding a great illustrator, persuading him or her to take on her project and then waiting until the artist had the time to complete the project.
"Picture books take five years to be published," Sullivan said. And with four of them under her belt, she was ready to stretch her wings with long-form writing.
"This is what I always wanted to do," she added.
Sullivan, 60, took a winding path to get here. A native of West Virginia who also lived as a child and teen in Colorado and Delaware, she was a practicing attorney for 14 years before she decided to get a writing degree.
Her new novel, "All That's Missing" tells the story of an 11-year-old boy named Arlo who is being raised by his grandfather, Poppo, who is suffering the beginning stages of dementia. When Poppo suffers a stroke and is hospitalized, Arlo faces certain foster care — so he bolts, seeking out a grandmother he doesn't know.
Sullivan said the first germ of an idea was to write a book about a boy with family secrets. The idea took root as she worked on her master's in fine arts degree in children's writing from Vermont College.
"The beginnings of this were my creative pieces for my MFA," she said.
Sullivan said the first half of the novel unfolded quickly.
Then she took it to her fellow Vermont College writers for critique and discussion.