Sheri Graves

Writer, Editor,
Memoir Writing Instructor,
Writer, Editor, Writing Coach

Sheri Graves has been writing for publication more than five decades. Her 40+ years with The (Santa Rosa, California) Press Democrat included 29+ as a reporter and 14 as a copy editor. She retired in December 2004, one month shy of her 43rd anniversary with the newspaper.

As a reporter, Graves won numerous awards for journalism and writing excellence, including first place prizes from the Press Club of San Francisco, the California and National Newspaper Publishers Associations, and California Medical Association. She also received recognition from many other professional organizations,including The Playboy Foundation, U.S Public Health Service, National Foundation/March of Dimes, Easter Seal Society, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, American Association of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons and the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, which presented her with certificates of merit, plaques and awards for journalistic excellence.

In retirement, Graves is a freelance writer and editor who has done contract work for Internet companies, nonprofit organizations and individuals. Graves also edited two anthologies for Senior Authors of Santa Rosa, an independent memoir writing group that hired her in 2013 to be the class instructor and writing coach.

She has edited and produced newsletters for nonprofits as well as printed material for political candidates and other entities. She has done speech writing and ghost writing for various individuals. For Santa Rosa/Sonoma County NAACP, she edited and produced “Glimpses, A History of African Americans in Sonoma County,” written and compiled by Ann Gray Byrd. For Santa Rosa-Sonoma County ACLU, she produced the organization’s newsletter while serving on the board of directors and also has produced a printed program for the group’s annual fundraising luncheons.

Her debut novel, Deep Doo-Doo, is available NOW at

The novel also may be purchased at Copperfield's Books, in Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa, and may be ordered from any book store.

Deep Doo-Doo won the 2015 National Indie Excellence Award for Crime Fiction.

Graves has four other books in the works:

Memoir Writing in a Flash -- A how-to on memoir writing targeted for publication sometime in 2018.

Petrified -- The second in the trilogy launched by Deep Doo-Doo; targeted for publication in 2018.

Untitled -- The third in the trilogy; targeted for publication in 2019.

Untitled -- A true crime book, written with former Press Democrat crime reporter Bony Saludes, focusing on a mafia hitman in Santa Rosa; targeted for publication in 2020.

Sheri is second from left in this photo of local authors at a panel sponsored by Copperfield's Books in Santa Rosa.

Sheri Graves was born July 10, 1944, in San Jose, California, the second child of Donald F. and Virginia M. Graves, who had migrated from New York in 1941 after the birth of their son, Donald R. 


Early years in San Jose found Sheri growing up on a ranch next door to Reid’s Hillview Airport. Her parents had a poultry farm before establishing Sevarg Kennels, a St. Bernard dog breeding and training kennel which produced some of the top winning St. Bernards in the country during the 1950s.

Her father was a butcher by trade but also launched other businesses over the years, including Don Graves Paving, Grading and Excavating Company. He also was a building contractor who, with his father-in-law, constructed a strip mall out of sheet metal.

Her mother, Virginia, worked in a bakery and in the family butcher shop and also had various other employmentbefore the family moved to Santa Rosa in 1959.Virginia was a meat wrapper for a grocery store in Petaluma, a bookkeeper for a Santa Rosa restaurant, a real estate agent and later retired from work with Santa Rosa City Schools.

In Sonoma County, the family built, owned and operated Leddy Pet Park, a pet center offering boarding, grooming, training and pet supplies. The business continued until 1973, when Sheri’s father retired.

In the meantime, Sheri graduated from Santa Rosa High School after serving as editor of The Santa Rosan, the school newspaper. She also was a member of the school Governing Board. She later attended San Jose State University.

During her years with The Press Democrat, she was a Dean’s List graduate from Santa Rosa Junior College, where she earned her AA as well as certificates in Supervisory Management, Human Resources, Advertising, Public Relations, Strategic Planning and Organizational Culture.

Her continuing education has included attending many professional writing conferences over the years – in San Francisco, San Diego, Boise, Maui, Reno, New York City, Washington D.C. and elsewhere. The conferences have covered creative writing, novel writing, investigative reporting, business reporting, feature writing, book publishing, autobiography/memoir writing and other subjects.

Additionally, she has presented seminars on how to produce newsletters for non-profit organizations as well as event planning, journalism in general and other subjects. She has done considerable public speaking as a representative of various charities and has founded several non-profit organizations. She has organized and conducted many successful fundraisers for charities. While with The Press Democrat, shewas a frequent speaker for journalism classes at area high schools.

For five years in the 1990s, she taught an after school English and journalism class for at-risk kids from the disadvantaged South Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa, producing a monthly "South Park Kids' Press." 

Sheri has traveled throughout the United States, often on road trips, but also flying from one city to another to attend writing conferences in Hawaii, Idaho, Colorado, Florida, Washington, D.C., New York City, and various other venues. During her years with The Press Democrat, she often traveled to cover events such as fashion shows, World Fairs, trade expos and conventions. She once wrote a series of articles on King Crab Fishing from Kodiak, Alaska.

Sheri has enjoyed travel throughout the world, including Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, France, England, Ireland, India, China, Japan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Mexico, Venezuela and various islands in the Caribbean. 

This shot of Sheri at the Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, was taken in 1967 by Sally Withell, of New Zealand. So was the one below:

Sheri Graves lives in Santa Rosa, as do her daughter and two grandchildren. Sheri also has a son who lives in Southern California.

Sheri Graves, 2015

Q&A on Deep Doo-Doo

QUESTION: Your protagonist in Deep Doo-Doo is a 24-year-old woman who is a newspaper reporter. Did you base this character on yourself?

ANSWER: No. I never covered crime in my years as a newspaper reporter.

Q:  Her name, Carrie, sounds an awful lot like Sheri.

A:  I gave her my great-grandmother’s name, Carrie Ellen McClelland. I always liked that name. Also, my great-grandmother’s father was from Scotland, so I gave my protagonist the same Scot heritage.

Q:  But your character has strawberry red hair, which is visible in early photos of you.

A. Yes, I am a natural redhead. However, due to various hormonal and medical factors, I lost the red in my mid 30s. I dyed my hair for about 25 years to keep the color but finally stopped and let it go natural -- a kind of brown with white highlights.

Q: So, who does Carrie look like?

A: I gave her my mother's physical attributes at high school graduation -- Mom was 5-foot-2, buxom and weighed about 116. Today, Mom is 94, weighs about 103 and is about 4-foot-10. I keep teasing her that if she gets any smaller I may have to start carrying her around in my pocket.

Q:   Is Carrie like you?

A: Well, yes and no. I think she is feistier than I was at her age, although some people might disagree. The one thing she does have is my sense of journalism ethics.

Q: What does that mean?

A: It means you don’t mess with the news. You have integrity, honesty. You seek the truth, even if you don’t get it from your source, and you keep digging until you find it. You always keep in mind that you represent the readers of the newspaper and they are entitled to straight, unadulterated news. You keep your opinions and feelings out of it and write the story as objectively as possible. Only columnists can take liberties.

Q: Why is that important?

A: For one thing, newspapers are a prime source of research for historians. When you want to know what was happening a hundred years ago, you look at the newspapers of the day. I realize journalism standards may not have been as high a hundred years ago as they should have been, but then, I believe journalism standards today – particularly on television – tend to be less than they should be. The point is, what a reporter writes today becomes FACT once covered by the dust of time. It should be FACT when written.

Q: What about the arguments Carrie has with her cop boyfriend and her reporter brother? Is it true that reporters can’t talk about what they’re covering?

A: When I was on the job, even revealing the contents of a comic strip before publication was grounds for firing. So, yes, reporters must be careful what they say about their work before it is published. Your work is owned by the newspaper, so you can’t give it away.

Q: Your character, Carrie, is constantly juggling stories, moving from one to the other throughout each day she works. But, in most books, movies and television programs, a reporter follows one story all the way through. How does it really work?

A: I never had a day on the job when I handled only one story. I don’t think I’ve ever known a reporter who had that luxury unless the reporter was on “special assignment” and relieved of everything else. Even when I was writing business, real estate and job market stories toward the end of my career, I also wrote obituaries and other articles that had nothing to do with my so-called “beat.”

Q: Did anything that happens in Deep Doo-Doo actually happen, or was it all fiction?

A: The story, as a whole, is fiction. However, foie gras actually was banned by California on the date specified in the book. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court, in October 2014, upheld California’s right to ban the force-feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras as well as the production, manufacture, preparation, distribution and sale of foie gras. Also, The Press Democrat was sold by The New York Times to Halifax Media on the date specified in the book. Almost all of the locations mentioned in the novel do exist and the daily operation of the newspaper is depicted fairly accurately. The characters, situations and many other matters are fiction. The novel mixes fact and fiction in a way that seems real.

Q: Have you ever worked under such physical and mental demands as those faced by your protagonist?

A: No. But, I was a single mom raising two kids on my own while holding down a very demanding job with an unreal schedule. Looking back on it today, I often wonder how I survived. There were many times I worked while sick or injured – though not to the extent the character Carrie suffers in the novel. I remember interviewing Olympic champion Peggy Fleming at the local ice arena when I had a temperature of 105f, going back to the office to write the story, and then checking into the hospital with double pneumonia and acute asthma for two weeks. I worked with carpal tunnel syndrome and after hip joint surgery. Reporters are a dedicated bunch of people. I have seen reporters arrive at work on crutches, in wheelchairs and on walkers.

Q: Was there ever a protest march in Santa Rosa like the one described in your book?

A: No. There have been a lot of other kinds of demonstrations, however. And, it is true that the movement against foie gras began in Sonoma County. It’s not unusual for a protestor to climb a tree and stay there for weeks or months to save it from chainsaws. Folks in Northern California have demonstrated against nuclear power, off-shore drilling, fracking, wars, police militarization, gun shows and any effort to curtail access to the coast. We’ve had demonstrations against development that threatens snail darters, newts, owls and lizards. Northern Californians tend to be passionate about their environment, animal welfare and the earth in general.

Q: So, there are no geese in the fountains in the middle of town?

A: No. But there are in the City of Sonoma.

Q: Your book has story lines about mob-affiliated thugs. Are there any in Santa Rosa?

A: Who knows? I can tell you, however, that the first time the FBI put anyone into its new Witness Protection program, that gangster was placed in bucolic Santa Rosa and soon committed another murder. His name was Joseph Barboza, also known as “The Animal” and “The Baron.” It happened during the 1960s and I was already on the job at The Press Democrat. The murder trial was covered by crime reporter Bony Saludes and Barboza was represented by the late Marteen Miller, longtime Public Defender for the county. Both Saludes and Miller were advisors on this novel. Bony Saludes and I are working on a true crime book based on the local and national implications of the Barboza case.

Q: There is a story line about dog fighting. Do you have much of that in Sonoma County?

A: I hope not. Occasionally, however, we have a story about a cock-fighting operation. Nothing recent, but you never know.

Q: Your character, Carrie, has a West Highland white terrier. Do you have a dog like that?

A: No. Westies are about the cutest dogs in the world and I’d love to have one, but because of growing up with St. Bernard dogs, I’m rather partial to large breeds.

Q: Where did you get the idea for Deep Doo-Doo?

A: Much of it was ripped from the headlines of the newspaper. The rest is the product of a vivid imagination. That’s also pretty much the way my next two novels have come to me.

Q: Care to tell us anything about them?

A: No, not yet. They’re still in the outlining stage, although I do have a few chapters of my second novel done. I can tell you wild turkeys play a role.

Q: Do you have a lot of wild turkeys in Sonoma County?

A: Yes! You'll learn more about that in the book.

Q: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for your time.

A: Thank you!

Deep Doo-Doo
is the debut novel by Sheri Graves
and the 2015 winner of the
National Indie Excellence Award
for Crime Fiction.