WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
There are so many wonderful authors and illustrators out there – and most of the time, our Will Write for Cookies guests are first-timers. But once in a while, an author is so prolific and her books are so amazing, I just have to ask them back for a second visit…and that’s the case with today’s guest.
Beth Anderson, a former English as a Second Language teacher, has always marveled at the power of books. Armed with linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Loveland, Colorado where she laughs, wonders, thinks, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same. Author of AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET (S&S 2018), LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT! (Calkins Creek, 2020), and “SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES (Calkins Creek, Oct. 2020), Beth has more historical gems on the way. For more information about her books or to connect with Beth: https://bethandersonwriter.com
@Bandersonwriter (Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram)
ME: Hello dear Beth! So thrilled you were able to stop by today to chat. I’m totally in love with your newest nonfiction picture book biography – I loved the story when I saw it before it was acquired…and I can’t wait to hold the real book in my hands! I’m so excited that I just need to give a quick snippet from Amazon so everyone will run out to order a copy from their local bookstore:
James “Smelly” Kelly used his super-senses and intelligence to make sure that the New York City subway in the 1930s ran safely throughout his lifetime and beyond.
James Kelly smelled EVERYTHING: rats in the shed; circus elephants a mile away; tomorrow’s rain. His sense of smell was EXTRAORDINARY. But what good was a powerful nose? How could his super-sniffer make him special? In the New York City subway, James found his calling–and earned the nickname “Smelly” Kelly. Armed with his super-sniffer and the tools he invented, he tracked down leaks from the dangerous to the disgusting, from the comical to the bizarre. Then, he sprang into action to prevent cave-ins and explosions in the tunnels beneath the city. Smelly Kelly not only hunted leaks but also saved lives–and he discovered the truly extraordinary power inside him. Beth Anderson’s fast-paced text and Jenn Harney’s comical illustrations bring to life this everyday superhero.
And guess what? Beth is offering a copy of this fabulous book as a GIVEAWAY…so please make sure you leave a comment and share on social media if you can. And now…let’s ask Beth some questions about her writing journey. Are you ready, Beth?
BETH: Just a heads up, everyone – back in 2018, I was a guest on Will Write for Cookies when Inconvenient Alphabet launched…and I thought it might be interesting to revisit the questions with the added perspective of having been in the business a couple more years and having worked with editors.
ME: That’s a great idea, Beth. So, how about your favorite childhood books – how do they connect to you as a writer.
BETH: Dr. Seuss books were relatively new when I was starting school. I think the wackiness and irresistible rhyme, in contrast with fables and traditional stories, influenced me and many others. All the word fun definitely settled into my brain and set me off in that direction.
I didn’t mention Frog and Toad two years ago, but I’ve loved those books as a child, a parent, and a teacher – the characters are so endearing, so classic and universal, yet at the same time so uniquely special. I think they showcase the power of details and importance of characterization which I understand so much better at this point.
As I think back on the biographies and Nancy Drew books I devoured, they really connect to what I write now. Bios are about fascinating people meeting challenges and making choices – which is how I see them now as a writer, instead of “life story”. And now those mystery books have come home to roost as I dig into the mysteries of history and people from the past, and also see questions as drivers of story.
ME: What do you know now that you didn’t know two years ago?
BETH: Over the past two years my biggest lessons have come from editors. Writing skills are not enough—it always comes down to making the story matter and resonate in some way. I’m on manuscript number six with editor Carolyn Yoder, and it seems she’s become my “Yoda” as I learn more with each one. My revisions are much more encompassing, but still, they’re not finished when a story lands on her desk. She’s focused me on stacking scenes, turning points, weaving in context, letting the extras go (ouch!), and so much more. All that has affected my writing process immensely!
ME: Has WHERE you write changed?
BETH: As I came to realize that this crazy journey might actually be happening, I slowly made changes to the study to accommodate my writing. First, in an effort to improve ergonomics, I added a rolling laptop desk that I can raise and lower to get the keyboard at the proper level. Now, this is also great for raising the laptop to eye level for virtual visits and meetings. A year ago I added an additional large monitor to use with my laptop which allows me to spread multiple documents and windows over a large viewing surface. I absolutely love it and wish I had done that sooner! My husband made me a beautiful cherry credenza to house my growing collection of book stuff. I put the white board on the wall and have added a few favorite book related pictures. My writing space is now quite cozy and convenient, and I’m surrounded with all sorts of files and resources within arm’s reach.
ME: How have your writing habits changed over the past two years?
BETH: My brain is best in the morning, so that’s when I tackle jobs that require focus without interruption. What has changed is the juggling of tasks now that I have some books in the pipeline. Every once in a while I try to set up a schedule for promo efforts or blog scheduling or posting reviews. But…that usually falls away because I’m a stickler for taking care of things as they present themselves so they’re not lost in the email scroll and forgotten. So when it’s time for a new book to release, I get to feeling very scattered and try to shut all that down for a bit to carve out uninterrupted time to accomplish a new draft or work through revisions. It’s clear I need to find a better way.
ME: Why do you write for children?
BETH: My answer from 2018 still stands – basically, I write what I write because of my experience as an educator. I’ve seen the power of story in the classroom, children’s fascination with true stories, endless potential for opening minds and hearts, and a way to connect children to their world and others.
It’s interesting to see how our world can quickly change and bring additional meanings to books from where they started for the author. Lizzie Demands a Seat became even more urgent as this year has unfolded. “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses is releasing at a time when we’re finding that many unsung workers are everyday heroes. And An Inconvenient Alphabet reinforces the idea for me that often society won’t accept an accommodation for the greater good due to inconvenience. Why do I write? Because children’s literature serves kids in so many ways!
ME: Also, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, writers, librarians might want to hear. 🙂
BETH: For aspiring writers: Recognize your efforts and give yourself a needed pat on the back. Seek out ways to improve your craft and push yourself forward. Try to accept feedback with an open mind and use it to make your work shine.
For parents, educators, and librarians: Thank you! Thank you! For putting books into the hands of children!
ME: Beth, this has been an amazing Q&A…I love that you went back to the answers from two years ago and reframed some of the questions…and some of your answers – your insights are going to be so helpful to all of us!
And your Sweet Treat recipe is going to be much enjoyed…have I told you that pecan pie is my FAVORITE dessert at Thanksgiving and Christmas? And baking it in squares will make it so much easier to eat!
BETH: This is a long-time favorite and most requested recipe. I believe it may have come from a Karo syrup add in a magazine, but has since been modified a bit to make it quick and easy, nuttier, and less sweet, thus justifying eating more.
Pecan Pie Squares
Using a food processor makes it really easy.
Preheat oven to 350’
Grease jelly roll pan 10×15 or 11×17
For CRUST – combine in food processor:
3 C flour
¾ C margarine or butter
¼ C + 2T sugar
¾ t salt
Mix until crumbly, press into pan, bake until light golden brown – about 20 min.
Prepare FILLING in food processor:
4 eggs slightly beaten
¾ C sugar
¾ C light corn syrup
1 ½ t vanilla
3 T melted butter/marg.
*2 ½ – 3 C pecans (add last)
Mix all except pecans. Then add pecans and chop slightly.
Pour over baked crust, spread evenly.
Bake until filling is set, about 25 min.
Cool, then cut.
Thank you so much, Beth! And thank you, dear readers…for spending your precious time here. I hope everyone leaves a comment to be entered in the giveaway – why not tell us about the WORST smell you ever smelled.
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend – please stay safe and well.