3 Question Interview - BETH ANDERSON
I'm so happy to feature my writing friend Beth Anderson on the blog today! I have highlighted Beth's wonderful books before here and here. Today we are celebrating Beth's TWO new books - REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT and FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE! Read on for her inspiration as well as her thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection. Welcome back, Beth!
STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
Thanks for inviting me to share REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT (2/1/11) and FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE (5/3/22)! One look at the covers will tell you that these are two very different kinds of stories, but really, they’re both about seeing possibility.
FRANZ’s story is based on the life Franz Gsellmann and the “World Machine” he created in Austria in the mid 1900s. He followed his curiosity and drive to invent and build. That story grabbed me because, as a child, I too loved to tinker, putter, and “invent.” He recycled and upcycled common household items from flea markets and scrap yards, seeing new possibilities. He defied the naysayers and created what today we might call outsider art, a kinetic sculpture that makes one wonder about art and whether a machine has to produce something. His machine is the intersection of art and technology, a STEAM book for creative kids.
FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE was one of my early manuscripts that morphed and changed as I learned to shape and craft the story. The joy of creating and drive of curiosity stuck with me as the focus throughout the process while I struggled to find information and experienced the delight in playing with words to build a story.
REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT takes the reader into the lives of everyday people in the time leading up to the Revolutionary War—the people who didn’t get a starring role in history books with events like the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere and the alarm riders, and the battles of Lexington and Concord. When the men march off to Concord, the women are left to take on the “men’s work,” including safeguarding the town. When danger threatens, Prudence rallies the women. They break traditions, defy expectations, and act as full citizens, leaving a legacy that continues to inspire today.
This story also presented challenges in the research. There were three slightly different versions of the story and some missing information. I tried three or four approaches using different structures and focuses before finding the heart of the story that would guide the writing. Whereas Franz’s story is about his efforts over time, Prudence’s story shares an exciting event along with the challenge of interweaving the necessary context. As with everything I write, my process is one of immersing myself in a character’s shoes and bringing that emotional connection to young readers.
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
With writing, my creativity comes through in playing with words. Word choices are about sounds and syllables, but also about connotation. Sentences are about pacing, speeding and slowing the story. And the freedom to break free of some of the writing rules I taught in the classroom provides room to play. Punctuation also offers possibilities, though I must confess to too much love for the em-dash and ellipses. And then there’s placement of words on the page as another opportunity for creativity.
In Prudence’s story, my urge for creativity with structure pushed me in a few directions that didn’t work, but ultimately it forced me through a process that guided me to the heart.
Franz’s story is all about creativity and the power of wonder. That story grabbed me because I identified with him and his drive to create. I felt his frustration at failure, the wariness of sharing what’s come from your heart, and the pain of criticism. Creativity is a universal drive, yet somehow it’s scary to share. Every author understands this!
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
Every story is about connection—about me connecting to kids and offering a story that helps them connect to their world. I think it’s important to build bridges across cultures and to the past. Understanding history brings insights into today and the idea that we all play a role in society and history. I enjoy talking to classrooms via virtual visits and fielding their questions. During this pandemic, we’re all especially hungry for connection.
Staying connected to the kid lit community is vital to my writing. The support and encouragement keeps us going as we hit the bumps, and the exchange of ideas facilitates learning. I connect through critique groups, launch groups, conferences, SCBWI, and keeping up with others via social media. The kid lit community is amazing and creates opportunities for sharing such as this wonderful blog!
Beth Anderson, a former English as a Second Language teacher, has always marveled at the power of books. With linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and a penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Loveland, Colorado where she laughs, ponders, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same. She’s the award-winning author of TAD LINCOLN’S RESTLESS WRIGGLE, “SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES, LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT!, and AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET. In 2022, Beth adds three more titles: REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT: LEADING THE MINUTE WOMEN IN THE FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE; FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE; and CLOAKED IN COURAGE: THE STORY OF DEBORAH SAMPSON, PATRIOT SOLDIER.
CONNECT WITH BETH: