3 Question Interview - BETH ANDERSON
I am delighted to feature my writing friend Beth Anderson on the blog for another visit. You can read her earlier interviews here and here. Beth's latest picture book, CLOAKED IN COURAGE: UNCOVERING DEBORAH SAMPSON, PATRIOT SOLDIER, illustrated by Anne Lambalet (Calkins Creek), releases on November 15, 2022. Beth shares about her inspiration and love of finding the "so what factor" in history, as well as her insights 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.
I love learning about little known events and people from history. However, the potential for sharing these as stories for young readers rests in the SO WHAT? factor. Many topics I look at are interesting. Unfortunately, that’s not enough for a successful book. It’s all about the story being meaningful for kids today. It has to matter. And that’s the tricky part.
At first, Deborah Sampson’s story was interesting. And when you find out that she enlisted for a bounty, you might think of her as a con artist. I had to dig in deeper to get at the emotional aspect of her character before I was hooked by her bold spirit, resilience, and courage. And learning about her failed attempt to enlist, in which she was caught and humiliated, struck me as something we could all identify with—mistakes. When the humanity of the person emerges in the research, I can begin to see how the story might matter.
Sampson was bound out as a child, sent off as an indentured servant to a relative at age five because her mother was unable to care for all her children. That goes right to the need in all of us to belong and to have caring people around us—an idea that returns later when she’s serving in the Continental Army. The challenge of that beginning was finding a way to look at that which would contribute to the heart of the story. I wanted something more than overcoming hardship. She endured hard physical work in addition to the emotional challenge. Hard work (including traditionally boys’ and men’s work) revealed her capableness and resilience—exactly what she needed later as a soldier. She learned to read and write, then educated herself. Learning opened up her world—and made her want more than being a typical colonial wife. When I began to connect the dots I found a story that was meaningful in many ways. For me it was about “becoming,” the accumulation of experiences, and how those contributed to the person she would become.
The research was difficult due to a lot of misinformation. The pandemic stalled my writing. But after a lot of sifting, “stuck time,” and “brew time,” I found the heart thread that would pull it all together and make the story sing. THAT is the crucial point for me. From there I draft and revise, revise, revise—and in that process, the heart is fine-tuned as clarity and realizations pop. It came down to “chances.”
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
These days, writing is my main creative activity. That sounds limiting until you start to think about how much is involved. It’s building from found pieces and shaping meaning. Word choice and sentence structure are intentional details that take the reader for a ride, speeding up and slowing down, zooming in and out of emotional moments. It’s being another person in a different time and place. You can craft humor or intrigue. Language and story are amazing play things. 😊 But it doesn’t end there. In the publishing process there is creative collaboration with an illustrator and editor. And then when a book comes out, there’s creativity involved in sharing the book with kids—coming up with presentations and activities. My creativity as an educator kicks in writing an educator guide. While I enjoy crafting and other such pursuits, nothing compares to being an author!
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
As I mentioned briefly, the whole process of writing a book is about looking for meaningful connections for kids. After publication, I create activities and do presentations and virtual visits to engage young readers in extending, questioning, bringing a story “home” to them, and hopefully, inspiring them to explore.
I’ve been staying connected to the kid lit community through social media, book launches, release groups, webinars, conferences, and various meetings to share information and learn. The online opportunities have been so vital during the pandemic. And now, it’s such a joy to be able to meet again in person with my local critique group! I welcome more in-person gatherings coming up, and I continue to be grateful for the expanded opportunities the past few years have created.
Thank you, Melissa, for your support of the kid lit community and the opportunity to share my latest release: CLOAKED IN COURAGE: UNCOVERING DEBORAH SAMPSON, PATRIOT SOLDIER.
Beth Anderson, a former educator, has always marveled at the power of books. Driven by curiosity and a love for words, she writes untold tales, hoping to inspire kids to laugh, ponder, and question. She’s the award-winning author of FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE, REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT, TAD LINCOLN’S RESTLESS WRIGGLE, “SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES, LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT!, AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET, and on Nov. 15, CLOAKED IN COURAGE: UNCOVERING DEBORAH SAMPSON, PATRIOT SOLDIER. Beth has more historical picture books on the way.
CONNECT WITH BETH:
Pre-order Special! The Wandering Jellyfish Book Store in Niwot, CO is offering signed copies and special pre-order swag! https://shop.twjbookshop.com/products/cloaked-in-courage-signed-copy-preorder-out-11-15-22
Educator Guide for download here: https://bethandersonwriter.files.wordpress.com/2022/10/cloaked-in-courage_educatordiscussion-guide.pdf
Link for Beth's Online Book Launch Celebration: