Monday, September 24, 2012

Amazing Bette, Amazing Matilda

Today I have with me an author who is a fellow New Englander.  I am from New England; she now lives in New England.  Bette A. Stevens is retired and lives with her husband in Hartland, Maine.

Welcome, Bette!  Tell me a little about your life in Maine.  Sure.  My husband and I spend our time writing, gardening, drawing and painting.  We're restoring an old farmstead, building trails throughout our 30+ acres of woodland and take occasional day trips to the coast to kick back and relax.  We have two grown daughters and five fantastic grandkids, with our first ‘greatgrand ‘on the way!

How long have you been writing and what type of writing do you normally do?  It seems like I've been writing forever. Business writing, editing a corporate newsletter, desktop publishing, journaling, photo captioning for scrapbooks, and capturing nature and human nature in poetic quips have been on my completed to-do checklist for decades. After a successful business career as assistant to the CEO of one of New England’s largest construction companies, I embarked on a new career path in search of attaining one of my own dreams: Teaching. With a B.S. in Elementary Education from University of Maine Orono in hand, I was privileged to teach a wonderfully diverse assortment of students in grades 4, 6, 7 and 8 in California and in grades 4 and 5 in Virginia. While completing my undergraduate courses, I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a creative writing course.

Tell us about your book,  AMAZING MATILDA: A Monarch’s Tale. Can you give us a brief synopsis?  MATILDA becomes discouraged when she is unable to fly during the early stages as a larva. But, this Amazing Monarch never gives up on her dream. Unlike her meadowland friends, Matilda doesn’t want to leap onto ledges or bound across fields, she only wants to fly. At first, Matilda’s friends laugh at her because she doesn’t have wings. They wonder: How can a creature without wings ever hope to fly? While Matilda progresses through the various stages of her metamorphosis from egg to butterfly, her friends recall how they felt before they were able to do all of the things they had dreamed of doing and how hard they had to keep trying to do all of those things. Encouraged by her meadowland friends, MATILDA learns that if she tries hard enough and long enough, she can do anything she really wants to do.

What prompted you to write this book?  As a prolific reader, and with some creative writing experiences in my new 'teacher toolbox,' I was hooked right from the start.  Meld that love of literature with a desire to inspire students to be all they can be and you’ve got a brand new children’s bookwriter: me, the author of AMAZING MATILDA: A Monarch’s Tale, my second children’s book. The teacher me wanted to integrate a story with core curriculum elements. A Monarch would be the perfect main character: as an indicator species and with Monarch habitat (milkweed) rapidly disappearing, it would be a great way for children to learn life science and environmental science concepts, all while enjoying an inspiring story. Monarch research was my first step. I thought the fit would be perfect because the challenges to be met in the natural world paralleled the challenges to be met in the lives of the children. And so, I started to write and rewrite and rewrite… All of the tweaking was on the literary side of the story. I wanted it to be used to teach (model) the use of repetition, alliteration, metaphor and simile in writing stories. It was lots of fun and the first year I placed Matilda’s story in a storybook format in a binder (no illustrations yet). I read it aloud and my fourth graders wanted to read it during their free time and make their own illustrations. We were raising silkworms in the classroom at the time. I continued to read the story aloud to my students (4th, 5th and 6th graders) over the years. During that time, I continued to make revisions and used those as models as a teaching tool as well. As a retired teacher, I’ve had time this year to create the illustrations (pencil sketches and watercolor). My background in desktop publishing gave me the incentive to check the internet to find out about self-publishing. Voila! After more than a decade: AMAZING MATILDA, is now written, illustrated and published.

Do you have a favorite line from the book? “What Matilda needed now was a nap. First, she found a sturdy stem and attached her bottom to it. Then, as expertly as a circus acrobat, Matilda lowered herself headfirst and began to spin.”

Is it published? If so, when and by whom? Publisher: (self-published by author using CreateSpace) July 2, 2012

How can my readers get a copy of the book?   They can go to my Webpage, where you’ll find both of my children’s books, and links directly to Amazon:

What’s next for you?  I recently started a blog and have been writing some poetry and short articles. Also, I have a short story (unpublished) that I want to expand into a YA fiction (coming of age in the 1950s and ‘60s) novel. When I read the short story to my fellow students in a creative writing class at college, they wanted to hear more. That’s my next big project. I’ve already asked some Web friends if they thought this type of book would have an audience and I’m waiting for some feedback. 

What is your advice to would be writers? NEVER GIVE UP: You can do anything you really want to do if you try long enough and hard enough, especially with help and encouragement from your friends. (The theme of AMAZING MATILDA) The internet is such a great resource for connecting with other writers, readers, marketers, publishers.  Join groups that fit into your niche. Then, connect with other writers and find out what they’re doing. Read them, follow them, leave comments and ask questions. There is a wonderful world of encouragers on the Web.

What did you wish you knew when you started your writing career? I wanted to know EVERYTHING. I wish I had known enough to join writers’ organizations and become actively involved with other writers. Today, it’s so simple. Support and friendship is only a click or a Google away! Here are a few links of resources that have been invaluable in helping me get started: CreateSpace self-publishing:  Sandra Beckwith  Where Writers Win  Goodreads  Laura Pepper Wu Connections 

Thank you, Bette, for taking time out to do an interview with me.  I would encourage all of my readers who have children or grandchildren to purchase your book.  I'll think of you walking through your thirty acres of woodland, birds singing and leaves crunching underfoot, while you compose stories in your mind.

Quote for the day:  The healthiest response to life is joy. Deepak Chopra

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Linda. Hope all is well with you and yours. Just wanted to let you know that I'm interviewing my first author, Susan Speranzo (LUCIA GRANDI, The Early Years) on my blog on Monday, November 12. Hope you'll stop by for a visit and follow Susan's blog tour and leave us a comment. I so appreciated your professional interview of me. I use it in my Media Packet. I'll be using your interview as a model for my own. Thanks for being a great host and a fantastic mentor! Here's my blog and here's the latest review of AMAZING MATILDA I would really appreciate your feedback if you have a chance to stop by and visit! Best wishes, Bette