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  • Writer's pictureMary Boone

Six Questions with Beth Anderson

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 is the award-winning author of Thomas Jefferson's Battle for Science, Cloaked in Courage, Pranz's Phantasmagorical Machine, Revolutionary Prudence Wright, Tad Lincoln's Restless Wriggle, "Smelly" Kelly and His Super Senses, Lizzie Demands a Seat!, and An Inconvenient Alphabet, with more historical picture books on the way.

Visit Beth's website to learn more about her and her work.

An educator's guide to support her latest book is available.

Find her on social media at @BAndersonWriter.


1. What are some of the key ingredients that make a great book for kids?

It’s essential that kids find a bit of themselves, something to connect to that keeps them reading and feeling invested. Also, something new that prompts questions or wonder or opens up their world. And finally, something that stays with them, whether to ponder or comfort or inspire. As a former educator, I also love a story that crosses curricular areas to integrate the world and organically offer learning in the midst of a great story.

 

2. To what extent is your writing inspired by your own experience?

My writing is totally inspired by my experience in the classroom. I write the kinds of books I loved to share with kids and that they always responded to—unknown, intriguing, true stories. As an ESL teacher, I needed to support subject areas as we worked to build language skills. But even for myself, I love an engaging story that teaches me more about the world and inspires critical thinking. Making history real by seeing it through the human experience brings meaning, connection, understanding, and allows us perspective on how change happens. Historical figures aren’t that different than us. We’re all living history.

 

3. Do you ever get stuck creatively? How do you get unstuck?

I get all kinds of stuck. When it’s about digging out the heart of a story, I find that reading articles or quotes on themes or key ideas can jog something loose. Articles that share other views or angles are valuable to find new ways of looking at an idea. Quotes help because they’re generally concise or interesting ways of stating an important idea. When I’m stuck finding the right words for a scene, or paragraph, or sentence, movement helps—going for a walk or just some physical activity can work wonders!

 

4. As a nonfiction author, how do you divide your time between research and writing?

I spend a lot of time up front with research. And as I research, I organize the information in a spiral so that I can find the information I need later, see relationships, and start to search out the heart of the story and how I want to tell it. I collect and sort for character, setting, title ideas, structure ideas, conflict, and lots more. When I have a basic sequence of scenes and arc, I start writing. But, I’m never done with researching. I have to dive back in occasionally, and definitely as I work through editorial revisions. And then again with sketches and in the vetting process for final text and illustrations.

 

5. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with?

I would hope each child finds a connection to their own life, sees the importance of asking questions, and understands that truth matters.  But also, I want them to feel the wonder and enjoy the fun in this piece of history, see that history and science are intertwined, and know that there is much to discover. Most of all I hope kids will carry this model of critical thinking with them and practice it in their own lives as they grow and experience the world.


6. Who should read this book?

Of course, I would want every child to experience this book, alone to think for themselves, and with others to talk about the many important ideas that spring from this story. I want all kids to see that famous, intelligent people can be wrong, they make mistakes, they struggle with personal challenges. And that we are all biased and should also question our own assumptions. We tend to believe what we want to believe, and it takes courage and effort to step past that to find truth and admit when we’re wrong.

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