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  • Writer's pictureMary Boone

Six Questions with Marcia Berneger

Marcia Berneger is a retired teacher who feels at home writing fiction and nonfiction picture books, as well as humorous chapter book mysteries for young readers. Her first picture book, Buster the Little Garbage Truck rolled out from Sleeping Bear Press in April 2015. Her chapter book, A Dreidel in Time, spun into the world in Sept, 2019 (Lerner Publishing). Her newest picture book, Busy Feet (Starry Forest Press), just scurried into bookstores on Valentine’s Day. Marcia is a member of SCBWI, the 12x12 writing community, and Inked Voices. Visit Marcia's website to learn more about her and her work.

1. How did you begin your journey as an author?

If you don’t count that in third grade summer school every written assignment I turned in was in rhyme, my journey as a writer began when I was about ten years old. I wrote a perfect picture book story: beginning, middle and end, problem/solution. I still have that story. Sometimes I take it out and think: I should revise this and submit it. Someday I will.

2. Do you ever struggle to come up with your next project?

I participate in Storystorm every January where the goal is to write 30 picture book ideas in the 31 days of the month. If I get stuck for an idea, I turn to those. This year I’ve already turned two of them into full stories. I also cruise #MSWL to see what agents are looking for. It tells me what’s hot at the moment. And sometimes, an idea will just pop into my head. Those are the most fun to work with.

3. Did you have a favorite teacher when you were a child?

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Falk, was my favorite. She was strict, but kind. She made learning fun but was especially skilled in instilling confidence, or at least she was with me. I loved school from the time I was four and could only look forward to it. Mrs. Falk encouraged me to read, to write, and most of all, to love math and science. They became my two favorite subjects and I felt so smart because I was one of the top math students. She was also my role model when I became a teacher many years later. I always tried to channel her love of teaching and of her students as I worked with my students. Thank you, Mrs. Falk!

4. Where did you get the idea for Busy Feet?

I’d love to say I got the idea from teaching little kids. But I’d retired several years prior. I’d love to say my grandson inspired me, but Ori is only two and the idea predated him. Truth is, the first verse popped into my head one day. Or at least the first two lines did. Of course, I had to come up with two more lines. Then four more… And then I realized, I’d used antonyms in that second verse. So, after lists of antonyms, lists of verbs toddler feet could do, and many rhyming attempts, Busy Feet emerged.

5. If you could tell readers one secret about your newest book, what would it be?

My big secret—I didn’t like the illustrations at first. In my head, Busy Feet was a board book for very young children -- up to age 3. That's whom I’d written it for. When it became a picture book for the “4-7-year-old reader,” I was surprised. The slightly older characters and the bold illustrations worried me. I’d only read it to toddlers, and they loved to move their feet along with my text. Then I realized, it will still sell to parents and grandparents of those feet-tapping toddlers. The bright art complements my text and the pictures are fun, no matter what the ages. And kids I’m reading to now wiggle toes and move feet right along with me. All is good!

6. What’s a particularly striking or memorable reaction someone has had to this book?

My grandson, Ori, loves Busy Feet! He’s two and he asks to read it all the time. That is the best feeling in the world. He loves the art, he loves the words. He can even end some of the rhymes as I read. What more could I ask for?

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