|Photo by Tina Wood|
1. How did you come up with this idea?
First, thank you so much for sharing AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET with your readers!
As a writer who loves narrative nonfiction, I’m always on the lookout for interesting tidbits from history or science or maybe a combo. When I saw an article on Ben Franklin’s alphabet, it caught my eye. And then, as I read Ben’s words, “Those people spell best who do not know how to spell,” it hit me in the heart – my teacher, parent, language-loving heart. But it still required lots of digging to find the premise and shape the story.
2. What was your research like? Did you travel anywhere special to find golden nuggets of info? How long did it take to research?
My research started with scouring the internet to get an overview as I considered the potential of the topic and gathered a list of sources. Then I turned to the library and began requesting books about Ben and Noah and language history. I am so grateful for all the historical texts that have been digitized and are shared on a number of databases – such incredible resources! I reached out to historical societies, the Library on Congress, museums, and other institutions.
The first round of gathering information took a few weeks. Then as I drafted and revised, I continued to get more books as one source led to more and more, a dribble of ongoing research for a few months. As I’ve found with every manuscript, I needed to do another dive into the research, rereading my notes and searching out more resources, to reframe or hone a special thread of the story after receiving critiques.
3. What was your favorite bit of information that you uncovered?
ISH. Ben had me at “ish,” his letter for the SH sound. That along with the quote I mentioned above were my favorites. Oh, but then there was the fact that Noah and Ben were opposites, Noah being a tad pushy and wanting to legislate his ideas. And I have to admit to liking the point that Ben, Super Founding Father, didn’t hit it out of the park every time he had a new idea. He let his ideas “take their chance in the world,” which is great advice for me as a writer. So basically, I kept finding more to love. :)
4. How many drafts before this sold?
I did about 40 drafts of this manuscript.
5. What have you learned about marketing? Any tips to newbies?
I’m still a newbie at marketing, learning as I go. I’m trying to take advantage of any opportunities, learn from other authors’ experiences, keep records for the future, and have fun with it.
6. I see you have two more picture book biographies coming in 2020 from Calkins Creek. Would you like to share anything about those?
Although these two picture books both deal with transportation in New York City, they are very different.
LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT: ELIZABETH JENNINGS FIGHTS FOR STREETCAR RIGHTS, illustrated by the phenomenal E.B. Lewis, is a civil rights story about a woman who won the first court case for desegregation of public transportation. She’s an amazing woman, much like Rosa Parks but a century earlier. To me, her story shows how we are links in time, standing on the shoulders of those who came before us and inspiring those who follow, as well as how we all need to find the courage to step up and play a role in establishing social justice.
“SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES: THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF AN ORDINARY MAN AND HIS EXTRAORDINARY NOSE, illustrated by Jenn Harney, is set in the fascinating underground world of the 1930’s New York City subway. There, James Kelly, a humble immigrant learns to use his natural talents for the benefit of all—and also finds out what it takes to be a true hero.
7. What are you working on now?
At the moment I’m working on editor revisions for a third Calkins Creek title that hasn’t been announced. I’m also revising a new manuscript on a bit of revolutionary history that I’d never heard of before that seems incredibly relevant in today’s world. And then there’s pile of research and a few ideas that keep swirling in my head…
Wow, Beth, Congratulations, on these additional forthcoming titles! You've been busy with research. I hope you all get to read An Inconvenient Alphabet!
Beth Anderson, a former English as a Second Language teacher, has always marveled at the power of books. Armed with linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Colorado where she laughs, wonders, ponders, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same.