Freaky Friday-Interview with aspiring children’s author Barbara Wells

Filed under: Freaky Friday

If you’ve seen the movie Freaky Friday, you know that its premise is about change and growth through role reversal. For my Friday Blog entry I thought it would be interesting to interview aspiring writers; the same writers who spend lots of time reading the interviews of published authors and dreaming of the day when they might get their book on the shelves…
Today’s Freaky Friday Friend is Barbara (Bobbie) Wells. Bobbie is the RA for Eastern NY SCBWI. She’s wonderful and I can’t wait for you to get to know her better. As you can tell from her picture…she is a kid at heart.

Bobbie, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you became a children’s writer?

I always thought six the best age to be. At six I could ride my tricycle to the end of the street and back by myself, and at six I would learn to read. Six decades later, I still believe it’s the best age to be.
Color, form, texture, and words have long been a part of my life. Combined with a healthy six year old mentality, you’ve got a natural born children’s book writer. Of course dual degrees in fine arts and education, and thirty years in an elementary school classroom, doesn’t hurt.
So you’re a perpetual 6 year old. I’m about 16-17 so at least you have someone to babysit for you LOL! Having 30 years in a classroom under your belt means that you’ve seen the changes in publishing from a much different perspective. What do you like and dislike about how children’s books are evolving?

Children’s books are a reflection of our social structure, and as our society changes and evolves, so do our arts. Once upon a time children were more willing to settle down for a lyrical, soft, tale that pretty much began that way. Today’s children are accustomed to getting their information and entertainment in bytes. PBs are mostly three hundred words or less, and often deliver more of a punch line than a plot. They are far more visual than verbal. And look at the growth of graphic novels. While I bemoan the loss of the literary, I celebrate the high quality of illustrations that have evolved, almost filling in the blanks.
Subject matter, too, reflects our changing social values. PBs often deliver more of a punch line than a plot. And some of the YAs, Wow! And certainly, children’s non-fiction has come into its own. So changes, good, bad? Probably a little of both. There were wonderful writers thirty years ago, and we have wonderfully, talented authors among us today.
We’ve had the pleasure of meeting through our local SCBWI. Can you tell us a little bit about your experiences with the Eastern NY SCBWI?

Until three years ago there was no Eastern NY. Ellen Yeoman, bless her heart, was RA for all of NY except the metro area (NYC incl. Long Island and Westchester). How she managed to find the energy to handle a region that size, raise a family and get published at the same time… but she did.
Finally NY State was divided into three regions, metro, eastern and western. Eastern covers Putnam north to the Canadian border, and the counties just west of the Hudson, and east to Ct, MA, and Vermont. Ellen asked if I would be willing to serve as RA for the newly created region. So Nancy Castaldo as ARA, and I took over, and with two of us we were able to add on events in addition to the Shop Talks and annual June conference. In November of 2006 we hosted an illustrators master class. In 2007 we expanded the idea, turning the event into an alternating weekend retreat. Last year was a novel master writing class. This year 2009, we did a picture book (including illustrators) master class.
In January I will be stepping down and Nancy will assume full responsibility for this region.
Thanks so much for having been involved-we will miss having you as RA, but you must promise to keep popping into Shop Talk.

How was this year’s Picture Book Retreat? Any tips we could all benefit from?

Falling Leaves Picture Book Master Class was excellent. How often do you get to spend 25 minutes, one on one, with an editor discussing your writing? The emphasis in a master class is the writing process, yours in particular. So what I came away with really pertains to my own work, and the general information is pretty much what you would hear at any conference. It was basically an immersion weekend, and I highly recommend it to every serious writer.

Sounds like you are inspired! Since we all like a little inspiration, can you tell us your five favorite books and how they’ve influenced you?
Favorite is such a difficult word for me; it seems so final. And to pick out five books, well… So I’m going to give you five authors whose works I greatly admire, and why. In no particular order, Kate DiCamillo, Katherine Paterson, Nancy Willard, Dick King-Smith, and E.B. White.

Language is their medium, and these authors are masters at using words to paint wonderful tales. With humor and pathos, they examine the human condition, and always speak to the highest common denominator in man, love. Their works inspire children (of all ages) to never give up hope, to be all they can be.

Some very excellent choices! I know you had the lovely and talented Nancy Willard at one of our Eastern NY SCBWI Conferences. It was a treat to listen to her speak. Glad you could stop by and be a little Freaky and thank you again for all you’ve done for the Eastern NY SCBWI. Don’t forget to stop by and say hi to Barbara on Facebook!


4 Responses | TrackBack URL | Comments Feed

  1. Awesome interview, Kim! Great work, Bobbie! And I'm right there with you on your list of authors. What a great crowd. 🙂

  2. Thanks Mary Ann-I'm pretty lucky you awesome ladies give god interviews! :o)

  3. Great interview Kim and Barb! 🙂

  4. Thanks Tracy…hoping so some day get you to take off your editorial hat and get you to do an interview too! :o)

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