Required Reading

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Interview with Barbara J. Smith Author of “A Surprise for Grandmother Rabbit”.

One of the joys of the Internet is the discovery of kindred souls that would otherwise never be met. I connected with Barbara on GoodReads. We have read each other’s books and concluded it would be fun to interview each other. What motivates people to write and how their backgrounds differ is always interesting. Her books are available through most book stores and online booksellers and from her website/blog.

1.) Why did you write this book? What initiated this particular burst of creativity?
Probably a combination of grandchildren, retirement and aging. I’ve been a freelance editor since the mid-1980s and have always dabbled in writing but have never actually put my skills to a test until now. My freelance editing background ranges from pre-school through college-level textbooks. At the same time I was a staff member at Princeton University. While there I was the managing editor for a scientific journal, Mammalian Genome, and also edited other departmental publications.
But due to my husband’s employment we relocated to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I retired early from the University and was determined to use my extra time to write – finally! At about the same time our first grandchild arrived. Despite my still busy schedule, I was not going to give up on my writing – I’m not getting any younger. And, so it began with A Surprise for Grandmother Rabbit.

2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?
 It develops as it goes along. Skipper, the main character, hops through the story visiting and trading with his farm and forest friends. He realizes rather late that he may have messed up big time. But it all works out in the end, of course.

3.) Is your process to outline and then fill in the blanks or just sit down and start to tell a story or ?
I tend to just sit down and type. Whatever will be will be. Often, what appears on the screen isn’t anything I would like to show another soul. But eventually, it will turn into a piece I’m willing to share.

4.) Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?
My favorite character has to be Skipper, but I also like how Grandmother Rabbit deals with the situation. Guess the mother/grandmother in me relates well with her.

5.) What do you like the most about writing?
Writing helps you escape from reality for awhile. We all lead such busy lives that we don’t take time to smell the flowers. As it is with reading, writing can be an escape from the busy chores of life.

6.) Where do your new story ideas come from?
I’ve gathered ideas over the years but have never put them into action. They can come from anywhere – nature, books, or from children themselves. Generally, something will pop into my head as I’m driving or walking or even food shopping. But many ideas come from my beautiful grandchildren. They are so funny and they definitely keep me on my toes!

7.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?
Be sure to sit down and write every day. I admit I don’t always follow this rule, but when I do I’m far more successful and can at least get a basic story written. I then leave it for a week or so and return to it to see how I feel about it and what I can do to make it better.

8.) Do you have any new books in progress?
I have a couple ideas. My first book, A Surprise for Grandmother Rabbit, has only recently hit the book shelves. It was dedicated to my first granddaughter. We have since had a second granddaughter, and so the pressure is on to write a sequel to A Surprise for Grandmother Rabbit. It’s in the works.

9.) Who is your favorite author and why?
This is a tough question. I read a lot and I love all the classics but I‘m also apt to read anything that comes along. Charlotte Bonte, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens – oh, the list goes on and on. One of my favorite modern authors is Richard Russo.

10.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?
Write, write, write and don’t get depressed and give up. It takes a long time to get published. We all know about those rejection letters. Just keep on writing. It will happen, eventually.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me along the path to and since publication. This is all new to me and I find it’s actually harder to market the book than the writing and editorial phase of the process. I appreciate the pointers I receive from both my publisher and from all the more seasoned authors out there. And, I hope you’ll enjoy reading A Surprise for Grandmother Rabbit to your children and grandchildren.

Thank you Barbara for your insightful answers and for taking the time to be interviewed in this hectic holiday period.

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