Vicki Conrad Author of Just Like Beverly Published by Sasquatch Books
We were so excited this new author was coming to our Beverly Cleary celebration in Yamhill! She was also scheduled to visit our local school with an inspirational message about reading and writing. Alas, sometimes we have to rewrite the ending or even the beginnings to our stories. Since we cannot have her visit this year, please read a short interview about what it is like to finish your first book and being a writer. (Also, remember to look into our story contest for young writers. Yamhill Downtown Association.)
Sometimes you are inspired by someone, by what they have done and where they have come from. Vicki Conrad was inspired by Beverly Cleary. She just had to write more about her. Vicki is a reading teacher in Seattle. She was inspired to research and connect the story of Beverly Cleary to children. This storybook biography is her first book and it is definitely inspirational to teachers, children and writers.
What inspired you most to write, “Just Like Beverly”?
I read, A Girl From Yamhill as a 6th grader. When I was looking for non-fiction subjects I began to re-read her autobiography. Her life story resonated with me, her drive to write stories, that had been there since she was a young girl. I had the same drive. I am a reading teacher, and I empathized deeply with her early reading struggles. I know many children that can relate. Those were the factors that made me sit down and start writing her story.
Do you have a favorite character or story from Beverly Cleary?
As child, I was hooked on Ramona. I loved everything about her. I remember getting a new one from the scholastic book fair, and being over the moon to get home and read.
As an adult, I loved Henry Huggins more and more. There is something about a boy and his dog.
Since you are a teacher, what do you think Beverly Cleary shares to children in her stories?
I think Beverly Cleary captures how children think, and act in her stories, that is why they have been evergreen for so many years.
Why did you decide to make your biography a picture book and not an early reader?
I had always wanted to be a picture book writer, and this story needed more words than an early reader could fit.
This is your first book, do you have more to come? Do you only write non-fiction?
I write fiction as well, I am working on other projects, but I do not have another book coming out yet.
How long did it take you to write this biography?
It took about 4 years and more than 50 drafts to get it right. Writing is all about perseverance.
Why is this biography special for teachers? Students?
I think this biography is special for teachers because it highlights their unique and powerful role in children's lives. A patient, loving teacher can change the course of a person's life.
I think students can relate to Beverly's early struggles. I think that students are able to see themselves in the story, and the message to write your own story, no matter what idea, is powerful for children to embrace.
What would you share to new writers?
Study the craft of writing, join a writing group, read loads of books, write, re-write and persevere.
What process was the most difficult for you in publishing your first book? What tip would you advise first time authors?
It took a lot of time to find the true heart of this story. There were drafts that were not working quite right. It was because I did not have a clear sense of the main idea of the story, once I figured that out, I was able to make the manuscript sing.
I would advise to seek out community, join other new writers online or in person. Ask lots of questions, reach out for support. Look at what others have done before you. Most of all, enjoy the moment. Celebrate the accomplishment.
What would you tell kids about writing stories?
Write without fear. Children make fantastic writers, because they write without fear of failure and rejection. They also see the world in the most wonderful and unique way. Write how you see things, write about what you live, what bothers you, what you are curious about. Write for fun.
Thank you Vicki for a fabulous interview!
Check out some of her blog and favorite books, click here: https://beginningsandbookends.com/2015/04/20/10-books-to-read-to-a-child-on-earth-day/
Book review of Just Like Beverly, click here: https://www.amylamae.com/post/just-like-beverly-biography-beverly-cleary