Bethany Roberts' Writing for Children Workshop:  Writing Childrens Books: Interview

Valentine's Day 2002 Interview with Bethany Roberts by Eliza Ferree

"Valentine Mice"

1. Would you tell us a little about "Valentine Mice"?

I wrote Halloween Mice first, and loved the little mouse characters so much that I soon wrote Valentine Mice. (This was followed by Christmas Mice. Birthday Mice is scheduled for this coming this fall and Easter Mice the following spring.)

A fun part of writing a picture book is seeing what the illustrator does with it. For Valentine Mice, Doug Cushman (who happens to be an old friend of mine), ably developed the mouse characters with his paintings. When I saw what he had done, it triggered my imagination, and I began to create more plots around the characters. It wasnít technically a collaboration- our editor was always solidly in the middle of the projects (she was sort of like an orchestra conductor, while we tried to play in tune!)

2. What are some of your favorite Valentine memories you have as a child?

I always celebrated holidays with great gusto (still do), and Valentineís Day was no exception. I often planned Valentine parties, decorated the house with hearts, and had valentine-themed games and refreshments. I also used to make lots of handmade valentines with paper doilies, ribbons, scraps, and paste. In school we always had Valentineís Day mailboxes, and were encouraged to give a valentine to each of our classmates, so everyone always got a nice, big stack of cards.

3. How long have you been professionally writing?

My first sales, some greeting card ideas and a story for Highlights for Children., were in 1980. My first book was published in 1984.

4. How many books have you published?

I have published 16 books, and have 7 more books scheduled for publication.

5. What would you like to tell aspiring authors?

Donít give up! Rejection letters are a part of the process. Writers tend to be a sensitive lot, but to make it in this field we have to get a bit tough, and just keep at it. I think some talented writers give up too soon.

6. Do you find it harder or easier to get published now that you have quite
a few books out already? Why?

Itís definitely easier to get published after the first few books. By then writers have usually established relationships with editors who are interested in working with them.

7. With two children, what is your writing schedule like? How do you manage?

When my kids were small, writing time was catch as catch can. I remember one time, when my girls were in elementary school, I was giving one of them a birthday party, and was opening the door to let in guests, and at the same time writing a story about a birthday party!

My children are older now, so my time is freer than when they were little, but it still takes a lot of discipline to free-lance. I have a lot of interests, and get pulled in many directions. Also, Iím not very good with schedules or routines, so I have self-imposed monthly "deadlines" to keep myself on track.

8. What inspires you to come up with your stories?

Inspiration can come from many sources- the key is to be wide open, and look at everything as a potential book! I love holidays and seasons, and not surprisingly many of my books are about them. My love of gardening inspired The Windís Garden.

Still, I often need to sit down, with nothing in my head, and brainstorm until an idea begins to form. This could take one sitting or several.

9. Which book is your favorite? Why?

A favorite book? Thatís like asking which is my favorite child! But I generally favor the newest book (the baby of the family!)

10. When you aren't writing, what do you do for fun?

I read, of course, and enjoy movies with a good story. I love to travel, more than anything. I am craftsy, and love to make jewelry and gifts for people. Iím an avid gardener, indoors and out (right now Iím forcing paperwhite bulbs, and my African violets are blooming.) And I like to spend lots of quality time with family and friends.

11. How do you handle rejection? What do you do when you get an acceptance?

After all these years in the field, rejection letters arenít usually much of a problem for me. I am quite business-like about them. If an editor wants a revision, I sit right down and do it. If an editor likes my writing but not a particular manuscript, I try to find something else to send that might be a better match. Otherwise, I file the letter (perhaps with a little sigh), and move on to the next project.

Acceptance letters, however, require celebration! I jump up and down a few times and whoop, and then make plans with my husband or family to go out to eat at a favorite restaurant.

12. Did you always want to be an author? Why?

Yes, I always wanted to be an author, as far back as I can remember. I loved to read as a child. I was always writing and illustrating my own stories. Plus I developed an early taste for storytelling by telling stories to the neighborhood kids.

13. Which authors inspired you when you were growing up?

I loved the Thornton W. Burgess books, Louisa May Alcottís Little Women, and Laura Ingalls Wilderís Little House books.

14. What (if anything) are you currently working on?

Right now Iím working on a story for beginning readers that I hope will be a sequel to my first beginning reader (Ogre Comes Over, to be published by Dutton.)

15. What are you currently reading?

Right now I am re-reading Tolkien. I just finished reading The Hobbit, and am about to start The Fellowship of the Ring. (Yes, I saw the movie!)

16. How will you celebrate Valentine's Day?

My husband is wonderful about giving me flowers for Valentineís Day, and he always takes me out to dinner. (No candy this year, though, as we are all cutting down on sugar!)

17. Where can your fans find more of your work or write you?

My books are listed on my web site, at:

Books by Bethany Roberts

They can be ordered from or Barnes and Noble.

I can be contacted by writing to one of my publishers.  (Letters will get forwarded to me.)

18. What would you like to say at this time?

I would like to wish everyone a very happy Valentineís Day!!