Coffee and Conversation with Betsy Bird

Happy Tuesday! With our Team SCBWI Conference now only four days away, we are finishing our series of faculty interviews. Missed any? No worries, just click on the links below.

Betsy BirdToday is the grand finale, an interview with our keynote speaker, Betsy Bird, Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system, blogger for School Library Journal’s A Fuse #8 Production, and former Youth Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She is also the author of several books including Wild Things, co-written with Julie Danielson and Peter D. Sieruta:

Wild ThingsDid Laura Ingalls cross paths with a band of mass murderers? Why was a Garth Williams bunny tale dubbed “integrationist propaganda”? For adults who are curious about children’s books and their creators, here are the little-known stories behind the stories. A treasure trove of information for a student, librarian, new parent, or anyone wondering about the post-Harry Potter book biz, Wild Things! draws on the combined knowledge and research of three respected and popular librarian-bloggers. Told in affectionate and lively prose, with numerous never-before-collected anecdotes, this book chronicles some of the feuds and fights, errors and secret messages found in children’s books and brings contemporary illumination to the warm-and-fuzzy bunny world we think we know.

On Saturday morning, Betsy will be delivering our keynote presentation:

Trendwatch or Change Is Good (Right?) 

Keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s new and happening the world of children’s literature is awfully difficult.  Who are the movers and shakers in the field? What kinds of books are getting the most attention these days (and what books will be getting attention in the future)?

What are the issues schools and libraries are most interested in?  Keynote speaker Betsy Bird breaks it all down, from weirdo trends in children’s novels (2016 is now The Year of the Fox) to the current state of publicity and promotion on the part of publishers.

Then on Sunday, she will be leading one of our six workshops:

Seducing the Gatekeepers: How to Get Your Books Into the Hands of Teachers, Librarians, and Parents

Writing a book is one thing. Publicizing it and appealing to your buyers?  Entirely another. Library & blogger Betsy Bird tells the tips and tricks that work best (and the steps to avoid at all costs) when promoting your published or self-published work.

Whew, she’s a busy gal! And now that she’s joined us in the cyber cafe … Welcome, Betsy, what’s your favorite coffeehouse beverage?

Oo! No one ever asks me that! It’s a Grande Iced Chai Latte. Weirdly enough, just from Starbucks. I asked a friend recently why theirs taste better. “Crack,” she said. “They contain crack.” Sounds about right to me.

Nice, and your favorite snack to go with that crack?

Plain old normal potato chips. I eat one and I’m Cookie Monster with cookies. It’s all over.

Hmm, I’ll be sure to guard the snack table if you need me to. Okay, first official question: What was your favorite book as a child?

A Time to KeepI get asked this a lot and it’s never an easy answer. I was read to quite a bit and became a reader myself. I guess if it’s the book that had the most influence over my brain it was, weirdly enough, Tasha Tudor’s A TIME TO KEEP. I think it’s actually still in print too. I crazy love that thing. Dunno why. Just do.


And now, what’s your favorite book as an adult?

dandelionHmmmmm. That’s trickier. I’ve a lot that I care for, but my favorite? Maybe Ray Bradbury’s DANDELION WINE. That’s sort of a silly answer. I should say something like A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES or WHITE NOISE, but I’m sort of a lifelong Bradbury fan. That book is nostalgia distilled. That’s a good thing.


You magically find a $100.00 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it? (Key word: Frivolous!)

Easy peasy. I buy this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 9.59.02 PM

Oh wow, beyond adorable! I think you should buy that. Immediately.

Next up, you’ve been locked in a bank vault Twilight Zone style, so you finally have time to read!  Your glasses are fine (whew!) so what’s the first book you crack open?

Oh, man. Ever since I moved to Evanston I’ve found my reading time severely curtailed. I used to read on my subway commute, you see. So if I suddenly found myself with time I’d do the following and in this order:

THE MAGIC MIRROR by Susan Hill Long

SAMURAI RISING by Pamela S. Turner


BOOKED by Kwame Alexander

Then I get into all the nonfiction.

Nice list! I hope there’s a Starbucks and plenty of potato chips in that vault to hold you. Okay, if you followed the career path you chose for yourself in high school, what would you be doing for a living now?

I suppose I’d be writing more! I did think I’d be a writer for a while there. Maybe it wasn’t the craziest plan.

For one day, time travel is a reality and you can visit any famous deceased author you want.  Who do you pick?

ShelShel Silverstein. Granted, he might hit on me (the guy was kind of notorious) but man would he be fascinating to talk to. Did you know he collected old nursery rhyme collections? That’s the guy I want to know better.


What’s your favorite motivational quote?

In brief, it’s a quote about how to write. To paraphrase Jane Yolen, “Butt plus chair.” It doesn’t get more basic than that.

So true! If you could sum up your best marketing advice for new writers or illustrators in only four words, what would it be?

Know Thy Bloggers Well.

Awesome, thanks for stopping by, Betsy, we’re looking forward to seeing you at the conference!

And I’m looking forward to meeting all of you!


About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two awesome boys, wife of one fantastic husband, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She loves run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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3 Responses to Coffee and Conversation with Betsy Bird

  1. mariagianferrari says:

    I’m so excited for this workshop! Thanks for the great interview!!

  2. What a fun interview! I can’t wait to meet Betsy and hear her presentation.

  3. Pingback: Coffee and Conversation with Jess Tice-Gilbert | As the Eraser Burns

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