Welcome to week fifteen of the #WritersQuick5 series - where we learn about writing from fellow writers.
This week brings us the work of Bibi Belford, a teacher who writes and a writer who teaches. Bibi is the author of young adult, middle grade, and early reader novels. Her book Canned and Crushed was published by Skypony Press, as was her e-reader book The Gift. This year, her new book Crossing the Line will be released on July 4, 2017 and Another D for DeeDee is due in September. She met her first Skypony editor at the UW Writer’s Institute.
Let’s see what Bibi has to say…
Question #1 - Where do you write and why do you write there?
I used to write in a beautiful gazebo with only the sounds of trees rustling and birds singing. Then we moved to the South Loop of Chicago. Now I write looking out to a sea of condos and townhouses with the sounds of kids, dogs, construction and traffic. When the weather cooperates I sit on my little balcony with my green patio umbrella and pretend I'm in my gazebo.
Question #2 - What is unique about writing for your particular genre?
I've taught hundreds of primary students to read and when a few of my toughest nuts to crack moved on to fourth grade, I asked them what they were reading. "We don't read because there's nothing we want to read about," was their answer. "If I write a book, will you read it?" I asked. And that's how Canned and Crushed was born. I have a picture of me reading the final draft to those boys in fifth grade. And when I presented them with the hardcover book, they did actually read it. Mission accomplished. That's what I hope for all my books. That kids who don't find other books that relate to their lives will relate to my books and read them!
Question #3 - What are some of your grammar or punctuation pet peeves?
When kids forget a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence and a period at the end. When they write ‘thay’ for ‘they.’ When they write an entire paragraph with one sentence. When they use twenty-five ands to write a story. Oh, wait. Were you asking about adult writers? I honestly don't notice any of those grammar or punctuation problems by comparison.
Question #4 - At what point in your writing process do you start to bring other people in to review your work?
I have to read my manuscript out loud. That's when I notice errors and mistakes in continuity. So my poor husband is my guinea pig. I also have a writing partner and we find it very easy to slash and burn each other's manuscripts. Sometimes things that seem crystal clear to me, leave huge questions in her mind, and I'd much rather have her notice, than wait for my editor to wonder about my sanity. A group of writers I took a class with has a reunion once a year and we share a portion of our current work-in-progress manuscripts with each other. Their feedback is crucial to me and one of the reasons I'm published is due to their gentle encouragement, okay more than that, their insistent prodding, to leave no stone unturned when creating character-driven novels with high stakes for the protagonist.
Question #5 - What advice would you give to a new writer about the writing process?
Just sit down and write. And finish something. Don't buy the lie that says you have to have that perfect place and moment and routine. I've written during the Super Bowl. And while you're writing give yourself a realistic timeline with an ending goal of when you plan to be ready to query and submit or attend a pitch session with agents. I wish I could have a do-over for all those times I said, "I'll start tomorrow." The start to finish process takes so much longer than you imagine it will. Most publishers can take between one and two years to publish your book, and that's after they buy your finished manuscript. So put that B in C and W.
Thank you Bibi for your stories and answers! I’m so glad there are teachers like you in the world that listen to their students and take action. What an inspiration!
Be sure to check out Bibi’s books and stay tune for her upcoming publications. You can contact her via her website or follow her on Twitter.
If you would like to be featured as a writer in the #WritersQuick5 series, please just reach out and let me know. I’d love to promote your work as well!
For updates on #WritersQuick5 and other info from me, please follow me on Twitter or check back with this blog for all the latest.