Betsy Byars
Writing Tips
Write Betsy


Betsy Byars
Children's Author, Newbery Award Winner

How old are you?

    I was born in the same year as bubble gum and Mickey Mouse, 1928, a very good year for all three of us.

Where do you live?

    I live in South Carolina on an airstrip.   Both my husband and I are pilots.   The bottom floor of our house is a hangar so we can just taxi out and take off, almost from our front yard.

What was your favorite book when you were growing up?

    I  loved a book called The Adventures of Mabel. Mabel was everything I wanted to be - pretty, adventuresome, a good horseback rider and she could communicate with animals.

Do you have any sisters or brothers?

    I have one sister - Nancy. She became a mathematician and I wanted to become one too, but I didn't have the smarts for Calculus, so I became a writer.

Do you have any children?

    My four children are adults now. Nan is an engineer, Guy is a computer expert, and two of my daughters, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers, write children's books of their own.

Where do you get your ideas?

    Since my books are mostly realistic fiction, I get my ideas from the things that happen to me, to my kids, to my dogs and cats, to my friend's dogs and cats, and from things I see on TV and read about in the newspaper. I sometimes think my books are like scrapbooks of my life because almost every incident brings back a memory.

What was your favorite subject in school?

    Reading! Reading! Reading! It wasn't like a subject.   It was a pleasure.   I still read all the time - usually a book a day.

Where do you write?

    When I started writing, I was living in a very small apartment with my husband and two little daughters. I wrote on the kitchen table. I'd keep my typewriter beside my place, and I'd push it aside to eat and then pull it back in front of me. Now I have a studio and a computer, but anyone who really wants to write will find a place.

Do you have any pets?

    I have a Scotty dog named Ace, a cat named Bibbs and some unnamed fish. I especially love dogs. I've been fortunate enough to have had almost twenty wonderful dogs share my life. One of the things I  love about my fictional dogs is that they never die and will be with me always.

How long does it take to write a book?

    It takes me about a year to write a novel - six months to get the rough draft down on paper and another six months to make it better. After that, it takes my publisher about a year to get the book in print, so from the time I  get an idea to the time it's a book, it's about two years.

What's the best thing about publishing a book?

    For me the best moment comes when I get the first copy of the book.  After I send in the galley proof sheets of the book, that's the last time I see it.  Sometimes I see the illustrations and sometimes I don't. I know the publication date is sometimes in the spring or in the fall, so one day in the spring or in the fall, I go to my mailbox and I have a package.   Because I'm not a terribly cool person, I tear it open, and there's my book! It's like a feat of magic! It's like I got an idea that morning while I was brushing my teeth and - presto - here's the book.  It's a lovely moment, and I hope some of you who become writers will have the same magical moment.

    Good luck!

Copyright 2003,
Betsy Byars
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