I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know Beth Carter as much as I have! (And I even learned some new things!)
1) What Do You Want To Be is a beautifully-illustrated children’s book that encourages kids to dream about the hopes and possibilities of their futures. What was your inspiration for writing this it?
Thank you for the compliment, Jan, and thanks for having me!
Actually, my inspiration might surprise you. It was our country’s economic downturn, especially the huge unemployment numbers. I knew many people (including my sister) who were unemployed for over a year. As a child I was a worrier, and I knew other children in America had to be worrying about either their parents’ jobs or their own future. I imagined kids wondering whether there would be a job for them when they grew up, so the high unemployment rates and inspiring kids were my impetus for WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE?
The other reason for writing in this genre is that I can’t think of anything more important than children’s literature. I loved to read as a kid and have fond memories of going to the library and carrying home stacks of books. I also loved reading to my daughter and can still hear her giggle and instructing me to reread the book or calling me out if I skipped a page.
2) Was there a person in your life who inspired Mrs. McGee, the teacher? Who is your favorite character in the book, and who was the inspiration for that character? How did you chose which professions to highlight in your book?
I chose Mrs. McGee for a very specific reason—it was easy to find words that rhymed with her name! I’ve had several people tell me that she looks like their first, third or fifth grade teacher. I think the illustrator did a phenomenal job with her and the only guidelines I gave him (Leo Silva) were to draw her with black hair in a bun, wearing glasses and a pearl necklace since those were all mentioned in the story. He first sent me a skinny version and a plump version of Mrs. McGee wearing a fabulous hot pink dress! I sent an email with the two images to 15 friends and family members. All but two preferred the plump version. I guess we can all forego Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers now!
My favorite character would be my daughter, Amy, who is portrayed as a dancer and truly is a professional dancer. I love all the characters, though, and named most of them after our children, nieces, five grandsons and granddaughter!
As far as professions, I wanted a wide range that children could identify with including both white collar and blue collar jobs. For example one is a baker and another wants to be a fireman. One wants to be in the Navy and some are professionals like an architect and an astronaut. I want kids to dream big! I chose careers that both girls and boys could identify with.
3) Have you always wanted to write? When would you say you became a “serious” writer?
My first writing gig was at the age of 13 when I was a reporter for Pipkin Junior High. Even then, I loved seeing my byline. I wrote several articles and also served as the roving reporter.
Even though I took several writing classes at Drury alongside accounting and algebra (trying to develop both sides of my brain) I didn’t try fiction writing until four years ago—except for my writing classes where I had a professor encourage me to submit my essays to magazines. I never did, but she instilled confidence nonetheless.
I’ve been in marketing for over 20 years so all of my writing was corporate writing—press releases, print ads, brochures, annual reports, television and radio scripts, billboards and web copy. I had a few non-fiction articles published in Today’s Woman Journal and Senior Living. I won a second place, state-wide award for my television script highlighting substance abuse. It was fascinating to interview the counselors and tour the treatment center.
Prior to writing full-time, I worked as director of public relations for Doctors Hospital for nine years. Then, I was director of marketing (and later promoted to vice president) at Citizens National Bank for six years. I did plenty of writing in those two industries. Whether I was interviewing a doctor, promoting a new physician or service, I tried to make it interesting and wrote about substance abuse, depression, obstetrics, general surgery, and other services.
It was more of a struggle in banking. That’s a pretty dry industry! I promoted new lenders, came up with branding campaigns, wrote about CD rates, mortgage loans, construction loans, and tried to get creative with the bank signs and the bottom of the teller receipts!
After leaving the bank and marrying my husband, we started Ozark Hardwood Products where we promote green collar jobs and green heat. I wrote all of the original marketing material, came up with the logo, designed the pellet bags, wrote the web copy, letterhead, sales material, proposals for grants and more. But now that I sleep with the boss (my husband!), I’m finally able to do what I want to do—write fiction.
Ever since I was in high school, I wanted to write a novel. In June of 2009 (yes, we authors know the stats as if we had birthed a baby, right?) I completed my first novel, THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS, a work of women’s fiction. I set it aside to savor the accomplishment, and then tragedy struck our family. The horrific stuff you see on Dateline, which I won’t discuss here. I was unable to go back and edit my novel because I had written a tragic scene with several chapters on grief. I just couldn’t read anything sad after our horrifying year, so I switched gears and learned all I could about writing children’s picture books. It has been therapeutic. Going to classrooms and seeing the kids’ faces light up, receiving fan letters from children, emails from parents and teachers, and pictures of the kids holding my book have all done wonders toward healing my heart.
In 2010 I was published in a collection of six-word memoirs entitled IT ALL CHANGED IN AN INSTANT alongside famous writers like Amy Tan, Dave Barry and the late Frank McCourt. Celebrities’ memoirs were also in the book including Marlee Matlin, Neil Patrick Harris, Bob Barker, and even the Fonz, to name a few. I was thrilled because the editors, SMITH, received 200,000 entries worldwide and chose just 1,000. I was invited to go on the tour in New York City and about fainted when I saw that my memoir was on page one! I am also the only memoirist with two memoirs in this book. (Click here to purchase from Amazon.com)
Here are my two that were published in IT ALL CHANGED IN AN INSTANT:
Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nothing published. Yet.
He left. Sparked my personal D-Day.
I’ve also just learned that I’m going to be published in another of SMITH’S collections: SIX-WORDS ABOUT WORK. This was a project they did in conjunction with Mercer Consulting. My copy should arrive any day. I’m a little nervous about which memoir they chose because I wouldn’t want some of them in print! Sometimes I get carried away… (Click here to purchase from Blurb.com)
Six-word memoirs are a big part of my writing life. I love them. They’re great for writer’s prompts. Watch for a six-word memoir contest on my blog in the next few weeks!
I’ve also had a poem and a YA short story published in the last two ECHOES OF THE OZARKS anthologies. It’s exciting to be among all of you talented writers.
4) One of a published author’s challenges is how to devote time to the craft of writing new material when time must also be given to marketing her published works. What percentage of your day would you say you give to the following:
* Marketing your book – ie, book signings, distribution, etc.
* Social networking – ie, your blog, Facebook, Twitter, speaking
* Your non-writing life
This is how it’s supposed to go: Have coffee, watch the morning news, check email, Facebook, a couple of blogs, eat, exercise and start writing from noon until 5 p.m.
This is how it really goes: Have coffee, watch the morning news, check email, check Facebook, a couple of blogs, recheck Facebook, refresh FB, maybe check Twitter while I’m at it, then realize it’s noon (or later) and I haven’t eaten nor gotten out of my pj’s.
Seriously, my life is so different now from when I was a single mom for 16 years and worked from 8-5 in corporate America. I have gotten so laid back the past few years—almost too laid back.
BUT prior to the release of WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE? I kicked it into gear. I decided I would spend September-December solely marketing and promoting my book (no writing except for my blog) and I stuck to that plan. I had ten book signings and visited five classrooms in two months! The publisher takes care of the distribution and my book is found online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million:
5) What is your greatest challenge as an author?
Managing my time. Social media is the best of things and the worst of things (to butcher a well-known saying). It makes promoting our work much easier but the distractions are enormous. I like to think I’m a great multi-tasker but I need to rein myself in and focus. To make matters worse, I’m a perfectionist which means it’s never good enough. My 300-page novel edits drive me crazy. I really need someone to crack the whip. When I was in marketing, I had weekly deadlines. It was stressful, but I thrive on deadlines. Sadly, the self-imposed deadlines don’t work as well. Want to pretend you’re my boss and breathe down my neck?!
6) Will you write other children’s books? Do you write in other genres? What is next for Beth Carter?
I plan to write several more children’s books. A few are already in draft form. Picture books look deceptively easy to write but it isn’t a cake walk to write a story (with conflict) in 500-550 words, often in verse. It’s also important to think visually while writing so the illustrator will have something to work with.
My next picture book is entitled THE MISSING KEY. I plan to submit it to the publisher soon. I also plan to write a series with the teacher, Mrs. McGee, because she’s so darn cute. Also, my daughter and I are co-authoring yet another picture book series that I’m very excited about but we have a lot of research to do first.
This spring or summer, I plan to finish tweaking my women’s fiction and query agents. Yes, I will! I must! This isn’t crazy talk. And…I would love to finish my romantic suspense novel in 2012 or 2013. I also enjoy writing short stories, haiku, six-word memoirs and non-fiction. I like to write a little bit of everything as you can tell.
Thanks for having me, Jan. I greatly appreciate your promoting my new picture book, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE?
Stay in touch with Beth Carter:
Author Beth Carter
Thank you, Beth, for sharing a virtual cup of coffee with us! I look forward to sitting down with you again soon over a “real’ cup of coffee!
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Wednesday, February 1
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What Do You Want to Be!