Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Interview with Betsy Woods

When did you begin to think of yourself as a writer? What personality traits or habits do you have that make writing appealing?
I recognized myself as a writer when I was nine years old. By that time, I was imagining scripts for the Jimmy Stuart show, and imagining that I loved in the exquisite Victorian house with a turret. I would write scripts, act them out while jumping on my parents’ bed. I pretended that the closet at the end of the hallway where I wrote with a flashlight and a composition notebook (so the pages would be threaded like a book) was that turret. I could look out at treetops. This made me happy.

What makes you want to write? Settings? Life experiences? Conversations? Mysteries? Research? Imagined possibilities? In other words, what triggers your imagination?
Life triggers my imagination. One thing I have struggled with is the transition, within me, to write about pain. Sometimes, it has been so close, that to write about it would feel disrespectful. Somehow, it felt that the immensity might lose the sacrality of the devotion all of us in the trenches have to embrace every day, and the process of loss.

Talk about your writing program, and any other writing classes or training you have had.
The MFA program I graduated from, Spalding University in Louisville has been an umbilical cord for my life as a writer, mediator and teacher. It has opened pathways for me to teach at The Writer's Loft of Middle Tennessee University, Southeastern Louisiana State University, postgraduate teaching, and several opportunities to hold the position of writer-in-residence in New Orleans' schools. One particularly lovely connection for me has been the editor of The Children's Corner of The Louisville Review. I have been offered a delightfully satisfying opportunity to nurture young writers from across the nation. For five and one-half years, I have engaged and discovered young people who humble me, everyday, with their talent—pure gift, pure gift.

What are you working on?
My publication history is most abundant in literary journals, magazines, and newspapers. My own heart beats within two novels I am refining, Strong Moon Tonight and The Alfalfa and the Omega; and two picture books, Zoo Day, Blue Day, and Miss Smackbottom.

You have a writing job that keeps you busy. How does that help your personal writing goals? OR how to you fit in your personal writing goals around your work?
Yes, I do have a writing job, and yes, it does keep me busy. In retrospect, I think teaching and nurturing young writers, artists, and readers inspired my own writing more than the technical approach. I find it difficult to balance my creative life with my NASA work. I am looking deeply within myself to examine how to negotiate my nature and being as a writer and the environments I choose.

Is there anything different/unusual (outside the type of writing you've done in the past) that you would you like to try writing someday?
I love picture books! They are delicate and fundamental and joy and the beginnings. The more I explore their power, the more I find myself indulging myself in the details of life that children cherish: a crow's call, tangerines growing at the top of the tree--and the scent of their leaves, strawberries picked off the vine. I have this integral belief in the sensuality of the senses, and as artists our privilege is to remind our readers and ourselves.

Any tips for other writers? Anything that you feel is unique to you?
My best word for other writers is that hope must grow into a strong muscle. Hope is intention in process. Commitment is hope in practice. I write because I must. It is my joy and my completion.


Lauren said...

What a wonderful interview! Betsy, I learned so much about you in these few questions and answers that I did not know. I love the vision of you in the closet when you were nine years old, playing at being a writer. I appreciate your thoughts on writing about pain and loss~ that would be something I would love to converse further with you. And all of your teaching and writing experience was impressive. I also love: "Hope must grow into a strong muscle." Inspiring. Thank you to you and to Christy for great questions!

betsy woods said...

Thank you and thank you Lauren. Christy is a master interviewer!

betsy woods said...
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David LaRochelle said...

I, too, learned a lot more about you, Betsy. For one thing, I wasn't aware of all the wonderful work that you do with young people. Thank you and Christy for such an insightful interview.

Stephanie said...

Such a wonderful interview! I love love love that photo of you as a child:)

Mark said...

Now that I've had this glimpse into your life, I want to know more!! I guess I'll save my questions for some future One Potato...Ten retreat...

Edie Hemingway said...

I love the photo, too! And, Betsy, even though I went through the Spalding program with you, I've learned new things about you in this interview. Great delving questions, Christy!

"Hope must grow into a strong muscle." Thanks for this, Betsy.