Bette is an absolutely lovely person whom I feel privileged to consider an online friend. She and I share many common interests. She is kind, considerate, and a fierce advocate for monarch butterflies.
So, Bette, who is your favorite character you’ve written so far?
Well, Cathleen, I must confess that I do have more than one favorite. Matilda, the monarch butterfly in my children’s picture book AMAZING MATILDA, soars to the top of my list. You see, as Matilda changes time and again and struggles to grow from a tiny egg to become a magnificent imago, she and her meadowland friends teach children and older readers as well, that through patience and persistence, they too can realize their dreams. Next there’s Shawn Daniels, the young protagonist in both the short story PURE TRASH and in the coming-of-age novel DOG BONE SOUP. Shawn is a poor boy who overcomes the challenges set before him in a society that sometimes ignores and often judges those less privileged. Through Shawn’s incredible journey, readers discover that even a poor boy is capable of accomplishing the extraordinary. Although Shawn’s stories are set in rural New England in the 1950s and 1960s, the theme of poverty and prejudice is still high on the social agenda today.
It’s a terrible truth, but poverty and prejudice seem to be perennial themes. What about your most recently published work?
That would be my first novel, DOG BONE SOUP, and here’s a peek into the plot.
Shawn Daniels’s father is the town drunk. Shawn and his brother Willie are in charge of handling everything that needs to be done around the ramshackle place they call home—lugging in water for cooking and cleaning, splitting and stacking firewood…But when chores are done, these resourceful kids strike out on boundless adventures that don’t cost a dime. DOG BONE SOUP is the poignant tale of a dysfunctional family struggling to survive in America when many families were living The American Dream.
As the story begins, we find Shawn Daniels plodding through mounting snow and battling howling winds, ready to leave it all behind—living in poverty, Dad’s drinking, life in foster care, the divorce, the bullies. As you travel with Shawn Daniels through the guts and the glories of life, you’ll discover that compassion is a beautiful thing.
What is the most memorable piece of research that you’ve turned up?
Ah, Cathleen. Here again, there is more than one and there will surely to be more to come.
- First, let’s take a look at our amazing monarch butterfly pollinators. Monarch butterflies are a near-threatened species. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety filed a legal petition requesting Endangered Species Act protection for the monarch and its habitat. Scientists behind the petition say the butterfly’s decline is linked to a rise in genetically engineered crops in the Midwest. Many of these crops are altered to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, which kills milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only source of food.
As an advocate for the conservation of monarch butterflies and their habitat, I continue to share their story. Here’s a poem I wrote this fall on their behalf. Readers can find out more about monarch butterflies and what we all can do to help on my blog http://www.4writersandreaders.com
- Next there are the facts and figures on poverty in the USA. Thirty-five million Americans are living in poverty today and more than 16 million among them are children.
Why do you advocate for the poor among us?
As a writer and a retired teacher, I have a deep concern for kids living in poverty today—these children are often bullied and looked down upon by other kids and even by some adults, all because of the social status of their families. Poverty and prejudice seem to be linked through the generations. The bullying I’ve seen isn’t simply relegated to kid stuff. Adults can and should be making a difference for the better in the lives of these children—of all children. Many of these kids continue to suffer throughout their lives because they’ve been bullied or intimidated simply because they’re poor. I know, because I’ve met many of them.
You can find more statistics plus further thoughts from me on poverty and prejudice on M.C.V. Egan’s blog at http://ishistorytheagreeduponlie.blogspot.com/2013/10/poverty-prejudice-yesterday-today.html
Meanwhile, let’s throw kindness around like confetti. After all, we’re all climbing our own ladders and are sure to welcome and benefit from encouragers along the way. When we do, everyone benefits!
I agree. Kindness isn’t cheap, but the cost-benefit analysis has got to be one of the best around. I use kindness as a theme in my books, too, which are currently self-published. For you, what’s the best thing about being an indie author?
Being an indie (self-published) author can be challenging, but the benefits are enormous. My first book, The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!, was published by a small regional press in 1997. By 2004, the rights were returned to me when the publisher dissolved its business and I began to look into self-publishing a second edition of my book when I retired. I also had other books that I was working on and did not want to go through the process of finding another publisher, although I did check into a few who were willing to support my efforts for a price. After lots of research, I decided to go with Amazon and have used CreateSpace (including Cover Creator) for paperbacks and KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) for eBook versions. The resources and support available through Amazon as well as support from my blogging community are incredible. A former desk-top publisher/editor myself, I use Adobe InDesign to format my books before submitting them. Using Amazon’s cover resources and my own art and photographs, designing a cover is easy to accomplish. As an indie author, I have complete control of my publishing and that’s the part I like best. For readers considering the indie route, I highly recommend checking out all that is available through Amazon.
Who are your writing heroes and why?
Top of my list is Beatrix Potter—writer, illustrator and conservationist—remembered for her best-selling children’s books; among them, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Potter was a visionary who stepped out of a male-dominated publishing world that was not interested in children’s books in the early 1900s to self-publish her own and started a revolution that continues to enrich the lives of children everywhere.
My next two heroes have something in common. They are Mark Twain in the classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird and in her latest release Go Set a Watchman. Yes, I pre-ordered the book, read it and wrote a five-star review as well. I consider Twain and Harper heroes for gifting readers with exemplary fiction that highlights unpopular social issues that remain in the forefront among the social issues we face today.
What project are you looking forward to next?
Well, I’ve got several projects in the works in various stages, Cathleen. So the next release will be a surprise even to me. I’ve got a rudimentary outline established for a sequel to DOG BONE SOUP plus one for a new novel about a teacher. I’m also working on a poetry collection. Beside that I’ve been jotting down nuggets for more children’s books—further adventures of Amazing Matilda and a book about a cat and the bullies in her neighborhood. Besides that, there’s my blog—an ongoing writer’s adventure land, where I meet and greet incredible readers and writers. I support indie-authors and other writers through interviews and guest posts. For those who are interested, please stop by to explore my family-friendly blog and find out if it’s a spot where you would like to shine your light.
Thanks so much for inviting to me shine my light on your wonderful blog today, Cathleen.
It was lovely to have you here, Bette.
About the author
Inspired by nature and human nature, author Bette A. Stevens is a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of five. Stevens lives in Central Maine with her husband on their 37-acre farmstead where she enjoys reading, writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. She advocates for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies.
Stevens’s first book, THE TANGRAM ZOO and WORD PUZZLES TOO! was first published in 1997 by Windswept House Publishing, Mt. Desert, ME; a second edition was self-published by the author in 2012. AMAZING MATILDA , Stevens’s second children’s book, self-published in 2012 won a 2013 Purple Dragonfly Book Award (Honorable Mention for Excellence in Children’s Literature – Ages 6 and older category) and also placed #9 on The 2013 Gittle List for Self-published Children’s Picture Books. Stevens has written articles for ECHOES, The Northern Maine Journal of Rural Culture based in Caribou, Maine. In 2013, the author published her first book for the YA/Adult audience: PURE TRASH, a short story of a boy growing up in rural New England in a family whose poverty and alcoholism mark him as a target for bullying by young and old alike. This short story is a prequel to Stevens’s debut novel DOG BONE SOUP.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT Maine author/illustrator Bette A. Stevens
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