Chat with Betsy Devany, author of Lucy's Lovey
Good morning, everyone! I'm excited to start off my brief round of interviews in January with one of my dear friends, Betsy Devany! Betsy is the author of Lucy's Lovey, a sweet and spunky picture book about a girl who loses her very favorite doll (you can read more of what I wrote about it here). Before becoming published, Betsy was a finalist, honorable mention, and winner in the Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children's Literature. She's been honored for her picture book texts, middle grade novels, and a young adult novel.
Hello, Betsy, and welcome to my virtual kitchen table! Have a cup of tea and a piece of cake, if you'd like. :)
Thank you for inviting me, Faith! I’d welcome a slice of cake and some tea.
First of all, let's talk about your writing. You write everything from light-hearted picture books to very serious young adult novels. Is it hard for you to balance the many genres and age categories of books that you work on?
I can’t imagine not writing realistic, contemporary fiction for kids of all ages. Probably because I am around all ages of kids, I love kids, and I am an avid reader of picture books, chapter books, middle grade and young adult novels. When a story comes to me, I immediately know what genre it’s in, and I am strict about tending to one ms at a time, setting aside the early morning hours as writing time before my actual day starts. That said, if inspiration bonks me on the head, I sometimes explore a picture book ms in the afternoon. That is if I’m not busy bouncing the 5-month-old granddaughter on my lap or building Legos with the active 5-year-old grandson. The grandson is currently writing and illustrating his own picture book, one page per day. “Children’s writers take a long, LONG time to do their work,” he says.
|Copyright Betsy Devany|
(used with permission)
Speaking of balance, you manage to juggle quite a lot in your very full life: work at a toy store, fine art photography, lots of time with your grandchildren. How does all this fit in with your writing life?
Working at the Toy Soldier in Mystic, CT, photographing birds, playing with the three grandkids—it all serves as rich inspiration for my writing. The things they say and do! Oh, my. And there is a healthy balance between working in solitude and being around lots of marvelous people, whether my grandkids or the kids and adults I am privileged to meet at the toy store. I feel mighty blessed and grateful.
What's the best bit of writing advice you've ever received?
Write every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes.
If you’re staring at the same page for more than 15 minutes, merely swapping words around, get up and go for a walk. Or do a house chore. Let your mind wander. And if you end up temporarily putting a manuscript in a drawer, embrace that time to explore a new project. Months down the road, new eyes help us discover yet-unseen potential in what may have felt like a flawed manuscript at one time. I am in this process right now and loving the ability to see my work in a new way, revising a MG from 1st POV to 3rd POV. It used to scare me to temporarily walk away from a beloved ms, but I now find the challenge quite invigorating, seeing how it best serves the work in the end.
|Copyright Betsy Devany; used with permission|
I'd love to chat a bit about writing contests. Has entering the Tassy or other contests made a difference in your writing life?
Absolutely! And especially with the Tassy, which mimics the real process of getting your work in the hands of current professionals in our field. Prepping for the competition helped me hone in on which mss might actually be marketable, and once I weeded through my body of work and decided on the mss to enter, I was diligent about revising them to the best of my ability. In a way, writing contests are gifts, even if you don’t win. You end up with a stronger manuscript(s), gaining more faith in your writing ability. Over the years of entering the Tassy, I’ve been a finalist in multiple categories, landed two honorable mentions, and I won the middle grade category one year. This told me that I could indeed write picture books through young adult novels.
Do you have any advice for writers thinking about entering the Tassy or another contest this year?
Just do it. If you’re hesitant, ask yourself why. There is really nothing to lose and so much to gain by entering. It is, in a sense, a lifetime opportunity. And you never know, you might be honored with a Tassy nod.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Betsy! (Here's a piece of cake for the road. ;)
Thank YOU, Faith, and a huge thank you to the Tassy, the dedicated and tireless Tassy committee, Shoreline Arts Alliance, and to all the judges who volunteered and continue to volunteer their valuable time to judge this prestigious, one-of-a-kind writing competition.
The cake was delicious!
You all can visit Betsy's website at betsydevany.com, or find her on Twitter as @BetsyDevany.
Note to all you CT writers and illustrators: the deadline for the Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children's Literature is February 1. I hope you're polishing--and send me a note if you need any advice. I'm happy to help. Here's the website for more info: http://www.shorelinearts.org/tassywalden.cfm