Children's author Byars tells her own tale

Wed Feb 11, 2009 10:58am EST
 
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By Michael Taylor

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - One of the world's most successful children's writers, Betsy Byars has sparked the imaginations of youngsters worldwide for half a century.

For both rural and urban children, the world was been made a less scary place, thanks to coming-of-age books like The TV Kid, The 18th Emergency and The Cartoonist.

Born in 1928, trained pilot Byars still writes children's books at her home on a South Carolina airstrip, finding her inspiration as always, from friends, family and her local surroundings.

"Since I write mostly realistic fiction, I get my ideas from things happening around me," said Byars. "A local radio request for searchers to join a rescue party in the West Virginia mountains became The Summer of the Swans."

"A friend's chance remark that neighborhood kids were sneaking into their swimming pool became The Night Swimmers," she added.

Such methods have proved successful, as Byars' books have now been translated into 19 languages and her awards include the Newbery Medal, American Book Awards and the Regina Medal by the Catholic Library Association.

Byars' personal favorite of all her books is The Midnight Fox -- as this was the first book to be published exactly how she envisioned it. "It was the first time, I put my own personality into my writing," she said.

Asked whether she ever thought about writing books for adults, Byars simply replied: "I became aware over the years of writing, that I had a 125 page mind ... With 125 pages, I knew what I was doing, what I needed to do, where the climax should be, etc."   Continued...