Discovering Beatrix

What could be better then re-discovering a beloved author? Realizing she’s even more amazing then you thought! Author Linda Elovitz Marshall enjoys creating spunky characters. But on a literary ramble in the UK, she discovered that Beatrix Potter was a real life tour de force when it came to writing, publishing, and land conservation! Her most recent non-fiction picture book, Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit (Little Bee Books, 2020) shares the wonderful facts behind this literary icon.


Did you have a favorite Beatrix Potter book when you were growing up?

My favorite Beatrix Potter book was, of course, Peter Rabbit. Who could resist that curious, mischievous bunny? I don’t quite remember reading Beatrix Potter’s other books when I was growing up. However, I do remember holding them…and loving that the books were just the right size for my hands!

Can you tell us a little about the literary ramble you took in 2018?

I’m a member of Kindling Words, a non-profit organization of children’s book authors, illustrators, and editors. Every year the organization holds a weekend-long conference on the east coast and a week-long writing retreat on the west and, every once-in-a-while, the group organizes a trip.

photo 3_2

Pipe organ in the Story Museum, Oxford, England.

The “Literary Ramble” to England was such a trip. Along with twelve other children’s authors and illustrators, I visited the homes, workspaces, and communities where Lewis Carroll, Beatrix Potter, Kenneth Graham, J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Philip Pullman lived and wrote. It was an amazing and wonderfully inspiring trip!

How did you research this book?

My research began while visiting Beatrix Potter’s home (Castle Cottage) in England, I listened intently as Mandy Marshall (no relation to me), the curator/hostess described Beatrix’s background and upbringing.

photo 5_1

Near Sawrey, England, where Beatrix Potter’s estate is located.

Prior to that trip, I’d imagined Beatrix as a sweet writer of charming bunny stories who was, in my imagination, kind of a goody-goody. Instead, I learned that she was a feisty girl who – more than anything – wanted to be outside (or inside) exploring and discovering and researching. She grew up to be a feisty adult, too, who wasn’t about to let anyone hold her down. When I heard all this, I knew I had to learn more about her.

photo 6_2

Enjoying tea and scones inside Castle Cottage, Beatrix Potter’s home.

I dove into research, visiting museums near where Beatrix lived, purchasing books to use for continuing my research at home. I also contacted Linda Lear, a brilliant researcher and author whose book, Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature helped immensely. Linda Lear also fact-checked my manuscript. She – and everyone I contacted – was wonderfully helpful.
I was trained as an anthropologist and am naturally curious. I researched…and researched…and researched. I absolutely adore doing research!

You also write fiction…how is the writing process different? Or is it the same?

Candace Fleming, who is an amazing writer and an absolutely superlative teacher, made a statement that I’d like to paraphrase. In both fiction and non-fiction, you’re baking a cake. In fiction, you throw in whatever ingredients you want. In non-fiction, you can use only the ingredients you’re given. But in both cases, you want it to taste good – so good that people want to devour the whole thing. And, in both cases, it needs a beginning, a middle, and an end.

I love writing fiction as well as non-fiction. I’ve tried turning non-fiction stories into fiction stories. I did that with Grandma Rose’s Magic, which was inspired by my grandmother’s sewing business.

View from the author’s summer studio in the Adirondacks.

In both cases, a story needs “heart.” To write about Beatrix with “heart,” I needed to read about her, feel her feelings, and know her as much as possible. Only that way, could give my readers a sense of who she was and what was important to her. In my book, The Polio Pioneer: Dr. Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine, I needed to understand – and feel – what was important to Dr. Salk so I could convey that to my readers. Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, I want to make my readers feel.

If you could ask Beatrix Potter herself a question, what would it be?

Dear Beatrix,

Did I tell your story well? Are you happy with it? And, Beatrix, what do you think of the way that women are being treated these days? What would YOU do if you lived now?

Sorry, that’s four questions. I hope that’s okay. Did I mention that I’m incredibly curious about … almost everything?!


Images courtesy of Linda Marshall. Book cover illustrated by Ilaria Urbinati, courtesy of Little Bee Books.

The BiblioFiles Presents: Christine Kendall

Just posted! An interview with Christine Kendall, author of Riding Chance and her newest novel The True Definition of Neva Beane.

Riding Chance is the story of Troy Butler, an at-risk youth who is struggling with the death of his mother, the sadness of his father, and getting into trouble. Troy’s life changes profoundly when his social worker enrolls him in a prevention program that teaches him how to work with horses and play polo. Inspired by the real-life organization Work to Ride in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Riding Chance is an incredible story about trust, grief, reconciliation, and finding your flow.

In The True Definition of Neva Beane, we meet twelve year-old Neva. Always full of questions, Neva finds herself facing some deeply personal ones as she grapples with changes in her life, including her developing body, her relationships with her friend Jamila, her brother Clay, and her growing political awareness.

Kendall is especially talented at inviting her readers in like friends and family. Her dialogue, descriptions, and pacing are so natural, the reading experience feels more like a conversation as her characters share their neighborhoods, relationships, inner thoughts, conflicts. All the while, Kendall asks us to think deeply about the myriad of issues she presents – racial identity, police profiling, social justice, family difficulties. It makes for a deeply personal and enlightening read.

A nominee for the NAACP Image Award, Kendall is an active member of the literary community, including being a juror for the New York City Book Awards, and co-curator and host of the award winning reading series Creative at the Cannery.

Follow this link to the BiblioFiles interview


Image courtesy of Christine Kendall

Studio Snapshots: Stevie Lewis

Get ready to be amazed… this studio is on wheels! Today, we’re visiting Stevie Lewis. For half the year, Stevie, her partner, and her dogs (Kiki and Tigger, seen smiling above) travel to hiking and rock climbing destinations. And Stevie takes her work with her in a sweet van she customized herself! An animator for four years, Stevie has also illustrated a number of beautiful picture books. Her newest releases, I Am Thinking My Life (Bala Kids), and We Are Better Together (Henry Holt) will be available in 2022.


Picture 1: Here’s a picture of my workspace, which I share with my partner while we’re on the road in our van. I built out the van (all by myself!) before I met him, and we travel as often as we can. I usually work from the road on my computer.

Picture 2: Having a van home makes traveling feel very comfortable. I can park anywhere, and gather endless inspiration from the outdoors. Here’s the van parked off a road in Moab, Utah, where I enjoyed painting and drawing in the desert.

Picture 3: Another view of the kitchen/studio/living room area. It’s so important to stay organized living in such a small space!

Picture 4: The trunk is where we keep our outdoor climbing, camping, and biking gear, as well as any art supplies I bring on the road with me.

Picture 5: Sometimes I”ll bring my art outside, and use traditional mediums like color pencil and gouache. I can’t bring too many supplies with me on the road, but I can manage a few paints and pencils! I’m looking forward to having a real, non-moving art studio someday!


Images courtesy of Stevie Lewis