When she was a young girl living in Charlotte, North Carolina, Betsy Byars thought being a writer was a boring career, and never imagined she'd become an author one day. But years later, while her husband attended graduate school, Byars started writing articles for The Saturday Evening Post, Look, and other magazines. And as her family grew and her children began to read, Betsy Byars began to write books for young readers. She learned that her childhood preconceptions about writing were incorrect and that there was more to being a writer than just sitting in front of a typewriter all day. In fact, she discovered firsthand that it was exciting and stimulating to create her own stories and characters.
Betsy Byars's first children's book was published in 1962, after it had been rejected nine times. Since then, Byars has won the Newbery Award and the National Book Award and has received glowing reviews for her many novels and picture books. Kirkus Reviews has called Byars "a master of perfectly chosen incident and phrase." And The New York Times Book Review noted, "Byars has the uncanny ability to know the secret lives, the outward postures, and the exact words her characters would surely use." Today, Byars's books continue to be favorites with children both in the U.S. and abroad, and they appear on numerous state reading lists.
Well-known for her Blossom Family Quintet, Betsy Byars says she never intended to write more than one book about the lovable Blossom family. "Early in my career I decided not to do sequels. I know that children enjoy them, but I valued the feeling that this was the only time I would write about these characters. I felt it gave me an added incentive to do my best by them, to tell readers everything I knew, to hold nothing back. That worked for twenty-five years, and while I was very fond of certain characters and hated to say good-bye to them, I never had any real problem going on to something new."
Though Byars started her first Blossom book, The Not-Just-Anybody Family, "with the same plan in mind--one set of characters, one book," she soon realized she felt differently about these characters and knew their story could not be contained in just one book. "I found I had been captured by the family as surely as if they'd thrown a net over me," she says.
"When four of the Blossom books had been published I got to feeling lonely for the family, and it occurred to me that there was yet another story to tell. I remembered that when I was a child, I had a dog named Mac, and Mac was put on trial for murder--his victim was someone's pet chicken." This episode was the inspiration for Wanted...Mud Blossom, in which Pap Blossom's dog Mud gets in big trouble when a pet hamster disappears.
Of the Blossom books, Byars admits, "This time I guess it took me five books to tell all I knew about these characters and to do my absolute best by a family I came to care a great deal about. Of course, when I finished the fourth book, I said there wouldn't be any more, and I was wrong. So. . . "
author fun facts
Born:August 7, in Charlotte, North Carolina
Education: Queens College, North Carolina
Currently lives: I live on an airstrip in South Carolina with my husband Ed. The basement of our house is a hangar so we can taxi out and take off.
Pets: A Scotty dog--Ace; a cat--Bibbs
Favorite . . .
. . . hobbies: flying, reading, word puzzles
. . . foods: popcorn
. . . clothes to wear: jeans and t-shirts
. . . colors: yellow
. . . books: Daddy Long Legs
Inspiration for writing: I write realistic fiction so most of my inspiration comes from things that really happen--things I read in the newspaper, or things that have happened to me, my family, and my pets.