Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Betsy Bird's "How My Jobs Have Influenced My Own Writing"

Betsy Bird is such a character. Her blog is a lot of fun and has so much great kidlit information. She also does everything with a bit of humor. And sometimes she You can visit her blog here:      If reading is too much for you (ha, ha) then you can watch her at fuse8 tv here: If you can't bother to watch something you can also listen to her podcast (with Kate) here: If you can't be bothered to even listen then go to bed. You are tired and I don't want any grumpy people to read my blog. 😜

Betsy also has books. "Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever." just came out back in May. It was written by various authors and edited by our very own Betsy Bird.  "Wild Things: Acts of Michief in Children's Literature" by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter D. Sieruta. "Giant Dance Party" Illustrated by Brandon Dorman

How My Jobs Have Influenced My Own Writing
By Betsy Bird

My daughter is six. She is wise in the ways of the world (or so she tells me). Still, I’m grateful that once in a while she’ll ask for some clarification on a point or two. The other day she sat me down and wanted to know precisely what my chosen profession was when I was her age.

“Honestly,” I said, “I wanted to be a writer.”

“And now you are,” she said with a smile. It was so strange how she put it, and something about the ease with which she summed up my life made me want to qualify everything.

“Yes . . . but I wasn’t for a long time.” I explained that I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid but when I got older I honestly thought it wasn’t a practical profession. How do you pay the water bill as a writer? The gas bill? The electric? It wasn’t that I didn’t know writers who made a living that way. My own aunt penned YA literature before there even was a YA literary market, after all. I just had a hard time conceiving it as a reality. So I put that dream aside. Buried it deep. Let it rest.

And to a certain extent, I credit my drive to hold onto the jobs I have now to that rest period. If I’d spent my college career obsessed with being the Next Great American Novelist I would have driven myself mad. Instead, by letting my dream slumber and snore, my desire to write had to emerge in other ways. I started blogging, sometimes daily, to get my voice out into the world. I modeled my reviews on those in the New York Times, later getting the chance to write a couple for the Times myself. I wrote blog posts for my workplaces and penned articles for periodicals.

But I still got a normal 9 to 5 job. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is probably the thing that influenced my writing the most. As a children’s librarian I found myself with a front row seat to the most fascinating show in the world: children’s opinions. Do enough preschool storytimes and work enough children’s reference desks and you’ll begin to understand children’s books in entirely new ways. There is no substitute for dealing directly with children.

I think it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if it weren’t for those jobs that actually make me money. I’ve been fantastically lucky in my chosen professions. Thanks to them, I’ll never run out of ideas, never run out of inspiration, never run out of new things to try. My answer when people ask me to explain how my jobs have influenced my writing? Without my jobs there wouldn’t be any writing. And that’s a pretty lucky thing to finally realize.


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Smart Tip: Use your remaining days to polish your drafts up a bit. Erase stray lines, or use a light board to re-draw the image.


  1. What a hoot! Best job I ever had was working with children's librarians and Betsy Bird is right up there with the best! Thanks for sharing your journey and good luck with your latest book.

  2. I'm an ink technician, which has nothing to do with children's books! I'm glad you look at Day jobs in a positive light Betsy. :)

  3. Listening to children's opinions is the reason I volunteer at the children's library. Thank you for sharing your story, Betsy.

  4. I love to spend time with kiddos, they always inspire me. Some of my best ideas have come from my students.