Monday, November 12, 2012

Dispatch #4 - Author Mary Elizabeth Anderson
In Conversation

Mary Elizabeth Anderson
by Lupe Fernandez

Your intrepid foreign correspondent attended the 2012 SF North & East Bay Region SCBWI Fall Conference held in Oakland, CA. Now I could tell you about the conference, but I've been sworn to secrecy. Or I could tell you about the immature red-tailed hawk spotted on a tree eating a rodent, but this is not a nature post.

I can tell you about how I met author Mary Elizabeth Anderson. I was extolling the virtues this illustrious blog to some ladies sitting in the row before me, when one of the women turns to me and says, "I'm an author. Interview me." What a coincidence? Meeting an author at an SCBWI Conference.

Mary Elizabeth Anderson, a resident of Nebraska, has extensive experience with children as an elementary school teacher and volunteer leader with various youth organizations. In Gracie Gannon: Middle School Zero, young Gracie Gannon has her life full of bullies, her mother's health, finding friends and strengthening her self esteem.

What inspired you to write Gracie Gannon: Middle School Zero?
Several different people inspired me to write "Gracie Gannon." I had a classmate all the way through my school years who was bullied. I never stood up for him, I was one of the innocent bystanders. I also had a nephew who was bullied in a similar fashion, and I dealt with these issues when I taught school. I knew "Gracie" was a book I had to write and my favorite type of fiction writing is dealing with "issues." I always hope readers will pull a little out of the stories that will help them deal with the bumps in the road of life.

You balance a lot of issues in the book - bullying, breast cancer, hearing impairment, alcoholism – with the life of Gracie. How did you keep these topics from overwhelming the narrative?
Of course I wanted to keep the story moving and keep the readers interested. I thought the best way to do so was to present problems/issues that they hear about in their life. While many of the kids won't necessarily need to deal directly with these issues, they will be made aware of them in this book. I wanted Gracie to portray a strong protagonist (although she does have faults) who could deal (and help others) with these topics. I had to present light-hearted scenes as well in order to keep the pace.

What kinds of reactions have you gotten from young readers?
I've received letters from readers who ask me when my next story about "Gracie" will be available. This makes me happy. I know they liked my character. When I present at schools and read the first six pages or so, many times children ask me if I can continue on. (I then know I've captured their attention.) I usually need to stop reading around that point and we do a Q and A.

The Shenandoah, Iowa Public Library
As a child, what part of the library was your favorite section? How about as an adult?
Wow. I've always loved all parts of every library I've ever visited. Of course when I was young I ran to the children's section, sat on the floor and started pulling book after book off the shelf as fast as I could in order to find the perfect books to check out that day. As an adult, I still wander through the children's section first and then look at the "latest books that have come out" table to find some adult reading. Right now I am reading Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard.

You’ve written non-fiction books. Did writing fiction present different challenges? What literary techniques remained the same?
Yes, my first published book "Link Across America" is considered non-fiction. I much prefer writing fiction. I love developing characters and seeing what will happen to them throughout the book. As far as literary techniques, I find non-fiction to be harder because you need to do so much research. Not so with fiction.

Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Today I am sending another novel off. It's titled What To Do About Miguel and is a sequel to "Gracie Gannon." However, it can serve as a stand-alone, and I am presenting it as such. It does deal with the same characters. I do have the third book in the series written in rough draft form. We'll see if "Miguel" gets picked up before I spend lots of effort on the third book at this time. Hopefully readers of your blog will want to pick up a copy of Gracie Gannon: Middle School Zero. I also hope they'll take a minute to view my website at:

We would like to thank Mary for granting us this interview. 
So go forth, dear readers and read her book.


  1. Awesome how you two connected. Loved hearing how Mary came up with the idea for her story. Good luck with your book.

  2. Loved the interview. Now I want to read the book.

  3. susan,
    This book sounds great! I was bullied when I first came to the US . The students in my class hated me because I only spoke French. As a classroom teacher, I make it clear that teasing will not be tolerated. Thanks for sharing the interview. I need to get a copy of the book and read it.

    Nicole Weaver
    Award-Winning Trilingual Children's Author

  4. Hi Susan, thanks for a great interview.
    Hi Mary Elizabeth, your book sounds as if it rings true to life as experiences by different generations. I hope kids who read it will come away with a determination not to bully or be bullied.

  5. These are wonderful and much needed books Mary Elizabeth. I wish you great success. I know your work will shed the light, and help many. Thank you Lupe for a wonderful interview, and post.

  6. I wish I could have been at the SCBWI conference. Since I care a lot about hearing loss this book sounds like one I may read.

    Anyone concerned about bullying should look at

  7. I wonder why my previous post showed up with so many spaces between words. I didn't send it that way.

  8. Sounds like a timely and much-needed book. Keep getting the word out. No one should have to suffer as some kids are from bullying.

  9. Great interview, Lupe. I wonder if Mary Elizabeth Anderson finds that her non-fiction writing informs her fiction? I've found that my journalism background has helped me be a better writer of fiction - even though the two are so different.
    As for the red-tailed hawk - be careful who you call immature!

    1. A journalist is asked, "Did you make that up?"
      A writer is asked, "Did that really happen?"
      A reader is asked, "Did your like that?"
      Ask Me Not


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