Beverly Cooke

"I have almost 50 published articles, mostly journalism for monthly local publications, one children's story, one poem and several "creative nonfiction" - humorous op/ed, serious op/ed, mood and thought and meditation and inspirational pieces. I have 4 or 5 web pieces up. I've been writing as a "career" for 20 years, and been publishing for 13 of those 20. I live in Victoria, BC, and am raising a family of two children with my husband of 20 years. Other than writing & taking writing courses, and being active in our church (Orthodox Church in America (North America, not USA), I enjoy reading children's, fantasy, suspense and horror, SF, and certain nonfiction (depending on what catches my interest at any given time). I walk, bike & garden."


What drove/inspired you to get started?

I've always written stories - it wasn't until 1983 that I realized that what I did for fun, others got paid for. To quote Heinlein, I thought to myself, "How long has this racket been going on?" and decided to get in on it.

Do you have any specialized training?

I've taken picture book courses, technical courses at conferences (improving story telling, building good openings, dialogue, character, structure of novel & short stories, course on Vogler's Writer's journey), read books and written to assignment.

Has this been something you've always wanted to do?

Not consciously, but I've always either written stories or told them or thought them.

Have there been any obstacles along the way?

Yes! Intractable publishers, shortage of markets, the necessity of getting on with life; writer's block, lack of crit groups, publishers folding when they've accepted the first pb I'd ever written.

Before you got the all important contract how did your friends and family react to your goals? Were they supportive?

Some were, and still are, some weren't and still aren't because I don't have "the book" yet. The kids have always been supportive, the hubby less so until recently.

Now that you have a book/books in print, do you get different reactions from friends and family?

No, and given the nature of what I write, I doubt that it will change if the book ever happens, because it's "only for children' and not a block buster Rowling success.

How did you land that very first book deal or published article?

The first publication was simply sending it in to the local parenting magazine, and they accepted it and published it. Got paid $25.00 CDN for it, and got the same thing for the same sized piece when I sent one in last year. Harrumph. And they wonder why I don't submit for them often!

Did you have any misconceptions in the beginning about the whole book process?

Oh yea! Write the book, send it in, they'll beg for more and bury me in money. Naive! Naive! How would you describe your work? What's the most important thing you'd like others to get out of it? I want people to grow up, go into a bookstore and see my books still in print, and say "I remember that - I loved it!" and start the next generation on it. As I did with some of the books I bought for my kids when they were little, and not so little. I want people to feel good in a deep, central place inside themselves. Bring a smile to someone's lips, touch someone's heart, entertain them well enough that they remember the story and want to hear it over & over & over & over again, even 50 years later.

Do you have an agent? If yes, please explain how you acquired your agent and how do you think having one has helped you? If you don't have an agent, would you consider getting one?

I don't have one and have gone back & forth on this question too many times to count. If I ever publish more than one book, I will probably get an agent, simply because I loathe the marketing end of writing and would happily hand it over to someone who wouldn't be terminally embarrassed at singing my praises. I don't mind the business end - keeping track of submissions & acceptances & eventually keeping tabs on my backlit, but the marketing is anathema to me.

Describe your relationship with your editor (art director if applicable).

Working with different ones, mostly it's a zero - you send in the piece, they publish it. Most of the editors who have required changes have been terrific. Patient, willing to listen to arguments for or against changing something, willing to accept when I am insistent that it remains the way I wrote it.

How do you most often communicate with your publisher--e-mail, phone, or snail mail?

Oddly enough, every single acceptance I've ever had has come over the Internet, and most of my communication with editors is that way - that and phone for in-town editors.

What books do you have in the works now?

I've got a pb that is ready to go out as soon as I've finished the research on the publishers; two pbs in varying stages of finished, a pb that needs to be a chapter book, a ya novel that is both being written and in research, and a new idea for a play (adult) that is linked to the ya novel.

Is there anything you'd do differently with your new projects?

The novel is a new approach for me. I'm "deconstructing" it - writing scenes without quite knowing exactly where they'll go, other than "this is near the beginning - this one is near the end, and that's somewhere in the middle, but not sure just where yet." I'm also exploring character by writing background scenes - how characters meet each other, how the mc. learns about his foster father's illness, how his little sister deals with it, none of which at this point are intended to be in the book, but flesh out the backstory and the characters for me.

What's the best thing about publishing a book? What's the worst?

sorry, can't answer that, but when it happens, you'll probably hear about it without my having to use amplifying devices.

Any last words of encouragement for beginners?

Write. Persist, in writing & submitting. Never stop trying to be better. Write, constantly and every day - in your head if nowhere else. Persist. Write for yourself first, never for the audience or the publisher - never let being published become more important than writing your best work to date. Persist. Strive to be Shakespeare of the 21st century. You wont' make it, but don't let that stop you from trying. Even when you're so proud of what you've written that you're gonna bust, sit down and try something you've never done before but admired in what you've read. Fail, lots, and get used to it, and learn to enjoy it. Write really awful first drafts. Don't give up. Remember to stop & smell the roses - you'll write better because of it. Give lots of hugs. It makes you a better writer, and can perk up a bad word day (Like a bad hair day but at the keyboard, not the mirror!) Get lots of hugs. Remember that as wonderful as writing is, computers and awards are really cold things to cuddle up to at night - don't neglect the family. Mine your family for material - some of my best columns (and the funniest) came from family - one was revenge on my son for embarrassing me on exactly what I wrote about. (That's also the reason for lots of hugs. They forgive you sooner if you do that) Don't give up. You *may* not get published if you're submitting. You *won't* get published if you don't send the stuff in. Celebrate your successes, even if it's getting two words more than you got yesterday. Grow an iron carapace so the harsh words and incentive comments about writing and lack of household name fame don't hurt as much (they never stop hurting, so don't even try to grow one so thick they do - then the love can't get through). Learn to laugh at yourself and forgive yourself. Write.