Monday, May 11, 2015

Writing Lessons From Our Mother, Betsy Byars

 By Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers

Although she won major book awards, the Newbery Medal, a National Book Award, an Edgar, and others, to us Betsy Byars was “Mom”, and the lessons we learned from her about writing have come mostly by just watching. Watching …

1.  Her love of reading - Our mother always made a great effort to put books into our hands, from our first library, a bookmobile to the city library in the basement of the fire station. We were always leaving with armloads of books. When you’re having trouble writing, read. Reading stimulates writing.

2.  Her hard work - we saw Mom spend hours at her electric typewriter, writing and rewriting. We knew that it wasn’t easy. She used to say she worked on it until it sounded like she hadn’t worked on it at all. Writing requires hard work; it only begins with the first draft.

3.  Her perseverance - Mom worked for fourteen years before getting her first book published. We saw those trips to the mailbox - the disappointment - but she was continued writing through numerous rejections. The road to success in writing often involves rejection, keep writing.

4.  Her creativity – Our mother’s creativity wasn’t limited to her writing.  We grew up creating with her in many projects, sewing knitting, woodworking, and silk screening. To keep your writing fresh, be creative in all areas of your life.

5.  Her willingness to fail – Mom thought outside the box, often sewing and knitting without patterns.  This made for many failures but a lot of learning.  Things we made did not always turn out like we imagined that they would. She always told us “No writing is ever wasted.” Our failures as writers teach us as much as our successes.

6. Her humility – Even with all of her successes Mom remained humble. Her humble spirit allowed her to connect with readers in a real, honest way.  It made her open to new experiences and ideas and allowed her to accept input from editors. Pride is an enemy of good writing.

So much of what we learn about writing comes from observing others.  Who has taught you by example?
The Writing Sisters, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers were born into a writing family, and began critiquing manuscripts at an early age for their mother, Newbery winner Betsy Byars.  They went on to become authors of more than thirty-five children’s novels. Their first book for adults, The Shepherd’s Song, is being released in paperback April 2015. You can connect with Laurie and Betsy on their monthly newsletter where they send out updates and their popular free devotional books. Contact them at  and find them on FacebookTwitter or Pinterest.