Thursday, January 23, 2020

January #cbadspotlight - Spotlight on I Will Be Fierce! with Author Bea Birdsong

Today I'm shining the spotlight on 
Bea Birdsong,
author of
a January #cbadspotlight pick to set the tone for a new year.
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It’s a brand-new day, and a young girl decides to take on the world like a brave explorer heading off on an epic fairytale quest. From home to school and back again, our hero conquers the Mountain of Knowledge (the library), forges new bridges (friendships), and leads the victorious charge home on her steed (the school bus).

This story is a powerful declaration about courage, confidence, kindness, and finding the extraordinary in everyday moments.

Thank you, Bea, for joining me for a #cbadspotlight interview today!

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

Childhood is not easy. Even a child with the best possible circumstances can feel powerless, and so many children do not have the best possible circumstances. As a child, I often escaped into books. Stories were the one place I was not afraid to answer the call to adventure. In the pages of books, I dared to walk with giants. I wanted to write a book that would help kids carry that feeling with them out into the world. 

What message do you hope kids (of all ages) take away from this book?

I hope I Will Be Fierce helps readers recognize their inner fierceness! I hope they will feel empowered to chart their own course, stand up for their beliefs, and claim their place as the hero of their life story. I want readers to know it is not only okay, but necessary, that they take an active role in their lives and in their communities. When readers turn the final page, I hope they feel confident, courageous, and ready to take on the world.

What was your writing & revision process like for this story?

I tend to write very clean first drafts. I actually queried agents with the first draft of I Will Be Fierce, and I signed with my dream agent, Melissa Edwards of Stonesong. (This isn’t something you should necessarily do, even though it happened to work out for me.) Before we went out on submission, Melissa suggested I add a bit more to the story, which I did. After the book was acquired, my amazing editor, Connie Hsu, suggested I add a bit more still and rearrange the order of some of the events. So, the final book is the third draft of the story.

Was there any part of the process where you worked together with your illustrator on the vision for this book?

Although the illustrator of I Will Be Fierce, Nidhi Chanani, and I did not work together, I felt from the beginning that our visions for this book were aligned. From Nidhi’s initial sketches, which Connie shared with me, I could see that Nidhi understood perfectly what I wanted to accomplish with this book. Her ideas blended with mine, and we ended up with a book we both love.

What is your favorite part of making picture books?

My favorite part of writing picture books is creating new characters. There is a special moment when a reader stops thinking about a character as a person in a book and starts thinking about that character as a real person. That’s when characters become friends and family. They become a part of our lives. I’m always delighted to hear from readers who view Fierce Girl in this way.

#cbadspotlight is putting the spotlight on inclusive #ownvoices books. What can you share with students about the connection you have to this book or the choices you made while writing/illustrating it to add diverse representation?

Fierce Girl is the best version of me. She is the girl I wish I had been and the woman I try to be every day. She is also a person of color, which I am not. That part of the character came from the book’s illustrator, Nidhi Chanani. I was happy Nidhi brought this vision to the book because there aren’t enough books with strong protagonists who are girls of color. Nidhi also made sure that the world around Fierce Girl reflects the diversity of our society.

#classroombookaday is a goal to read aloud a picture book every day of the school year to students at any grade. What would you like to say to the teachers who are taking on this challenge?

Thank you! I love hearing from K-12 educators who have read I Will Be Fierce in their classrooms. As a former teacher, a mother, and an author, I believe reading to kids is the single greatest thing you can do to help them realize their full potential. I am grateful for the teachers and librarians who are putting in this work every day.

Be sure to check out all of the #cbadspotlight choices for this school year!
Visit for more information on #classroombookaday,
a goal to read aloud a picture book every day of the school year, at any grade,
inspired by Donalyn Miller's #bookaday.

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