Allison's Book Bag

Growing up the Daughters of Betsy Byars, Guest Post by Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers

Posted on: September 18, 2014

Duffey_Myers_AdultsThe Writing Sisters (Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers) have been writing for children for over twenty years, publishing more than thirty-five books with a variety of companies: Viking, Simon & Schuster, Random House, Clarion, HarperCollins, Henry Holt. They write primarily chapter books, and have published both individually and together with their mother, Newbery winner Betsy Byars. They graciously accepted my request to write about life growing up as the daughters of Betsy Byars.

Growing up the Daughters of Betsy Byars
Guest Post by Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers

ChildhoodGrowing up with a mother who was a writer shaped us. From our early days we listened to our mother tell us stories. Even when she read a book, the story often came out of her mouth differently. She could not resist adding, embellishing, pumping it up. Later millions of other children would hear her stories as she went on to win many awards for her 60+ children’s books.
More importantly we came from a family of storytellers. The stories we heard growing up did not always start with “Once upon a time.” They started with, “You will not believe what happened to me….” or “Guess what I did yesterday….” From when we were little girls, we heard the cadence of stories, the pause before the punch line, the sense of timing. And the oral tradition of telling stories was the beginning of a writing life.

Our grandfather was a wonderful storyteller and so were a number of other relatives. And there were plenty of writers in the family too, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents–writing books and articles, fiction and non-fiction. There was lots of variety in what they wrote.

But unquestionably, our mother was the greatest influence. Mom loved books and we also love to read. Our mother, writer and reader that she is, always made a great effort to put books into our hands. Our first library was the book mobile, a truck packed with books that came through our neighborhood once a week. The most memorable library growing up in West Virginia was in the basement of the fire station.

myers-byars-duffey-jpg1When it came to writing, we literally learned at our mother’s feet. She read to us as children and, as soon as we could read on our own, we read her manuscripts. We also learned early on what it takes to be a writer–hours and hours of writing and rewriting, years of persistence in spite of rejection. We went in to writing with our eyes open.

When you feel called to write it can seem like an impossible dream. Seeing our mother write gave us a realistic idea about what it takes to be a writer. She would write for hours every day at a desk in the corner of her bedroom. We shared the joys and pains of writing even as children. She is still our inspiration.

We have written independently and together for over twenty years collaborating on four books with our mother. It is nice to be able to share the writing, along with the pain of rejection and the joys of success.

When our mother decided to retire, we formed the Writing Sisters, specifically to show the power of God’s word to change lives. Our writing has shifted from children’s books to adult and from general publishing to Christian. Although change is a challenge, it has brought new life into our careers and our writing.

The Shepherd's Song - cover image copyOur first book for adults, The Shepherd’s Song was released in March by Howard Books.

On Friday I’ll write a review of The Pinballs, which Byars says she’s received more letters about than other book. Save the dates: September 19! I’ve also put a request in at my library for her autobiography, The Moon and I, and plan to report on it later this month too.

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