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Charlotte Bennardo

I would have to live a thousand lifetimes to write all the stories in my head, so until Elon Musk makes a time machine, I'll do what I can. I write middle grade, young and new adult novels, and finished my first picture book manuscript. In between writing, revising, reading, and selling books, I play bells in my church, feed stray animals, do volunteer work, and try to keep my family happy. You can find me on social media talking about books, my cats, my favorite football team, and other happy things so let's chat!

Website

http://charlotteebennardo.blogspot.com/

Why I Write and Read So Much

I write for both children and adults because I can't stop myself. I see stories everywhere and they buzz around in my brain, like a pesky fly. I see a squirrel, and I wonder about his life- does he have friends? Does he know things? I read a book and I think, what if it ended this way... Reading and writing are the two things that calm my crazy brain and make me happy. I couldn't give up either one even if I had to.

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Insights

Do you have a favorite of the children's books you've written? Why?

Of all my books (so far!) that I've written, my favorite is Evolution Revolution: Simple Plans, the second in the Evolution Revolution trilogy. Why? Because the main character, Jack, a common gray squirrel, has learned enough from his human friend, Collin, to think on his own. He's funny, determined, and for such a little creature, has a lot of smarts and a big heart. As he learns, he shares this knowledge. If the animals got smarter, and learned to work together, humans would have to treat them better, and give them a fair share of space.

What was the biggest challenge in creating your first published book?

The biggest challenge with a first book is that it's a FIRST book. You have no reputation in the publishing world, you're a nobody (unless you're a celebrity then anyone will publish your book). It takes not only a good idea, but the persistence to keep sending it out to agents and editors, to find that one person who is going to love your book enough to work with you. This generally takes years for the average writer who doesn't know anyone in the publishing/agent world. You go to conferences, attend workshops, revise and resubmit. Trying to get published is not for the lazy or the easily discouraged.

What advice do you have for parents and others who are trying to raise readers?

Don't be a snob! Don't insist your kids read the classics, or just 'school approved' books. If they only want to read about animals, let them. If robots are the only thing they think about, check out books on robots. Kids only want to read comics and graphic novels? Great- because they are READING. Eventually they will want to expand their tastes: read about people like Steve Irwin, or science books about the history of rockets, or the serial chapter books about their favorite superheroes. Reading is reading- forcing someone to read what you 'think' they should be reading is the quickest way to turn them off.

Outside of writing/illustrating, what activities do you enjoy?

I LOVE my pool. In another life, I would be happiest as a dolphin. I love to swim. Even in the winter, I drag myself to the YMCA (do you know how hard it is to think about swimming when it's snowing outside? It's hard.). Because I love the water, I'm a big proponent of saving the oceans, and recycling/reducing waste. The oceans are home to wonderful creatures and plants, not to mention a food source. My Evolution Revolution trilogy deals with humans polluting the earth from the animals' perspective. This carries over in my love for my gardens, both flower and vegetable. I plant for butterflies and bees and hummingbirds. It's one small thing I can do for the planet.

What do you hope young readers experience from your work?

From my books, I hope my readers will look at things from a different perspective; from the view of animals, from history, from myth, and from the varied characters. The world is so wide and to experience it fully, we need to step outside of our own narrow little world. It'll be a great adventure!

When is your favorite time to work?

My favorite time to work is when there is no one in the house. I don't like music or the TV on, I can't be interrupted when I'm in the creative zone. With people moving about, phones ringing, doors slamming, and all the other noises, my creativity is disrupted. It's why I have an office on the third floor, away from the TV room, the kitchen, the front door. If I'm writing, leave me alone!

How do you know if a story idea is good enough for a book?

If the story idea appeals to me enough to want to write it, I write that book. I'll read through it and polish it up, correcting grammar, spelling, and other mistakes. After, I'll put it away for a few weeks, then go back and re-read it, because time away from the story helps you to see it in a new light. When I think it's pretty good, I give it to my critique group. After several more rounds of edits, I'd send it out to agents and editors. However, now that I have a new agent, she reviews it and will submit it to editors. The only way to know if a story is good comes from successfully going through this entire process. Some manuscripts are sitting in the drawer- even though I thought they were good ideas. Possibly the time wasn't right for them, or it just didn't connect with the right editor. I'll let it rest and try again in the future.

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