Psst...please ignore the wacky formatting of this post. Try as I may, I can't seem to fix it.)
Wow, how time flies! Today, December 1st, marks the anniversary, er, birthday, of my blog, Birthdayographies. It's been quite a year! In the past twelve months, I have added almost two hundred birthdays with respective picture book titles, bringing the posted or scheduled number to 540. Whew! Search functionality continues to evolve and improve, and the site is growing into a substantial tool for teachers, librarians, students, and writers. Birthdayographies is a work-in-progress squeezed into small patches of available time-pretty much like any writing project. I am immensely proud of the growth and the response from followers. There have been flubs and missteps, of course, and, very soon, the blog will transfer to a new blog platform to accommodate the volume and growing need for flexibility.
Now, with a year under my belt, I can't think of a better way to celebrate this first milestone than by inviting Anne Bustard to the Birthdayographies party. You may recall that Anne was the originator of the biography/birthday blog idea. How lucky for me that, in 2013, she offered me the treasures of her blog, Anneographies. It was great for her, as her novel-writing blossomed. And great for me because I already had a spiral jam-packed with a list of p.b. biographies I read and studied. You can read my first Birthdayographies welcome post from December 1, 2013.
Anne Bustard is the author of the award-winning picture book biography Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster BFYR). Her debut middle grade historical novel Anywhere But Paradise (Egmont USA), set in 1960 Hawaii, will be released in 2015. Born in Honolulu, Anne moved to Austin, Texas, to attend college, and stayed. And, Anne happens to be one of the nicest people on the planet.
Donna: Hiya, Anne! Welcome to the Birthdayographies party! Without you, there wouldn't be a Birthdayographies.
Anne: Happy First Birthday, Birthdayographies! Thanks for inviting me to visit today! And thank you, for championing this genre!
Donna: Anne, in 2005, you launched your blog, Anneographies, featuring picture book biographies by subject’s birthday. What inspired this very original idea?
Anne: The idea for Anneographies sprang from my love of picture book biographies. I wanted to find a way to celebrate and share them every day, or at least, as many days of the year as possible.
Well, I’m a calendar person. Word-a-day calendars, this-day-in-history calendars, websites that offer this-day facts—I’m in! So, it won’t surprise you to know that I keep a calendar dedicated to birthdays. Birthdays! That was it—the common denominator. And so the blog was born.
Donna: Anneographies featured approximately 350 picture book biographies. How did you come up with so many titles to include? Who was your intended audience?
Anne: Over the past fifteen-plus years, picture book biographies as well as collective biographies have flourished. I did my best to include as many as I could. I delighted in regular visits to libraries and bookstores. For me, it was a wonderful treasure hunt—with finds at every turn.
As to the audience, I imagined educators, librarians and parents using the blog as a resource.
Donna: Why do you think picture book biographies are an important genre?
Anne: Quite simply, these thirty-two to forty-eight page wonders of text and illustrations inspire and illuminate. Each one shines a spotlight on a life that has changed the world—a life that required some combination of sacrifice, struggle, determination, discouragement, hope, insight and achievement. Picture book biographies show readers what’s possible—which is just about anything.
Most often, they honor a person from the past, and in doing so, enrich young readers understanding of history. They invite readers to see the world from someone else’s perspective. And as natural springboards for further inquiry, they can lead readers to other books and resources. Like all good literature, picture book biographies touch readers’ hearts and minds.
Donna: What do you find are the biggest challenges to writing picture book biographies?
Anne: I’ve only written one, so I’m certainly not an expert here. But I will say that commitment is critical. I have researched other possible subjects, but eventually I stopped. I wasn’t invested enough to see their stories through. I wasn’t passionate enough. I wasn’t in love.
Tracking down primary resources and verifying facts to the nth degree is a formidable challenge. On the other hand, uncovering a particularly elusive piece of information or making a surprising discovery is incredibly sweet.
Did I mention the writing? Drafting and revising umpteen times until each word sings is daunting. But possible!
Donna: When your own focus turned to fiction, you very kindly offered the Anneographies content to your most picture-book-biography-obsessed writer friend. Me! I am still very honored. It has now been twelve months since the Anneographies content was transferred to Birthdayographies. The list of featured titles has grown to 540, with no end in sight. As the grande dame of the birthday/biography idea, how does it feel to watch your brainchild evolve on Birthdayographies?
Anne: Wow! 540 titles! That’s fantastic! You’ve definitely taken the blog to another level. Congratulations on your amazingly strong year. You deserve all the birthday cake you can eat. I particularly love your inclusion of books from educational publishers. They are a brilliant addition.
Donna: Okay, time to fill us in on what you’ve been up to since the Anneographies-Birthdayography switch on December 1, 2013. What have you been working on? Is there any news you’d like to share? How can readers find you?
Anne: A few days after the switch, I learned a book contract for my debut middle grade historical novel was in the works! I was, and still am, beyond thrilled! I’ve spent the last year double-triple checking historical facts and revising. Anywhere But Paradise will be published on April 14, 2015.
Readers can visit me anytime at www.annebustard.com.
Many thanks to Anne for joining us on Birthdayographies. Stay tuned, dear readers, for more books, more birthdays, and more ways to share the wonder of picture book biographies. As always, if you have suggestions, I'd love to hear from you. And, if you find Birthdayographies helpful, I hope you'll share it with teachers, students, librarians, and writer friends.
Thank you for your support!