Although June is fast slipping away, summer is just beginning. And that’s the way it is with authors like BiBi Belford who manage to keep writing better books. Crossing the Line, Belford’s current book for young readers, recently won a Christopher Award. And this fall, Belford releases her fourth book, Another D for DeeDee.
Name: Bibi On-the-Ball Belford
Hometeam: Chicago—South Side all the way
Position: Retired from coaching (reading teacher) the little players (elementary students) with the lowest stats (achievement scores)
Batting average: Canned and Crushed, The Gift, Crossing the Line, Another D for DeeDee
When a student I worked hard to teach to read from Kindergarten to Second Grade saw me in Fourth Grade, he let it slip that he didn’t bother to read anymore because he couldn’t find books he liked. I just about had a heart attack. After I collected myself I fired a fastball at him. “If I wrote a book, would you read it?” I asked. “Yeah, but you can’t write a book,” he said. Well, guess what? I read the final chapter of my new novel, Canned and Crushed, the following year to that student’s fifth grade class and handed him a copy. He not only read it, he made his best friends read it, and started asking when my next book was going to be ready.
My mission is to write the kinds of books my former students find relatable and with heroes they can emulate. I believe my readers will change the world into a better place.
Considering the positions on a baseball team — such as catcher, shortstop, left field, etc. — which best describes the way you write and why? Right field. I think writing middle grade novels has quite a bit of variables, almost more than any of the other categories, just as the conditions affect the ability of the right fielder to make a play. There’s the wind (current trends), the sun (bright best-selling authors who get lots of publicity), the distance (keeping word count limited while still developing characters’ arcs and secondary plots with stakes and obstacles), and the condition of the playing field (bloggers and reviewers and librarians who must promote middle grade books since middle grader themselves don’t shop for books).
Tell us about a recent home run. My latest book, Crossing the Line, a historical novel set in 1919, won a Christopher Award. Twenty-one Christopher Awards are given each year for media and books that “affirm the highest value of the human spirit.” I’ve never been more surprised in my life, especially since I’m represented by a very small publisher and my book missed the deadline for a Kirkus review when it was released.
No one wins a game alone. Who’s on your team? I could list a whole bunch of people here, students, family, and friends, but a winning team needs a winning coach, arguably the catalyst for success. So my “coaches” have been my editors at Skyhorse. I’ve been lucky enough to work with four amazing women editors who believed in my books enough to sell them to their publishing teams, then work tirelessly to help me shape my messy arcs and wandering plots into a readable form. They solicit artists to create eye-catching covers, then fine-tune word choices, line edits and font close to perfection. Once done they celebrate my book “birthdays” and spend time promoting my book on social media, applauding positive reviews like proud parents.
So what’s your game plan? My next book, Another D for DeeDee will be released October, 2018. It’s the story of DeeDee Diaz who discovers she’s a diabetic just as she’s coping with transferring to a new school and trying to solve the mystery of her dad’s disappearance. When she meets a new neighbor who’s deaf she finds out she has a lot to learn about diversity and acceptance, before she can accept herself and “be a friend to have a friend.” I love to do school visits to talk about being an author and get kids excited about writing their own stories.