Ask the Author: Bea Birdsong
What would you like readers to know about you?
The books we read as children are the ones that help us feel seen and heard. They help us know we matter—that we have a place and a purpose in the world—and they help us grow into the best versions of ourselves. I would like readers to know I’m writing with that in mind, and that knowledge pushes me to do my best for them.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
Sam’s First Word is my second picture book. It’s illustrated by Holly Hatam and published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Everyone in Sam’s family wants her to say their name for her first word. To convince her, Mama sings, Papa tells a story, and Nana draws. Even their neighbor Mr. Theotopolous gets in on the action by performing an epic poem. Sam has something to say, something urgent, but how can she make her family stop thinking about themselves and listen? She may have to take drastic measures!
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
The big people in Sam’s family have always cheered for her accomplishments, but in the case of her first word, a little bit of selfishness gets in the way, and I think we’ve probably all seen something like that in real life. Her family is so focused on how to get what they want they miss Sam’s first word. It’s a silly story and kids love that Sam says POOP, but the underlying message is that it’s important for kids to be themselves—even if who they are and what they want to do doesn’t quite match their family’s wishes or expectations.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
I love the part when Sam has become thoroughly fed up with the big people and takes matters into her own hands. She demands their attention in no uncertain terms, and she doesn’t apologize for being herself. That’s difficult to do, and it was fun to write about a character that does a better job of it than I usually do.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
As a kid, I loved picture books like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz and The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin. Both of these books were groundbreaking in their own way, and the memory of how much they delighted me as a child reader reminds me to keep pushing the boundaries with my own books.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
1. Read. Read. Read.
2. You should write often, but you do not need to write every day.
3. Write what you want to write rather than what you think will sell. The theme of your book should be universal, but the way you write it should be something only you can do.
4. Find critique partners who will give you honest, constructive feedback.
5. Do not be afraid to send your stories out into the world. There are readers who need them.
Bea Birdsong is the author of I Will Be Fierce, illustrated by Nidhi Chanani and published by Roaring Brook Press, Sam’s First Word, illustrated by Holly Hatam and published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, How to Spot a Best Friend, illustrated by Lucy Fleming and published by Rodale Kids/RHCB (June 2021), Goat Is the Goat, illustrated by Kelly Murphy and published by Nancy Paulsen Books (2023), and other forthcoming books.
Sam’s First Word:
Signed copies: https://www.wonderlandbookshopnc.com/book/9780316452441
Other buy links: