10 QUESTIONS FOR…Cynthia S. Becker, author of middle grade biographies

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Author interview with Cynthia S. Beckerchipetapeacemakercovercsbecker08

 

Bio: I live in Pueblo, Colorado with one husband, two cats, and 8,000 books. (We have an Internet used book business.) I’m a Midwestern girl who fell in love with the West through books and Saturday morning serials on TV.  I moved to Colorado the day after college graduation.  I began writing with intent in 1995. My published work is non-fiction but I also write short story and middle grade historical fiction.

 

Latest book: Chipeta: Ute Peacemaker, Filter Press, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-86541-091-6 middle grade biography

 

Other books: Chipeta: Queen of the Utes, P. David Smith co-author, Western Reflections Publishing, 2003, “Best Biography” Award Colorado Independent Publisher’s Association      

 

Immigration & Illegal Aliens: Burden or Blessing, Cengage Learning (formerly Thomson Gale), 2006, 2008, 2010 editions

 

Problems With Death, Greenhaven Press, 2006

 

The American Family: Reflecting A Changing Nation, Thomson Gale, 2003 & 2005 editions

 

Freelance writing: April and June 2009 cover stories for Colorado Country Life, the magazine of the Rural Electric Association. Other work has appeared in the New York Times, The Denver Post, The Saturday Evening Post, Family Chronicle, and Learning Through History

 

1.     Tell us about your latest book.

 

 Chipeta: Ute Peacemaker is a middle grade biography of a renowned Ute Indian woman. Her husband became a powerful chief and trusted her advice above all others. Chipeta gained respect as an advocate for peace with the settlers who invaded Ute territory, now known as the state of Colorado.  This book is based on my original research in Indian Agent records, period newspapers, and oral histories.  I previously produced an adult biography of this woman.

 

2. How did you get started as a writer?

 

I’ve been a reader and a writer since childhood—interests strongly influenced by my mother. During my working career, I honed my non-fiction skills producing fact-finding reports and company newsletters. It took losing my job in 1995 to free me to write the stories I wanted to tell. My first published pieces were craft articles in a children’s magazine.

 

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

 

My husband and I are early risers who walk five miles a day. We both write and spend much of the day in our separate offices.  In the evening we read—except when the Rockies are playing.

 

4. Describe your desk/workspace.

 

I have a quiet basement office with flowering plants growing in a south window. In addition to my computer table, I work on a 1930’s white metal kitchen table with pull-out/pop-up leaves. My shelves are stuffed with old Colorado history tomes, books on writing, and books I love and can’t let go. The place needs a good cleaning out; I’m a packrat.

 

5. Favorite books (especially for writers)

 

The First Five Pages: A Writers Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, Noah Lukeman, 2005.   I read this recently and finally understood how to solve transition problems in my short stories. 

 

The Portable Dorothy Parker (her collected short stories and poetry)

 

Lamy of Santa Fe, Paul Horgan, 1975 Pulitzer Prize for History

 

6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you

 

I’m very quiet but I meet lots of people through my unusual ear jewelry made by polymer clay artist friends.

 

Working the interactive SET puzzles on the New York Times website is my favorite relaxation technique. 

 

Working puzzles is even better with my favorite bluegrass music.

 

7. Favorite quote

 

I’m not a quote collector.

 

8. Best and worst part of being a writer

 

The process of writing. It is a delight when the words seem to flow in perfect order and a frustration when they appear like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces.

 

9. Advice for other writers

 

If you are not in a critique group, find one.  After I write and rewrite a piece, it is impossible to read it objectively. Having other writers read my work with an understanding but critical eye has improved every piece I have presented to them. In critiquing their work I also learn from how they structure stories, present dialogue, etc.    

 

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience

 

I long ago stopped believing in coincidence; some things are meant to happen. My first book was published without any pitch to an agent or editor. I had been researching Chipeta for several years when I contacted the author of Ouray: Chief of the Utes to identify the source of one piece of information in his book. To my surprise, he had retired from the judicial position noted on his book cover and founded a successful small press. He had also started a biography of Chipeta, got stuck and tucked it away in a drawer. “Would you be interested in collaborating?” he asked. We met, agreed to work together as co-authors and signed a contract. He supplied his incomplete work plus materials from his private collection. I wove his work and my research together and his company published Chipeta: Queen of the Utes in 2003.

 

 

Where can people buy your books?

 

Chipeta: Ute Peacemaker is available at $8.95 through Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Chipeta-Ute-Peacemaker-Know-Bios/dp/0865410917) or directly from publisher Filter Press (http://www.filterpressbooks.com/AuthorCB2.html) Please visit at my Chipeta blog http://chipeta.wordpress.com where I post about reading, writing, and research.

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