Author Feature: Carolyn Beck

Buttercup's Lovely Day

Buttercup’s Lovely Day: In poetry that winds and wends like a creek through a farmer’s field, we journey through one lovely day in Buttercup’s life. Whether she is ruminating on the mud beneath her feet or the moon and the stars in the blue-black sky, she draws us deep into her rich and wonderful world.

What planning and research did you do for your book?

Most of Buttercup’s Lovely Day came from childhood memories and imagining what it would be like to be a happy cow. But I did research facts about a cow’s innards—digestive system—thus “tummy #1 and #2”. I also consulted with people I knew who grew up on farms and discovered how much cows despise flies. So the busy blue-bottle got switched out for a buzzy bee. Cloud patterns—that was hard work—on my back in a meadow. Same with wading through a bubbling creek.

What is your ideal writing environment?

My ideal writing environment is somewhere quiet, natural and impromptu. I write in snatches. Hence the poetry, I guess. Coming across a mossy boulder by a babbling brook with my note pad in my pack would be ideal. Also a puddle of sun in a quiet corner of the zoo. I live in T.O., but most of Buttercup’s Lovely Day was created in BC— hey! BC (Buttercup), BC (British Columbia!—on a trip to Vancouver and an ensuing cruise north up the coast. Early mornings in a sunny alcove in our hotel room while my son slept and later near a soaring window on the ship was where I played with the rhymes and rhythms that eventually became Buttercup’s Lovely Day.

9781459817302How do you decide on names for your characters?

Sound is important to me. Buttercup could have been called Elsie or Daisy or Maud, all good, classic cow names. But the creek scene, where the water is calling Buttercup away, away, sealed the name. Buttercup ripples off the tongue the same way the water tumbles over rocks.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do to overcome it?

The more you fight writer’s block, the more it solidifies. I back off. I don’t wait for it to pass. Waiting is a form of resistance. I cede. I cave. I give in. I do not resist. I set my mind to other things. And, lo and behold, in going about my everyday life full of events and discoveries and happenings good and bad, somehow the ideas pop back into my brain. Life stimulates writing ideas.

What was the last novel you read? Why did you choose it? What did you think of it?

I recently reread The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, definitely an adult book. I am in awe of the subtlety and stealth of it. The author, by inhabiting the character, being blind to reality because he cannot afford not to be, opens the reader’s eyes to the truth, to the appalling tragedy of Stevens’ unrealized existence. The novel explores how the greatest lies we tell may be to ourselves. We do not know how sad this story is until we get to that last paragraph, but because in some way the story is deeply ironic, there is a sense of dark humor as well. Incredible writing.

Do you remember your dreams? Do they ever become inspiration for your writing?

Dreams are incredibly fertile material for writers. But, alas, I suck at writing them down Every time I say, “Wow! Great! Fantastic!” about a dream as a whole story idea crashes into my head, I also say, “It’s such a good idea, I can’t possibly forget it.” And all I remember in the morning is how great the idea was— not what it was. Dreams are as fantastic and as ephemeral as … dreams. Write them down! Do as I say, not as I do!

In an alternate universe, what would your dream career be, other than a writer?

Well, as it happens, I have another career that I love (and do a good job at): Accountant. I use both sides of my brain. I love numbers AND letters. But if I wasn’t a writer and an accountant … Because I love food and I love to travel and I love to write, my dream career would be as an international (maybe one day interstellar) food writer. Then I could discover foods I haven’t tried before, go to places I haven’t been to and write and GET PAID FOR IT!!! My response to this question will change from week to week depending on what is going on in my life at any one time, as I am sure it would for you.

Do you have a secret or unlikely talent?

It’s unlikely for a writer to be an accountant, but I have already mentioned that. A secret talent wouldn’t be secret if I told ya, eh? It has something to do with … Quoi? Je ne peux pas vous dire!

What types of conversations do you hope will come out of your book?

I hope Buttercup’s Lovely Day will stimulate conversations about the glorious fun of playing with language and the music language can make. I hope it will get readers thinking about this life and the universe and the importance of looking out for the good stuff, chilling out, being cool, not worrying too much, being as content as a well-fed cow who has the luck to roam her pasture freely. I hope it makes people write poems that start with “I love …”

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Carolyn Beck first learned about letters when she was five. Right away she liked them. They make interesting sounds, like the s-s-s-sneaky S, the punchy P and the bouncy B. And best of all, in bunches they make WORDS! (Carolyn also discovered numbers and liked them too, but that is another story.) Carolyn lives in Toronto, Ontario.

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