Belinda Anderson is the author of a new middle-grade fantasy novel and three short story collections, published by Mountain State Press. She serves as a state judge in the national Letters About Literature contest and as a judge for the Monroe Arts Alliance’s creative writing contest for students. Belinda mentors emerging writers as a Master Artist through the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Her own work earned her a place on the first Literary Map of West Virginia. Belinda holds a degree in news-editorial journalism and a master’s degree in liberal arts studies. Her new book is Jackson vs Witchy Wanda: Making Kid Soup.
Why did you answer the call for submissions for Fed From the Blade?
I thought it would be great to be included in a showcase sampling from the membership of West Virginia Writers, Inc., an organization that has been very important to me. I also responded because I knew Cat Pleska was going to be the senior editor, ensuring a quality product.
How did you decide what to submit?
I’m probably best known for my short stories. I thought it’d be good to stretch a bit, and so I sent in a piece of nonfiction, a humorous first-person essay.
Make a one-sentence synopsis of your first three books.
My short story collections are about ordinary people who experience the extraordinary, with bits of hope and humor.
What is your newest book about? Is this going to be the first in a series?
My newest book is a middle-grade fantasy novel. It could be a series, though the story does come to a resolution. As a reader, I really dislike coming to the end of a book, only to find it breaks off in mid-action. But I really liked my characters and would enjoy plotting with them again.
Why did you decide to write this different genre of book?
A couple of reasons motivated me to write for a younger audience. Elementary schools started inviting me to make presentations because of my short-story collections. Even though I wrote those books with adult readers in mind, the vocabulary is pretty accessible. I discovered that I really liked interacting with the students and started thinking it would be wonderful to write something for them. At the same time, I was starting to buy books for my great-nephew. As I previewed them, I discovered that I really liked these books myself. I truly enjoy this genre as a reader.
Who is your literary hero? Why?
What an intriguing question. Louisa May Alcott immediately comes to mind. As a child, I was inspired by her character of the budding writer Jo in Little Women. As an adult, I was inspired by how she faced adversity in her personal life.
Who or what in West Virginia inspires you in your writing?
The land and its people. The land, because of its beauty and its ancient energy. The people, who personify the trait of perseverance that I admired in Louisa May Alcott.
Who is the most famous person (in your opinion) you’ve ever met? What did you say to him/her?
Hmm, the first name that comes to mind is Sam Walton, the founder of the Wal-Mart chain. As a young newspaper reporter, I was sent to interview him when he came to the opening of a new Sam’s Wholesale Club. At the time, he was listed as the richest person in America.
But the most thrilling meeting with a famous person would have to be encountering George Takei at a book signing in California. Most of us know him from his role of Sulu in the Star Trek television series, but he also wrote a very moving account of being a Japanese American child relocated to an internment camp during World War II. When I had the chance to speak with him briefly, instead of raving about how much I loved Star Trek, I found myself asking him about his parents’ citizenship.
Pretend you are in the fifth grade. Write a book report on Jackson vs. Witchy Wanda as a 5th grader might.
What a fun prompt! I’m inspired by comments made by one of my great-nephews when he was in fifth grade. He told me he likes a mix of characters: “some evil, some good, some mysterious, some devious.” He was also explicit about this element: “No romance.” I’m also inspired by the entries I’ve been reading as a state judge for Letters About Literature, in which children write to authors about how books have changed their lives. Here we go:
If you like books with action and suspense and funny stuff, read Jackson vs. Witchy Wanda: Making Kid Soup. If you’re like me and Jackson, you’ll be suspicious of that woman in the dark robe getting off the train. And, if you’re like me and Jackson, you’ll want to know what she’s up to, especially with “making kid soup” in the book’s title. And what’s the deal with the dummy in the department store window? Read Jackson vs. Witchy Wanda and find out.