Elizabeth Verdick loves to write picture book stories and nonfiction self-help for kids of all ages. She received her MFA from Hamline University in St. Paul. She spends her days writing and adoring her two French bulldogs. Elizabeth has two grown children: one loves books and one loves math.
Tell us about when you first knew you were a writer.
When I was in third grade, I wrote a story that had an ice-cream cone as the main character. My teacher at the time loved it. She actually said to me: “You’re a good writer.” No one had said those words to me before. I remember how my story was written on pale purple notebook paper and had drawings in the margins. Do they still make notebook paper in colors like pink, purple, and blue? Maybe only in the 1970s! I felt happy that day. I tried hard in school but never imagined that someday I’d actually grow up to be a writer. I thought books were made by very special people who magically knew how to write them and publish them. Writing seemed like a dream, not a potential reality. I’m so glad organizations like Young Inklings are helping young writers see that their work is important and can lead to a future in writing.
What three books do you wish you had written and why?
Well, that’s the hardest question ever! How can I narrow it down to only three? All the Winnie the Pooh books had so much heart and gave us a world where stuffed animals were much more than they appeared to be. Those characters endure through the generations. Or, how about the Harry Potter series–it’s nearly impossible to choose which one I wish I’d written, but all those characters created by J.K. Rowling felt so real and magical at the same time. I remember eagerly waiting for each new Harry Potter book to come out–and I was in my forties, not a kid anymore. I still think of A Wrinkle in Time as my beloved friend. Just holding that book in my hands brings me back to when I was 11-years-old, and also to when I handed that book to my own 11-year-old daughter to read. I wish I could write books like all of those: enduring, life-changing, magical, and of great comfort to readers of all ages.
What are you working on now in your own writing?
I’m working on a mix of picture book manuscripts, some nonfiction self-help for very young children, and a middle-grade novel. I also enjoy helping my veterinarian sister blog about pet health and pet care. I am a huge fan of animals–I feel like I can’t live without them! I call my two French bulldogs my “writing assistants.” Mostly, they hang out in my office looking for ways to distract me. They like to jump on the couch and toss every pillow on the floor. They wrestle, knocking over whatever they come in contact with. And they beg for treats while I’m trying to get work done. None of that is particularly helpful–but it sure is comical.
Tell us a story about a time when you and a mentee used a strategy or tool and it unlocked new possibilities in their work.
I’ve really enjoyed using art as a way to help my student envision her characters, so that the vivid details she comes up with while drawing and talking with me then make an appearance in her writing. We created “Head to Toe” images of two of her main characters (a female heroine and a mysterious raccoon), focusing on descriptions of how each one looks, what they wear, how they show emotions, and even what that raccoon might smell like! (Stale Cheetos, by the way.) We also worked on a Character Gallery so my student could imagine her full cast of characters as she writes her novel. Character development is challenging, so getting that foundation in place is super important.
Beyond writing books, what is another way you express your creative voice?
I like to surround myself with color and art and pets as a way to express my emotions and feel uplifted. I decorate, I collect visual art and pottery, I plant flowers, I draw weird little cartoons, and try to support writers and artists in any way I can.
We each have stories to tell.
Plus, our own unique ways of telling them.
That’s why we personalize each mentorship at Society of Young Inklings. Our mentors are professional writers, storytellers, and illustrators who help students understand how they think, learn, and best achieve momentum. Our mentorships are designed for writers ages 8+ who are ready for a challenge.