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Book Recounts the Transformation of a "Little Princess"
Rosemary Zibart is a journalist, playwright and children’s book writer. She is proud of her advocacy and many of her media articles tackled issues such as how art can transform the lives of at-risk teens, and the Heart Gallery, which promotes the adoption of children and teens. True Brit: Beatrice 1940 is a book for ages 8-12 that has been enjoyed by readers of all ages.
This is a charming story about a young girl forced into growing up quickly when she travels across the ocean in the unwelcome company of three small boys who don’t speak English and who, like Beatrice, are traveling without benefit of adult presence.
When Beatrice gets off the boat there is no family to meet her; she still has a ways to go aboard a train that will take her to a life more different than anything she can imagine. The countryside, the people, the home she will be living in, nothing is as she expected.
With the help of her father’s parting gift of a little red leather book to keep a record of her experiences, and taking her courage from Mary Kingsley, a valiant British explorer, she begins to make the most of a life unlike she has ever experienced.
Beatrice is one among thousands of European children who were sent to safety during World War II. Rosemary plans to write more about these children in the continuation of the series.
WB: Tell the audience what prompted you to write this story.
RZ: On my birthday in 1990, I read in the "50 years ago today" column in the Santa Fe New Mexican, that four English girls had arrived in Santa Fe to escape war in England...that intrigued me!
WB: What research did you do to so clearly depict Santa Fe and northern New Mexico in the 1940s?
RZ: I read as much as I could plus I have a background as a journalist in this area for 20 years so I had written a number of articles about Bohemian artists, public health nurses, etc.
WB: Beatrice is a world away from her home in more ways than distance. How were you able to capture a child-like view of rather frightening and life-altering circumstances?
RZ: Thanks for saying that I captured her voice. That's the key thing a writer tries to do. To find a character's voice and maintain it so you should always know who's speaking. I have always been fascinated by children facing ordeals so that's the subject of the entire book series "far and away," children who were displaced and relocated during 1939-1945.
WB: Is Beatrice a composite of children you know?
RZ: Not really. I did think of the character Mary in A Secret Garden. She (Beatrice) is not as nasty as Mary starts out but she's also spoiled and self-centered.
WB: She seems rather mature for her age. Is that a consequence of her circumstances or her station in society?
RZ: I was a precocious child myself.
WB: Beatrice evolves rather quickly in this story and I thought your use of Mary Kingsley as a role model was brilliant. Tell how you decided to use this adventurous woman in the story line.
RZ: That use of Mary Kingsley came late in the book's development. An editor told me Beatrice was whining too much, that she needed to be more adventurous so I added the reference to one of the most adventurous women I've ever heard of. Rudyard Kipling said of Kingsley, "She must have been afraid of something...but no one ever figured out what."
WB: This is part of a series. Tell us about that and have you begun writing the next one?
RZ: OMG. I've already written the next book called Forced Journey: Werner, 1939. It's a much rougher story, more complex and written in third rather than first person. I'm doing edits right now and hope to finish by August.
WB: How are you choosing the child protagonists?
RZ: From their stories. I'm seized by a story. I'm very plot-driven, but usually it's the inner story of growth and transformation that most appeals to me.
WB: In the course of writing Beatrice what did you learn about yourself that you didn’t know before?
RZ: Beatrice is about a poor little rich girl who is forced to roll up her sleeves and do things for others. Which is similar to me. I constantly have to be forced out of my little world in order to care for and do things for others. One of the projects I take time out for is Minds Interrupted: Stories of Lives Affected by Mental Illness. (WB NOTE: For more information about this program go to www.mindsinterrupted.com.)
WB: What other projects are you working on?
RZ: Another OMG! I'm a playwright and have a play being produced in Albuquerque this fall, plus I'm trying to get one produced in Santa Fe sometime later this year or early next year.
WB: Any last thoughts or comments.
RZ: Just that writing and reading is such a mind-expanding way to experience life I hope it's not replaced by games, which are clever, but don't stimulate compassion and understanding about other human beings which to me is the purpose of life.
For more about Rosemary and her work, go to www.rosemaryzibart.com/.
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