About Me & Contact
Beverley Brenna lives on an acreage near Saskatoon with her husband and three sons. The family has, at times, cared for horses, a dog, cats, fish, lizards, tarantulas, and sometimes lambs. As of July 1, 2013, Dr. Brenna is an Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan where she teaches curriculum courses in Education specializing in Literacy and Children’s Literature (www.usask.ca/education/people/brenna.htm).
Bev was born on October 1, 1962, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. She started writing poetry when she was seven, modeling after her mom who also wrote poetry. She later went on to write short stories and then novels.
And washes the windowpanes.
The robins, the wrens,
And Grandfather’s hens,
Bev, age 7
Bev declares that she had lots of good teachers who read books aloud and helped students to learn the writing process. She believes that teachers are important models and coaches in literacy development.
She has taught elementary school in rural and urban settings, worked as a co-ordinator of gifted programs, and been a reading specialist and special education teacher as well as a special education consultant. Her doctoral studies in Elementary Education: Language and Literacy occurred at the University of Alberta and she graduated with a PhD in 2010.
Bev’s hobbies include baking bread, nature study (especially bugs and insects), and travel. She has been lucky enough to visit the following places: England, Scotland, Australia, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, France, Norway, Hawaii, and other parts of the United States. One of her favorite haunts is Prince Albert National Park (Waskesiu) in Saskatchewan.
How do you develop your fictional characters?
One technique in my early writing, and which I still sometimes use, is to try and consider what animal characteristics a person might have, and then use those to somehow shape the character. For example, in Spider Summer, Elvira, the babysitter, is based on an insect while her son, Thomas, is based on a Piranha (because he tries to bite people’s legs). In The Keeper of the Trees, Aunt Julia draws traits from an ant, and in The Moon Children, Mrs. Schmidt is represented by a number of pig-like traits. These are the most obvious ones in my children’s writing, but there are others: I’ll let readers figure them out for themselves.
What was the hardest thing you’ve written?
Although it is the shortest, Daddy Longlegs at Birch Lane required the most number of edits—I think almost every word has been changed from my original version, and I presented about 25 drafts of the story to the editor. Because picture books rely on economy of language, and a kind of balance and rhythm is needed for reading them aloud, each word must be considered very carefully.
One other difficult thing for me was to create a character who tells jokes. Luke, in Spider Summer, wants to be a professional comedian when he grows up, and so he practices telling jokes all the time. Making up these jokes was no easy thing, and after I had written the first draft many of them were about vampires, as young Thomas was at that point nicknamed The Vampire (because he’s teething and likes to bite people on the knees). When my editor wanted “vampire” changed to “piranha”, all the jokes had to be transformed as well. Who would have thought Vampire books would become so popular—and I missed capitalizing on the popularity of this theme!
Which of your books is your personal favorite?
I have a close relationship with all of my work because as part of the writing process I begin to see the world as if I were the characters I develop…letting them become a part of me in the way that acting allows you to imagine yourself in a character’s shoes. Taylor Jane Simon is definitely a favorite character because of the amount of time I have spent attempting to live her story second hand. Because she is in two books, with a third in progress, I have spent many moments with her. Interestingly, the more I think about each of my characters, the more I see my own personal traits embedded in them. Taylor sneezes when she sees yellow, just like I do!