Throughout our friendship, Elizabeth, or Mitty as she is known, has been working on a story idea based around the musical score Carnival of the Animals by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns’.
So who is Elizabeth Varadan?
I posed five questions to her to find out.
Q. Tell us a little about your writing journey.
A. I’ve written all my life – poems and stories while growing up, in college, and during my teaching career. Then I took early retirement a few years ago to write full time. A few poems and short stories were published for adults. Then for children. But years of teaching elementary school inspired me to write books for children, and they started getting published. It was a long trek, but worth the journey.
Q. Is there anything you would have done differently?
A. Originally, my mother wanted me to be a musician. I love music, but being a musical performer wasn’t for me. Since we were poor, though, I had to make my own dreams work: I had to work my way through college; then I taught elementary school (which I absolutely loved), and then I retired to have a second career in writing. The dreams all came true, so I have no complaints.
Q. Is there any book you've written that is particularly special to you? Which one and why?
A. I would say this one, The Carnival of the Animals. I love history (I was a history major in university), and I love research. Saint-Saëns’ musical fantasy by the same name was written in 1886, so every story had to happen prior to that, since each story animal is one from his “carnival”. I set the stories in different lands: India, Australia, ancient Greece, ancient Syria, Belle Époque France, Victorian England, Russia, Spain, etc. It was great fun to write.
Q. Are you working on any new novels for children?
A. Yes. I’ve returned to an earlier MG/YA novel started years ago. It involves an Irish Catholic family in Sacramento in 1919 following WWI and the Influenza epidemic. One character was in Vaudeville; another is a ghost. Again, it involves a lot of research. But the research is fascinating and I love being in the book’s “world”.
Q. What advice would you give to new and aspiring writers? What tips can you give them?
A. First, follow your own dream, not someone else’s. Second, try everything. Write for all ages, on all topics. It will stretch you. Third, persist. Keep writing and sending things out. Fourth, belong to writing groups that are both supportive and hard-nosed: You need the support, but you won’t grow without knowing what isn’t working as well as what is. And then – read! Nothing improves your own writing like reading terrific writing by masters. They point the way. They inspire.
Elizabeth Varadan is a former elementary school teacher. Her children’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Ladybug, Friends, and Skipping Stones Magazine. She is the author of an MG fantasy, The Fourth Wish; an MG mystery involving Sherlock Holmes, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls; a picture book, Dragonella, (out in English and Spanish editions); and The Carnival of the Animals, recently released (October, 2018) by Belanger Books. She and her husband live in Midtown Sacramento, but frequently travel to Galicia, Spain.