Charlotte, North Carolina
The Summer of the Swans
Betsy Byars began writing in 1955. It took nine rejections before her first book was published, seven years later. Since then, she has won a Newbery Award, in 1971 for The Summer of the Swans, and has been a National Book Award finalist, in 1973 for The House of Wings.
“My one goal in writing … is to get my story down on paper, because until the story is on paper, I don't have anything to work with,” Byars said in School Librarian. “And I rely totally on instinct. If my instinct tells me the story is not moving fast enough, I speed it up. If my instinct tells me I've told this too quickly, I divide the chapter and add some bull. And the difference between someone who has been writing for twenty-five years and someone who is just starting, is the quality of this instinct. When I first started, I agonized over everything—should I take this out? Should I change this? Is this funny? Is this stupid? And every time I changed something I had the feeling I was ruining a potential masterpiece. After twenty-five years I have learned to follow my instinct without question.”
Born Betsy Cromer, daughter of a cotton mill executive and a homemaker, the writer told Bernice Cullinan and M. Jerry Weiss, “When I was a girl, the first book that I really loved was The Adventures of Mabel. It was the first book I ever wanted to own, and I read it again and again. Mabel's life was the way I wanted my own to be—safe and secure and yet filled with very imaginative adventures.”
Byars attended Furman University and received a bachelor of arts degree from Queens College in Charlotte in 1950. In 1950, she