Elizabeth MacKinney: A Writer Who Draws

I wanted to start this interview by saying, There are three things about Elizabeth MacKinney you should know. But then I interviewed Beth, and I realized that there are so many more things about this self-described artist who writes or a writer who draws” that I think you all will find interesting. So, I’m going to start by saying:

There are three things about Elizabeth MacKinney you should know right away:

• She grew up on a farm in Wisconsin where she spent her formative years drawing horses. (Says Beth, “I was terrible at trees.”)

• She wrote her first book as a first grader. She remembers it best for its many quotation marks, which she learned how to use halfway through.

• She can do a Rubik’s cube in less than a minute.

Now, I know you’re all intrigued, aren’t you? Well, Beth is much, much more that a quotation mark-using, Rubik’s cube-solving writer and drawer – she’s a mom who takes care of her own kids (homeschooling them, no less) as well as other people’s kids as the coordinator of the preschool department of her children’s ministry at church. She writes for Examiner.com, doing book reviews, covering local events, and conducting interviews (in fact, Beth has interviewed me here). She writes, draws, and teaches art to children. And, last but not least, she kills lots of plants. But only the wimpy ones, according to her. Let’s see what Beth has to say today…

Beth, with everything that you do and do well, you are truly a Nerdy Chick! And as we know here, nerdy is not an insult – it’s a compliment. And since you’re both a reviewer and children’s book creator, that makes you double nerdy (at least). So tell us, with that dual background, what are your favorite things to read?

For the most part I go after picture books and middle grade fiction, although I read quite a chunk of nonfiction and classic literature, too. My favorite picture books are the ones that can actually make me laugh out loud and have fabulous illustrations. Doreen Cronin (author) and Betsy Lewin (illustrator) are particular favorites of mine. In middle grade, I like a book that gives me a character I want to root for whole-heartedly. Those are the books that I go back to repeatedly. One of my favorite series is the Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan. He writes awesome battle scenes.

What’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?

Short answer: Nanowrimo. Long answer: Join writers around the globe while we all write our own 50k novel in the month of November. I get crazy looks every October when I start campaigning to get my friends and family to join me for Nanowrimo in November, but one year our entire family did participate—even my husband. It was grueling (as always) but was a huge amount of fun, too. In the end they were glad they participated, and I found it easier not to give up with so much support.

Wow! I’ve never had the courage to write 50,000 words in a month. You’re brainier than I thought! What is your favorite way to flaunt your brain power?

I know it’s shallow, but I love to beat the tar out of anyone in a word game if I possibly can. I can’t help it. My brothers beat me for so many years, since they were 10, 13, and 15 years older than me, that my competitive spirit has been honed to a keen edge. (I used to try to get them to play games until I won, but they didn’t have that kind of time.) The other way is to finish the Nanowrimo challenge before Thanksgiving.

I, personally, am addicted to Boggle, but no one in my family will play with me (sine they don’t like getting crushed!). They like to tell me it’s not cool, but I don’t care if it’s cool because I love it (and I love beating them!). How about you – are there social norms that you are fond of flouting?

I watch almost no TV. If it weren’t for regular calls from my mom and posts on facebook, I’d probably have no idea what was happening in the world. (What year is it, anyway?)

Hmmm…I don’t know if I could get on board with no TV, but I certainly admire that you can! Tell us some more about your childhood – do you have a nerdy memory you could share?

As a teen, I owned a real miniature printing press which I kept in my room. It and my microscope were prized possessions.

That’s awesome! And how about more recently — what is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick?

That would be having helped my four children become avid readers. We read to them aloud when they were little and kept on as they got older. My husband has a background in drama, so he particularly enjoyed doing this in the evenings, but while we were home schooling I’d often read to them aloud during lunch. We chose a variety of books, even some that were out of their depth, like Sense and Sensibility. When I couldn’t read, we used Librivox.org or audio books. It turns out this was a good idea, because in recent years I’ve learned that reading aloud to children helps them pick up more complex language patterns which they can access while writing, making it easier to do. Maybe that’s why a couple of them have come to enjoy writing on their own, too, but I’m glad they all love to read.

That’s something to think about – as a mother myself, it’s great to have that tip about reading aloud and websites to help in that regard. Now, one last question: if you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

When I was a kid, I was so shy at school that it kept me from doing lots of things I would have enjoyed. (I was one of the geeky smart kids with glasses. Remember them?) Basically I was just afraid of what people thought of me. So if I could go back and give myself some advice, I’d want it to be this: God loves you no matter what, even on the most awful not-popular, zit-on-your-nose, embarrassed-yourself, locker-won’t-open, worst day ever. He’s cheering for you, and it really, really, REALLY doesn’t matter what other people think of you, so enjoy being you. No one else can do it better.

Here’s to Elizabeth MacKinney – thank you for being this week’s Nerdy Chick! If you are interested in learning more about Beth, here are some websites you can visit:

Her Examiner.com page: http://www.examiner.com/childrens-literature-in-chicago/elizabeth-mackinney?no_cache=1346360526

Her personal art blog: http://emackinney.blogspot.com/

Her writing group blog: http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=5311624907161521408#allposts/postNum=0

And for the rest of you nerdy chick fans, tune in on September 17 for our interview with filmmaker Jocelin Rish where will be giving away a DVD copy of her film, Saying Goodbye!

2 comments on “Elizabeth MacKinney: A Writer Who Draws

  1. Tara Lazar says:

    Very nerd-taining interview. I want to know more about that mini printing press!

  2. kamikinard says:

    Thanks for the interview Beth! I’m impressed that you got the whole family to join in Nanowrimo!

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