Perhaps you are familiar with Robert, the lovable main character who stars in Oh No, It's Robert; Robert and the Great Snake Escape; and Robert and the Great Pepperoni. Or maybe you have read one of the Freaky Facts series (You Can't Sneeze With Your Eyes Open and Other Freaky Facts About the Human Body; Elephants Can't Jump and Other Freaky Facts About Animals; The Last Cow on the White House Lawn and Other Little-Known Facts About the Presidency — to name a few). Barbara Seuling is both an author and illustrator of fiction, nonfiction, and picture books. It is difficult to lump Seuling's books into any one category. A few of her books for middle graders were even published under a pseudonym — so you may know her as Carrie Austin.
“My purpose is different for each book I create — to share an emotional experience, show some aspect of the world a little better, or more clearly; make it easier to get through a tough or stressful situation,” Barbara Seuling says. “Yet all this must be kept carefully hidden so that it doesn't frighten children away. So, on the surface, I want to make children laugh, to entertain them, tell them a good story, excite their interest.”
Barbara Seuling was born on July 22, 1937, in Brooklyn, NY. She has two brothers — one older and one younger. Her parents were inspirational in her decision to start creating children's books. They both passed on their love for the amazement and magic of reading. Seuling is also quite passionate about illustrating, and often finds herself drawing for hours.
“I love both writing and illustrating, but I find that writing takes much more discipline and a different sort of mental energy,” she explains. “After an hour or two of steady writing, I am truly tired. With drawing, I can go on all day and tune in to my favorite radio station at the same time. Someone can interrupt me, talk to me, and I am still involved in my drawing without losing ground. A distraction when I'm writing, however, is serious, and often I cannot go back to work once this happens. I know a lot of it has to do with concentration, but I also wonder if a large part of it isn't the security I feel with drawing, which came naturally and was recognized early, and writing, which I discovered later, and with which I feel less on solid ground.”
“I feel fortunate to work at what I love so much — writing and illustrating children's books. Although it has never been easy, the rewards still outweigh the difficulties. Young people want to know more and more about the life around them, about people and relationships and feelings, and if we're truthful, we can support them in this quest for knowledge. Inevitably, it turns around, and we learn something from the kids.”
“My advice to new writers is: be persistent. The saddest part of writing is the defeatism that is felt so early by writers. One's first work rarely gets published, but that is when our hopes and ideals are so high that they are easily dashed by rejection. It is a rough process, and if one can weather the first years, and keep writing in spite of the obstacles, the chances of success keep growing. A writer is a growing thing; we grow with each page we write, and therefore the more we write the more we learn and the better we become.”
Interview excerpted from:
Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2001. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2001.