Guest Blogger: The Story Behind the ‘Bella and Britt’ Series by Nancy Stewart
The concept of inspiration is a strange old thing. Strange because it is indefinable. Old because people have been wrestling with it since, I suspect, humans became human. Look at the cave art in Lascaux. Study the work of Aristotle. Reread To Kill a Mockingbird. All human. All searching for truth. All inspired.
I’ve been asked by many people what the inspiration was behind the writing of the Bella and Britt series of books for kids. Here’s the inspiration behind the inspiration:
My husband and I bought a condo on the water in Clearwater Beach, Florida, six years ago. Although I didn’t know it would, that decision had a profound effect on me. I watched the marine life on our daily walks and quickly grew to love it all, particularly the brown pelicans. Those walks opened up a whole new world for me. But they also alerted me to a problem—beach trash. Beginning to see more and more of it, I found it disturbing. It was personal.
I met Bella in a sand heart that the tide was just beginning to take away. Written inside was only the word Bella. A nugget of a story about a little girl who wanted so badly to save her beach from trash stirred in me. And, of course, it was Bella. Britt came about two weeks later in the form of a lovely child splashing in the gulf with her parents.
A world event changed the series and brought it into sharp focus: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill. I had already written the first book, Bella Saves the Beach. It had been accepted by Guardian Angel Publishing and was scheduled to be published when the spill happened. That changed everything. I spoke with my publisher, Lynda Burch, about the spill. We both agreed a book about the disaster had to be written, and Bella and Britt were the ones to tell the story. One Pelican at a Time did that. As the old crooked beak pelican that the girls had known all their lives was in the previous book, Bella Saves the Beach, it was a natural fit.
Sea Turtle Summer Sea Turtle Summer came to me, not on a glorious beach with glimmering white sand, but in a stark utilitarian hospital room. My husband was recovering from back surgery (happily, he’s fine now). I sat in his hospital room, net book on lap and waited for inspiration to come calling. And it did, demanding another Bella and Britt book. About sea turtles. So I began the book on a frigid February morning in St. Louis and was instantly transported to Clearwater Beach, where the weather was balmy and the beach was getting busy. A female Loggerhead sea turtle was heading back to the sea, but her nest was in trouble. Enter Bella and Britt, and the girls and I were off and running.
And there’s that strange thing, inspiration, at work again. Sea Turtle Summer, I know, was a combination of my many early walks on Clearwater Beach, all the conversations about the plight of sea turtles and time on my hands that morning.
Bella and Britt have tales to tell, cautionary tales. We hope their stories stay fresh and are varied enough to be heartwarming and—here’s that word again—inspirational. We are all grateful that so many people are paying attention. The girls lead by example.
Nancy is the bestselling and award winning author of the four Bella and Britt Series books for children: One Pelican at a Time (eighteen weeks on Amazon Bestselling List), Sea Turtle Summer, (which won the Children’s Literary Classic Gold Award), Bella Saves the Beach (which won the Gold) and Mystery at Manatee Key. The authorized biography, Katrina and Winter: Partners in Courage, is the story of Katrina Simpkins and Winter, the dolphin. One Pelican at a Time and Nancy were featured in the PBS Tampa special, GulfWatch. All are published by Guardian Angel Publishing.
Nancy is a frequent speaker and presenter at writer’s conferences throughout the United States. She conducts workshops and seminars and speaks to school children on writing and helping save their planet. A blogger with a worldwide audience, she writes of all things pertaining to children’s literature.
Nancy’s travels take her extensively throughout the world, most particularly Africa. She is US chair of a charity in Lamu, Kenya, that places girls in intermediate schools to allow them to further their education. She and her husband live in Tampa and St. Louis.
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