Family and Family Heritage Inspire Writing

by Lorna Kerin Beall
Who would think that a little girl raised in a tiny farm house with only two books to her name, (“Heidi” and “Cherry Ames, Student Nurse”) would develop a life long love of reading and writing. I have been writing for over 50 years, publishing articles and short story manuscripts in magazines such as Guideposts. One was reprinted in a Hallmark book. These minor early successes encouraged me to persevere and develop my distinctive voice. During this time I was also progressing to children’s picture book manuscripts. Having raised six children and taught Sunday school for disabled children, I saw a need for more books that dealt with children's issues. So I wrote books that centered both on light-hearted issues, such as discovering the simple treasures in life, and more serious issues such as child abuse. Wanting to communicate to children, I volunteered to read my picture books in my own children’s classrooms. It meant so much when I saw the flicker in the kids’ eyes.

About 20 years ago, I attended my first SCBWI conference. Seeing all those people writing children's books opened up a whole new world to me. Since then I’ve completed quite a body of work, writing both picture books and children’s novel manuscripts. My middle-grade novel, “Model T Biscuits” is very dear to my heart because it is inspired by my experience of being reunited with my mother in 1948 after being raised for my first six years by my Finnish Mumu (Grandmother.) This became a family project when my oldest daughter, Jana Segal, worked with me on the screenplay adaptation further carrying on our family heritage. Our script won first place in the Santa Clarita International Film Festival as well as the Moondance International Film Festival short screenplay contests.

Some years back, I attended a family reunion in South Dakota and heard stories of how my Finnish grandparents survived the harsh prairie winters in their homestead shack. They really had what we Finns call sisu or guts and determination. These family stories inspired my historical fiction, middle-grade novel, “Wormy Bean Winter.” This past year, I was honored with a Missouri SCBWI mentorship to work on “Wormy Bean Winter” with children’s author, Leslie J. Wyatt. That experience was incredibly rewarding, and I know that my manuscript is much stronger thanks to Leslie.

I am grateful for my small town upbringing in Buffalo, South Dakota and Prosser, Washington that taught me the value of family and heritage that influences my writing today.