Born and raised in Hawaii, with a few years in California sandwiched in between, Anne Bustard moved to Texas to attend college and stayed. A former elementary school teacher and then bookseller, she co-owned Toad Hall Children's Bookstore in Austin, Texas. Her innovative summer writing program for children earned her the Lucile Micheels Pannell Award.
After selling her interest in the bookstore, Anne began teaching in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin. There she received a Texas Excellence Teaching Award for her work.
Anne's first children's book, T IS FOR TEXAS (Voyageur Press) has been a popular seller. She has also written numerous articles for the MAILBOX MAGAZINE group featuring classroom connections to children's literature.
BUDDY: THE STORY OF BUDDY HOLLY (A Paula Wiseman Book/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) is her most recent publication.
Anne presents at local, state and national conferences.
Today, Anne Bustard lives and writes in Austin, Texas.
She couldn't wait to start first grade at Montclair Elementary in Oakland, California, because she knew it was there that she would learn how to read. Imagine how surprised Anne was on her first day of school when she discovered it would take more than one day.
In fifth grade, her teacher, Mrs. Crowe, who was also the school librarian, read novels aloud to the class every day. And she encouraged her class to read as many books as they could. That's where Anne discovered THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett, THE ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Scott O'Dell, and MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN by Jean Craighead George.
Right before sixth grade, Anne and her parents moved back to Hawaii and the Kailua Public Library was where she found great books. And not too far away, was Mrs. Beamer's hula studio, where Anne and her friends took hula lessons for the next seven years.
In a seventh grade English class, Anne wrote a story and shared it with others for the first time. It was a mystery. The butler did it.
Most of Anne's writing during high school was school-related, but she did pen a lot of bad poems in her spare time.
At college, first at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and then at the University of Texas at Austin, Anne studied to become a teacher. Children's Literature was her favorite course. After graduating she taught fourth grade and then reading instruction to second through fifth graders. She read aloud to her students every day.
Then Anne went back to school to earn a library degree and began working in a children's-only bookstore called Toad Hall. As soon as she graduated, she became a co-owner of the store. Besides recommending terrific books to customers, her favorite job was reading new ones.
Anne had always wanted to write books for children. It was at the bookstore that she got the idea for T IS FOR TEXAS. After many revisions, and many rejections, her alphabet book was published.
While managing the bookstore, Anne went back to school. Again. This time she worked on a PhD in language and literacy studies. And when she graduated, she sold her interest in the bookstore and began teaching wannabe teachers. And writing more for children. BUDDY: THE STORY OF BUDDY HOLLY is her latest publication.
Reading is still a big part of Anne's life. She loves children's books most of all. Even her cat Alexander comes from literary stock. Since his mother was named Fern, after the girl in CHARLOTTE'S WEB, Anne wanted to give him a bookish name, too. She called him Alexander, Al for short, after the character in Judith Viorst's ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY. Anne's talented cat has turned on the garbage disposal, jumped through an unopened window (unharmed), and scratched lots of furniture.
This interview about the writing of BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY was conducted by Cynthia Leitich Smith and is reprinted here by permission.
What was your inspiration for creating this book?
On a road trip in 1990, I ate lunch in Lubbock, Texas, Buddy Holly's hometown. It was my first visit. Afterwards, my friends and I wandered through a museum on the campus of Texas Tech University. There was a display of Holly memorabilia. I remember a guitar, a pair of thick black glasses.
I'd always loved Buddy Holly's music, but I knew little about his life. In the coming years, that changed. I saw BUDDY, THE MUSICAL on stage. I heard Buddy Holly's band, The Crickets, perform live on AUSTIN CITY LIMITS. I watched a PBS tribute. I learned that Buddy Holly dreamed big. And never gave up.
During one school year I traveled to Lubbock on business at least twice a month. After I finished work each day, I played tourist. I cruised by the Hi-D-Ho Drive Inn, where Buddy Holly and his friends once sang on the roof. I visited his high school campus where he performed in the choir, drove through streets he'd played on, and I walked along a bank where he might have gone fishing. I didn't know it at the time, but I was doing primary research.
Buddy Holly was my inspiration. His music. His life.
What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?
The aha!-I want to write about Buddy Holly happened in 1996. BUDDY: THE STORY OF BUDDY HOLLY was published in 2005. That's nine years. And if you count the ones spent marinating, it's fifteen.
The first draft that I showed my critique group in the summer of 1996 was modeled after my favorite picture book biography, FLIGHT:THE JOURNEY OF CHARLES LINDBERGH by Robert Burleigh, edited by Paula Wiseman, at Philomel Books. I remember sitting at a picnic table in the town square of Round Top, Texas, (an hour or so from my home in Austin) after eating a scrumptious meal at Royer's Cafe (along with a piece of one of their famous homemade pies, of course), reading my manuscript. When I finished there was silence. Then one member said, “Your author's note is interesting. That's where the story is.”
It was an important lesson. I had to be faithful to my voice, my style, not Burleigh's. As a beginning writer, I wasn't sure what my voice and style even were, or how to find them, but I knew that would be part of my journey.
A year and a half later I took two pages, all I had rewritten at that point, to a writer's retreat where I got invaluable feedback from a real live editor. Ten months after that, December 1998, I had a manuscript I thought I could send to publishing companies. My critique group cheered me on. I tiptoed into the submission process. I sent BUDDY to one editor at a time, waited for a response, received a rejection letter which almost always said children wouldn't be interested, felt sorry for myself for a day or a week or a month or two, and then sent BUDDY to another editor.
Then came September 2001. I mailed the manuscript to NYC and marked the likely arrival date on my calendar. 9/11. I can't begin to imagine what that day was like for the editor and others in the city. It was horrific enough from over 1000 miles away. When four months passed and I hadn't heard anything, I wrote to follow up. In January 2002 my self-addressed stamped postcard returned. The editor checked the box that indicated she had not received the manuscript. And she wrote: “I love Buddy Holly.”
I had hope.
The editor? Paula Wiseman. Yes, the one who edited my favorite book. Why didn't I send it to her earlier? I don't know. She'd been reading my work for at least six or seven years. It just wasn't time. Until then.
Over the next year, we worked on the manuscript. It went through four revisions. Paula helped me find my voice. My style. I'll never forget the time I e-mailed her in full panic mode. She wrote back one word: “Courage.” It was not the response I expected, but I loved it…and I figured out what to do.
The offer to publish came next and by then Paula had her own imprint, Paula Wiseman Books at Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. I found a fantastic agent and signed the contract in early 2003.
That spring Kurt Cyrus, illustrator extraordinaire, accepted the project. Yeah. I was a huge fan of SIXTEEN COWS.
I thought my part was done. Silly me. Starting up again in the fall of 2003 Paula and I tweaked the text even more and worked on the afterword until the book went to press.
I held a finished copy of the book in my hand a month and a half before its bookstore debut February 1, 2005. Kurt's artwork was incredible. He captured the times, the tone, and Buddy Holly himself. I put on a Holly CD and danced.
What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?
As you might have guessed, I'm not a fast writer. And because there were time gaps (sometimes years, and later months) between my drafts, the manuscript and my research would get cold. As excited as I'd be to dive back in, it was often troublesome to do so until I figured out the key — music.
I'd sit in my overstuffed green chair and listen to Buddy Holly's music and to those who influenced him-Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, Hank Williams, and Elvis Presley. Next, I'd review my notes, or rewatch the PBS tribute, or a performance on the Ed Sullivan TV Show, reread sources, or find new ones, tackle research questions, or brainstorm. One time, I knew I had to go back to Lubbock before I could make progress.
Along the way, it wasn't just Buddy Holly's life that I researched. I needed to know more about rock 'n' roll music, which meant I had to make a trip to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Right? And sit in the Music Library at the University of Texas at Austin and read back issues of BILLBOARD MAGAZINE. And find out things like, what words and phrases were popular with teenagers in the 1950s? While I am not a practicing librarian (I teach wannabe teachers), I do have a library degree and think research is oh so fun.
I wasn't sure how much of Buddy's story to tell in the narrative. While my early drafts encompassed his life from birth to death, my editor suggested exploring other possibilities. I was open to that, kind of.
Since I started the project, The Buddy Holly Center opened in Lubbock. It's an amazing museum that also hosts exhibits for artists, outreach programs, and more. What a gift to the community, to the world. It was there that I interviewed Holly expert Bill Griggs.
The Holly artifacts I'd seen years before were moved to this location, and thanks to generous donations, the collection had been greatly expanded. However, there was only one small display about Buddy Holly's tragic death. At first I was puzzled. Then it made perfect sense. The museum was a celebration of his life. And that's when I knew I wanted my book to be about that, too. His death was mentioned in my afterword but the narrative ends when Buddy Holly realized his dreams were coming true.
There is more to Buddy Holly than can ever be put between the covers of any book. He was a remarkable son, brother, friend, husband and musician. We are still blessed by his life and music.
In BUDDY THE BIOGRAPHY, author Philip Norman quotes Holly expert Bill Griggs, “Whenever you mention his name, it always gets the same reaction. Everybody smiles.”
That's what I hope happens every time someone reads my book.
Reprinted by permission Copyright Cynthia Leitich Smith, 2005 http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com