Looking to make a big change with the youngest of readers, online social science adjunct Betsy Fecto recently authored her first children’s picture, Shish…The Brave Little Starfish. Using her knack for storytelling and passion for environmental awareness, Fecto focused her first book on climate change and its effect on the oceans.
Saint Joseph’s Marketing & Communications intern Stefanie Martel ’15 caught up with Fecto to learn more about the book’s inspiration.
Stefanie Martel: What did you have to consider craft such a large, scientific, multi-faceted concept into a story for children?
Betsy Fecto: This was a huge endeavor! I wanted the book to be fun for children, but I also wanted it to carry an important message regarding climate change and the future of our oceans. It was a challenge balancing children’s prose with scientific fact. I read several children’s authors books in preparation for writing, and I did a lot of research regarding climate change, ocean dumping, pollution, sustainability, and global warming.
SM: Why did you write about climate change?
BF: I wrote about climate change because it is one of the biggest challenges ever to face the Earth. Climate change is not about “them.” It is about us. It is not about the future. It is about now. The world as we know it is changing. Just like in Shish…The Brave Little Starfish, “the signs are everywhere”; we just need to acknowledge the situation and act accordingly.
SM: Did you always want to write a children’s book?
BF: This is my first children’s book. Other than a photographic history that I compiled in 1996, my writing has been fairly limited to academics, poetry, and simple tales that I often just wrote in my head and told the children in my life.
While growing up, I would write for my little sister. As a mother, I wrote for my daughter, Sarah. Now, I write for my granddaughter, Autumn, and the rest of the world.
Shish is the culmination of a short story I wrote back in the 1990s called Chuck…The Brave Little Starfish. The main character was male. A product of his times, Chuck wore a Mohawk. This time, Shish is a female starfish. I wanted a female hero. But as it turns out, all of the characters in the book are heroes. I encourage children and adults who read Shish…The Brave Little Starfish to become heroes as well.
SM: College professor, children’s book author. Do you have any other passions that define you as a professional?
BF: I have a passion for all forms of expression. I illustrated Shish, and it was great fun to develop their physical characters. But I do not consider myself an artist. I have had no artistic training.
(The process) is fun and it challenges you; it becomes a passion.
SM: Do you have any advice for people who have a passion, a calling, which does not fit into their 9–5 lives?
BF: Absolutely. Go for it! Do not ignore your passions. Life is too short not to follow them.
Writing is difficult to schedule; it’s something you do when you are inspired, and I find that happening routinely between 2 and 4 a.m., when there are few demands on my time. I am sure others can relate to that—a thought or image enters your mind and you just have to go with it. It may be gone by morning.
SM: What are your future publications plans for this book or others?
BF: I would love to see Shish find its way into children’s education. It is so important that our children tune into their world, and reading is such a wonderful way to do that. Occasionally, I let my imagination run wild and dream I awaken one day to find a generous contract from Scholastic in my mailbox. It is every writer’s dream, I think, to get their work into as many hands as possible.
Betsy Fecto can be reached through the Official Facebook page for Shish, and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Put Shish…The Brave Little Starfish in the subject of the email and she will respond accordingly. Autographed copies are available if the author is contacted directly. Shish is available through designated booksellers: Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Xlibris books.