Each day leading up to the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony, we’ll be featuring an exclusive interview with one of our 36 finalists. Learn more about these incredible local writers and gear up to see the winners announced live in person April 6.
Interview with Elizabeth Verdick, author of Small Walt and Mo the Tow
Category: Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books for Africa
How does if feel to be a Minnesota Book Award finalist?
I feel excited and grateful! This is my second time as a Minnesota Book Award Finalist (my other book was Peep Leap). It’s special to be honored for Small Walt and Mo the Tow because the book was inspired by tough Minnesota winters and all the folks who work so hard to keep us safe on snowy, icy roads.
Tell us something about your finalist book that you want readers to know.
This book is a follow-up to Small Walt, which came out in 2017, a story about a small snowplow facing a big winter storm, with determination and pluck. In the newest story, Small Walt needs help from a friend–and along comes Mo the Tow, driven by a lady in blue, named Sue. Together, this crew saves the day–the cold, wintry day.
Let us know a little bit about your writing life. What brought you to a writing career and how did you become a published author?
I was an editor before turning to writing, and I’ve always loved children’s books most of all. I feel like I have the best job in the world–in the best place in the world! I love Minnesota’s children’s-literature community. I went back to school in my forties to get my MFA from Hamline. I had concentrated on nonfiction writing before that, but turned to fiction after receiving my degree.
Minnesota is often ranked highly as a state that values literature and reading. In your experience, what is it about our state that makes it such a welcoming place for writers and book creators?
Minnesota has a community of brilliant, generous writers and illustrators who truly value creating great books for kids. I’ve worked in book publishing in Minnesota and at a local children’s bookstore. I’ve attended classes and conferences at the Loft Literary Center and the U of M. I’ve marveled at the Kerlan collection. It’s amazing how many resources we have here for writers and readers! The support is wonderful and I can’t imagine living and working anywhere else.
What is something you are good at that few people know about?
I have a knack for finding animals that are lost, injured, or abandoned. I think it’s just because I’m a true animal lover and tend to stop if I hear or see an animal or bird in need, and I believe in second chances.
What do you love about libraries?
The rows and rows of books, the astute librarians, the kids’ section, the low hum of activity, storytimes, community engagement, the smell of books–what’s not to love about the library!?
Elizabeth Verdick has been writing books for children for the past twenty years. She writes a mix of nonfiction and fiction for all ages–babies to teens. Her picture book Small Walt and Mo the Tow is the follow-up to Small Walt, a story about the littlest snowplow in the fleet facing a big snowstorm. Her snowplow stories were inspired by hardy Minnesotans, northern winters, and snowplow drivers who “clear the snow so the cars can go.” She received her MFA from Hamline University in St. Paul and lives in a nearby suburb with her family and pets.