Kitty Griffin

The Beautiful Part of Writing

The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.
Robert Cormier

My dog, Coriander is a reading therapy dog. A gentle, loving dog, she pays attention to this young reader by being patient.

Kids + dogs = happiness. At the end of last year I asked one of the first graders we'd worked with what her favorite thing about school was. "Why Wednesdays, of course," she answered. "Why?" She looked at me and shook her head, "Cause the dogs come on Wednesdays." Volunteering can be a chore, but it's also a joy. Watching as these children improved their reading skill was such a joy.

"The Ride: The Legend of Betsy Dowdy"
This photograph is taken from a magazine called "The American Girl" and as you can see, it says July, 1938. There is a wonderful story in this issue about Betsy Dowdy. Do you see they have her in a skirt riding side-saddle? My friends who ride horses say this couldn't be possible. She would've drown had she worn a skirt. And riding side-saddle for fifty miles also would've been very difficult. What do you think?

Sometimes stories start in the quietest of places.
That's what happened with Betsy.
We decided to take a family vacation on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. While there I did what I always do, find a local bookstore. I picked up a couple books on the history and biology of the region, and I also found a book of North Carolina legends. Tucked away on just two pages I found the story of Betsy Dowdy. How surprised I was to find this story of this brave girl. As a history teacher I was delighted. YAY! A story about a girl being a hero during the American Revolution. Someone other than The Founding Fathers! (Not that I don't admire them).
There were two middle-grade fiction books that had been done, but no picture books.
I just knew this had the potential to be a wonderful picture book.
When Marjorie Priceman's illustrations were sent to me, I knew it'd all come together.

Writers are curious people. If we come across a stone we wonder, how did that stone get here? And what might be under it? How heavy is it?

Writers are full of questions. Sometimes we find answers. Sometimes we make up the answers. But it always starts with a question.
Who. What. When. Where. Why.

If you want to find out more about Betsy, there is a book written in 1960 by Nell Wise Wechter called "Betsy Dowdy's Ride".
An interesting map of North Carolina can be found here:

Remember, the story of Betsy Dowdy is a legend. I searched for four years trying to find something that proved she lived. So have many other people. But her story has been told for over two hundred years and that is certainly something special.

Here is the Bibliography, all the sources I used to write Betsy

Works Cited

Butchko, Thomas. Personal interview, Museum of the Albemarle archivist. 12
November, 2004.

Credle, Ellis. “Betsy Dowdy’s Ride.” American Girl. July, 1938, 5-50.

Creecy, Richard Benbury. “Betsy Dowdy’s Ride,” Grandfather’s Tales of North
Carolina History, Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton, 1901.

Franza, Peter. “The Battle of Great Bridge.” 7 October, 1998. City of Chesapeake.
18 November, 2004.

Guy, Louis L., Jr. “Norfolk’s Worst Nightmare.” Spring/​Summer 2001. Norfolk
Historical Society. 18 November, 2004.

Hawke, David Freeman. Everyday life in Early America. New York: Harper & Row,

Langdon, William Chauncy. Everyday things in American Life 1607-1776. New
York: Scribner and Sons, 1937.

Lefler, Hugh Talmage, ed., North Carolina History Told by Contemporaries.
Chapel Hill: the University of North Carolina Press, 1934.

Lippson, Alice Jane & Robert. L, Life in the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Mosely, Edward. “A New and Correct Map of the province of North Carolina.”
1733. Provided by Christine A. Dumoulin, Assistant Curator, Outer Banks History

Powell, William, Ed. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. Chapel Hill: The
University of North Carolina Press. 1979.

Revolutionary War Battles, “The Battle for Great Bridge.” 19 November, 2004.

Schaw, Janet. Journal of a Lady of Quality. Edited by Evangeline Walker Andres
in collaboration with Charles McLean Andres. New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1921.

Spaeth, Shirley. Personal interview, N.C. historian. 12 November, 2004.

Speare, Elizabeth George. Life in Colonial America. New York: Random House,

Stick, David. The Outer Banks of North Carolina 1584-1958. Chapel Hill: The
University of North Carolina Press, 1958.

Vann More, Elizabeth. Personal interview with Skinner descendent. 18 November,

Wechter, Nell Wise. Betsy Dowdy’s Ride. Winston-Salem: John F. Blair, 1960.

How do you know if what you've found is a good story?

If the character stays with you.

Sometimes, I think, wow, this would make a great story. But what I've found isn't a story, it's an incident.

so how do I sort through? My imagination is a stove top. There are two burners on the front row. Each of those is a work-in-progress. If I come across an interesting idea it gets put into a pot and put on a back burner. But the lid is on. I'm allowed to take off the lid and give things a stir, but I have to focus on my two front burners.

This is a quote from Dr. Archie Carr. He is to the oceans what Rachel Carson was to land. I'm working on a picture book

Selected Works

A vibrant award-winning picture book
Revolution! Such a big word. What can one girl do? She can't stop the King. She can't fight as a soldier. She can RIDE!
A middle-grade adventure story for girls ages eight and up.
What if your ancestor was the man who stopped the American Revolution? What if his actions meant that the Royal Families united, not the colonies? Princess Emerald thought she knew her destiny. That was, until her own anger landed her at Teakettles Castle, a place where young Royals are sent to either change or disappear.
A middle-grade fantasy, 413 pages
Your brother forgives everyone, even Papa who left you in the woods to die, you forgive no one, not even yourself.
contemporary fantasy/supernatural YA
What happens when you find yourself at St. Peter's Fresh Air Institute
Set in 1952 with flying saucers
Middle-grade novel 160 pages
A starred review from "Publisher's Weekly" A glowing review from "School Library Journal" and a Junior Library Guild Selection

Clementine Sweet is on the loose! Kirkus, "..young readers will simply read a tale that will make them smile." Booklist, "Children looking for a heroine who takes matters into her own hands--make that feet, too--will find her here." SLJ, "Used as an introduction to the tale-tale genre or for just plain fun, this will be an enegetic addition to storytimes." Selected by the Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College as one of the best books of the year. (2005)

Yee Haw!

Cowboy Sam
Starred Review in Publisher's Weekly
*"Caballero wannabes will get a bigger-than-Texas bang out of Griffin & Comb's slangy, twangy debut...Rootin'-tootin' boot-scootin' fun, beginning to end."