Growing up in the tiny Franklin County community of Ewing, Andrea Beaty never dreamed of landing a book on the New York Times best-seller list, but that’s exactly where her latest effort ended up last year.
“Rosie Revere, Engineer,” written by Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, spent about five weeks on the prestigious NYT list during the fall. The tale of a young girl’s quest to become an engineer was also recognized on a number of “Best of” lists of children’s books published last year.
The book was only one of several successes for Beaty, who studied biology and computer science at Rend Lake College and SIU after her graduation from Benton high school.
She was recently named the Illinois Reading Council’s Prairie State award winner for 2014 and her 11 books have earned awards and accolades from reviewers and the publishing industry.
“I never had a clue I wanted to be a writer. As a child I wanted to be a detective or a spy; later I wanted to be a scientist,” she said.
After graduating from SIU, she worked in tech support for a St. Louis software company and then as a technical writer, “which was really boring but great training for writing for children,” she said. “I learned how to be a strong self-editor. As a children’s author, you have to be brutal about taking out what you don’t need. Kids are busy; they don’t have time to wade through a lot of nonsense.”
After moving to the Chicago area in the early ‘90s, she took a break from work to raise her two children — and discovered a passion for writing children’s books.
Her first book was published in 2006; 10 others were published in the years that followed.
“It’s been a crazy ride ever since,” she said with laugh.
The ride has taken her to places she never anticipated, including book fairs, festivals and signings all over the country; the National Press Club; and a literacy fundraiser where she had lunch with former First Lady Barbara Bush.
The journey has also taken her far from her roots in Southern Illinois, where she grew up in a family of six children in rural Ewing. She drew on her childhood for her book “Secrets of the Cicada Summer.”
“The whole book is very autobiographical except for the parts I made up,” she joked. “But the setting, time and place and the way my imagination evolved being raised in a small town very much informed my writing. Ewing is a great place with good people.”
She also credits the Benton Public Library for inspiring her love of books.
Beaty has a new book coming out in the fall and another in late fall or early spring but she likely will not stop with their publications.
“My brain is crowded with ideas screaming to get out,” she said.
On Twitter: @beckymalkovich