Somervill, Barbara A(nn) 1948-
SOMERVILL, Barbara A(nn) 1948-
PERSONAL: Born July 28, 1948, in New Rochelle, NY; daughter of Harold P. (a plumbing and heating contractor) and Hope (a secretary and bookkeeper; maiden name, Hayden) Klesius; married Michael O. McWilliams, June 10, 1972 (divorced, July 10, 1986); married Charles F. Somervill (a chemist), June 30, 1990; children: Scott, Matthew (first marriage); Seth, Taylor (second marriage). Education: St. Lawrence University, B.A. (English), 1970. Religion: Episcopalian. Hobbies and other interests: Bridge, needlework, reading, theater.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Morgan Reynolds, 620 South Elm St., Ste. 223, Greensboro, NC 27406. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Author, editor, and video scriptwriter. Karastan/Bigelow, Greenville, SC, public relations manager, 1986-88; PYA/Monarch, Greenville, SC, editor of trade publication, 1988-94; Somervill, Inc. (advertising agency), Simpsonville, SC, president, 1994—.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, NAFE.
The Best Guide to Success: How to Get Ahead in YourCareer, Renaissance Books (Los Angeles, CA), 1999.
Historical Case Studies: The Great Migration (text and teacher's guide), Globe Fearon Educational (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 2000.
(With Lewis Parker) Survival Guide for ComputerLiteracy: Making Your Way in the World of Computers (text and teacher's guide), Globe Fearon Educational (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 2000.
Pacemaker United States History: Critical ThinkingExercises (workbook and teachers' guide), Pearson Educational (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 2001.
Ida M. Tarbell: Pioneer Investigative Reporter, Morgan Reynolds (Greensboro, NC), 2002.
Franklin Pierce, Compass Point Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.
Votes for Women!: The Story of Carrie Chapman Catt, Morgan Reynolds (Greensboro, NC), 2003.
Enchantment of the World: Iceland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Andrew Jackson, Compass Point Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2003.
James K. Polk, Compass Point Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2003.
Backstage at a Newscast, Children's Press (Danbury, CT), 2003.
Scott O'Grady: Behind Enemy Lines, Children's Press (Danbury, CT), 2003.
Wolverines, Child's World (Chanhassen, MN), 2003.
Australia, Child's World (Chanhassen, MN), 2004.
Mary McLeod Bethune: African-American Educator, Child's World (Chanhassen, MN), 2004.
Also author of student work books.
"sea to shining sea" series
Florida, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Alaska, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Maryland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Pennsylvania, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
West Virginia, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Mississippi, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
"spirit of america" series
Massachusetts, Child's World (Chanhassen, MN), 2003.
New York, Child's World (Chanhassen, MN), 2003.
The Rhode Island Colony, Child's World (Chanhassen, MN), 2003.
ADAPTATIONS: The Best Guide to Success was adapted as an audiobook, Renaissance Books (Los Angeles, CA), 1999.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Warren G. Harding, Compass Point Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2004; "Our Living World" series, Traditions Publishing, 2004; Biography of a Biome: Praries and Biography of a Biome: The Sahara, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2004; Mary McLeod Bethune, Australia, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, Child's World (New York, NY), 2004; Scott O'Grady: Behind Enemy Lines, Rosen (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Barbara A. Somervill worked for many years in the business world, using her writing talent to promote businesses through company publications and other forms of advertising. In 2000, she began a second career as the author of children's nonfiction books, researching and organizing a multitude of facts into easily accessible formats for students. Among her many titles are biographical accounts of several U.S. presidents and noted late-nineteenth-century figures of history. Ida M. Tarbell: Pioneer Investigative Reporter follows the career of the muckraking journalist from her youth in west Pennsylvania oil country to her work as a biographer and her well-known 1904 exposé on millionaire John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company. The life of a noted early feminist is recounted in Somervill's Votes for Women!: The Life of Carrie Chapman Catt, which discusses Catt's work as a prominent prohibitionist and vocal advocate of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guaranteed women the right to vote.
Somervill credits being laid off from an editorial staff job as "the best thing that ever happened to my writing career. . . . My severance pay funded eleven months of freedom, during which I started my freelance writing company. I've never looked back. I've never been happier."
Since beginning her career, Sovervill has admittedly "written some strange stuff: a brochure about caskets, a video script about a hospital bed with a potty in it, a safety script about laying asphalt, and a dozen scripts about tires. I've even written a magazine article about cowboy hats and how they're made. I've written about states and presidents, the environment, and a couple of gutsy ladies from the 1900s.
"If anyone had told me ten years ago that I would end up writing children's nonfiction books—and loving it—I wouldn't have believed it. I have a strong business background and figured that was the direction I'd head.
"The best part of my job is talking to professionals from all over the world about what they do. I've interviewed salmon experts, walrus commissioners, condor savers, and some delightful Icelandic citizens. In writing about states, I've heard from residents of Florida, Illinois, Alaska, and Pennsylvania. Hopefully, I was able to convey their pride in their culture."
Somervill's advice to budding writers: "Read, read, read. I'm never without a book—even when I go out to dinner or to a movie. There's always time to finish a page or start a new chapter. I generally have favorite authors rather than favorite books. I've read everything written by Jane Austen, Ken Follett, Jack Higgins, Maeve Binchy, and Elizabeth Peters. Yes, they are VERY different authors—but who wants to read the same thing all the time?
"Among children's books, I love Ellen Tebbits, The Wind in the Willows, Bunnicula, and Charlotte's Web. The Midwife's Apprentice really impressed me as a children's book with a mature approach to a difficult topic. Future writers—don't discount children's authors as poor or weak writers. They're not! It is much harder to write well using a third-grader's vocabulary than it is to babble on and on for adults.
"Every published author provides writing lessons for his or her readers. Look for the 'golden moments' in every writer's work. A careful eye will uncover a brilliantly written phrase, a superb description, or something emotionally moving. I discovered my first golden reading moment when I was seven, reading Charlotte's Web: 'She [Charlotte] was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.'"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 2000, Nancy Spillman, review of The Best Guide to Success: How to Get Ahead in Your Career, p. 1396; March 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Ida M. Tarbell: Pioneer Investigative Reporter, p. 1145; November 15, 2002, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Votes for Women!: The Story of Carrie Chapman Catt, p. 599.
Children's Bookwatch, January, 2003, review of Votes for Women!: The Story of Carrie Chapman Catt, p. 4.
School Library Journal, June, 2002, Carol Fazioli, review of Ida M. Tarbell, p. 169; January, 2003, Lisa Dennis, review of Votes for Women!, p. 171.