Peace Corps Writers
Talking with . . .
. . . Poets
 


Stephanie’s website

The full list of Stephanie's books

An interview by John Coyne
STEPHANIE STUVE-BODEEN (Tanzania 1989–90) met a young girl who proved to be the inspiration for her first picture book Elizabeti’sPrinter friendly version Doll, which has received many national honors. Stephanie lives with her husband, Tim Bodeen (Tanzania 1989–90), and their two daughters in Indiana, where she is beginning work on an MFA, as well as awaiting the release of her third Elizabeti book, Elizabeti’s School, in the fall of 2002. We interviewed Stephanie by email to see how she became an author of children’s books.
   
  Where were you a Volunteer, when, and what was your assignment area?
    I was a PCV in Tanzania in 1989 and 1990. The ministry didn’t want our group there, so our work permits were repeatedly shelved until our visas ran out and 35 of us were illegal aliens for 5 months! We planned to have t-shirts made: Peace Corps — the toughest job you’ll never have. I was married, so my husband had aquaculture training and I was supposed to look for a job on my own. We lived on the grounds of a secondary school, and every day I asked the headmaster about a teaching job. Every day he would say he was waiting for the paperwork from the capital city. After six months, my Peace Corps boss found out no paperwork was ever sent! Meanwhile, I organized a library and helped with teacher training at a junior college.
  Describe how you decided you wanted to be a writer. Have you only written children’s books?
  I always wanted to be a writer. The issue of trying to get published entered my mind during my fifth year of being a stay-at-home mom, when I realized I could probably write better stories than some of those we were bringing home from the library. I have written an adult novel, but so far only my children’s books have been published.
  How did you get the idea for this series?
  I got the idea for Elizabeti’s Doll from the week I stayed with a village family. I was in a mud hut with rats under my bed at night — the real village experience. I spent my days with the family’s six kids and their entourage, who were extremely imaginative when it came to creating toys. Years later, we were at dinner with RPCVs and one mentioned a girl in her village with a rock for a doll. I remembered the same, and wrote the story at 3 a.m. the next day.
  Tell the steps you took, from the writing Elizabeti’s Doll, to sending it to an agent, to getting it to a publisher, etc.
  When I wrote Elizabeti’s Doll, I sent it to one HUGE publisher. Within a few weeks, I received a personal letter from the editor-in-chief, saying she was intrigued by the idea, but would like to see the story developed more. I revised the story and sent it back. I waited an entire year (still have never heard back!) before sending it to another publisher, who acquired the story two months later.
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