A Lynnfield children's author has found a unique niche in her industry, creating non-fiction books for young readers about various times in history.
Carlyn Beccia, who currently resides in Lynnfield and who is an LHS (and UMass Amherst) graduate, has published three books, just finished a fourth, and is in the early stages of a fifth book project where she will be the illustrator.
Before she became an author, Beccia had a job in the corporate world. "I just got sick of the whole 9 to 5 thing. I wasn't cut out for it," she said.
The Lynnfield resident went on to begin her career in a way that not many other writers can boast of – her first manuscript was selected from a "slush pile," where prospective writers send unsolicited materials to a publisher. Only about 1 percent of writers get somewhere with this method, noted Beccia.
At first, Beccia had been seeking work as an illustrator, but her editor at Houghton Mifflin suggested the vintage circus images would do well as an actual book. At this point, Beccia considered herself far more of an illustrator than a writer.
Beccia's first book was "Who Put The 'B' In The Ballyhoo?" which is a story about life in the circus during the early 1900s. This book, published in 2007, was inspired by old circus posters, and also in part by Beccia's grandfather, who was a typesetter.
A year later, Beccia published "The Raucous Royals," which focuses on some of the rumors, both true and false, that have surrounded various royals over the years – from the six fingers that Anne Boleyn allegedly had on one hand to the possibility that King George III enjoyed talking to trees.
"Right now my focus is purely nonfiction," said Beccia, acknowledging that she may have been "born in the wrong century" given her overall love for history – especially the medieval and Renaissance eras.
In 2010, Beccia's third book, "I Feel Better With A Frog In My Throat," was published. This book takes young readers on a journey through some of the wacky folk cures that people used centuries ago – such putting a frog in one's throat or drinking a glass of millipedes. She reports that it takes about two years to write and illustrate one of her books. "It's not a field you go into to get rich," she added.
For her fourth book, Beccia has written a renaissance-era biography for young readers, while in the fifth book she plans to illustrate the story of a Civil War nurse.
Along with her books, readers can also check out Beccia's history and painting blogs on her website – although now that she has two children she is unable to update them as often as she did in the past.
Beccia also visits several schools each year on the North Shore to talk to students about her work and about history - although she has yet to do so in a Lynnfield school.
The author explained that her work is geared toward "reluctant readers," and notes that young readers, especially boys, enjoy non-fiction far more than some people may expect.
"Boys love nonfiction and I think parents are scared to put nonfiction in front of them because there's no monsters or superheroes," said Beccia. "You would be surprised how many kids love nonfiction."
For more about Carlyn Beccia and her work, visit her website here.