Darwin McBeth Walton
Jan Spivey Gilchris
Glennette Tiley Turner


Darwin McBeth Walton



Darwin McBeth Walton is the author of Dance, Kayla! and over 30 other books. She started writing seriously while she was teaching. Ms. McBeth Walton wrote What Color Are You?, one of the first books with children of color in it. "Dance Kayla!" she states, "is a little bit autobiographical. I took a bit about myself, my life, stretched it out and mad it exciting."



Ms. McBeth Walton was born and raised in Charlotte, South Carolina and spent summers at her grandfather's farm in S.C. She studied music and dance at J.C. Smith and Howard Universities before moving to Chicago. She graduated from the Chicago Conservatory of Music and after a short career in music performance, started teaching. In addition to writing, Ms. McBeth Walton supervises student teachers at National Lewis University. She resides in Lombard, Illinois with her husband, Claude.

The questions and answers in Darwin McBeth Walton's interview were excerpted from various interviews conducted by student participants in the Open Book Program.


Question: How did you feel when you wrote Dance Kayla!
Answer: I had different kinds of feeling. When you write a book, you don't know what's going to happen all the time. You decide what you're going to write about and then it changes paces; it changes places. Sometimes I was sad and sometimes I was happy. There were some sad things that happened in Dance Kayla! You really had to imagine the sad things.

Question: Why did you write Dance Kayla!
Answer: I had written a boy's book. The only thing I could do after that, was write a girl's book. So, I talked to an editor and she said 'If you wrote a book about a girl, I would buy it.'

Question: Where did you get your ideas?
Answer: Ideas come from all different places. You write about what you know. Then you take it from there and imagine it the way that you'd like to be... all the things that I have been and all the places that I have visited are part of the ideas that come to me when I'm writing a book.

Question: How many books have you written?
Answer: Oh, maybe, 30, 40.

Question: Did someone help you with Dance Kayla!
Answer: Oh, yes. Lot's of people helped. I called my uncle in South Carolina who's a veterinarian to ask him if I remembered all of the things about how a calf was born. I was there when it happened, but I wanted to be sure I had all the details. I asked my sister about what was blooming in South Carolina at the particular time that the book was set. I asked lots of people about lots of things. I had lots of help.

Question: Where did you get the name "Dance Kayla!"
Answer: It started out being "Rocky's Quest" It was the name of the book at the beginning and the marketing department said they didn't think it was a marketable title... So I had to choose another name. My son actually gave me the name of Dance Kayla!

Question: How many times should children read this book?
Answer: I would hope they'd go back to it every so often... If I'm drawn to read a book more than once I find something different every time.

Question: why did you choose to become an author?
Answer: I don't know that I chose to be an author. When I was young, I used to like to write. I used to write poems all the time... We didn't have television to take up our time, we would write and sing... So, when I started teaching, I wanted to write about my children in my classes. We would write and do creative writing. When I wrote what color Are You?, it was published-It just happened.

Question: How did you feel when Kayla lost her locket?
Answer: I was devastated. How did you feel?...Oh, that was a terrible thing. Have you ever lost something that was so precious to you? I was really sad about that and so was Kayla.

Question: How long did it take to write Dance Kayla!?
Answer: From the time I decided I was going to write about Kayla, it probably took six to eight months to write it. But, then the production-It was two years before it was put in print. They do a lot of things. They change things. They design it, etc.

Question: Did you get frustrated when you wrote the book?
Answer: Oh, there were many frustrating moments. There's always frustration when you're writing a book because you never know how things are going to turn out. You have to take something out. Then you have to put something back in. There's a lot of frustration that goes on, but then when it happens, it's worth all of it.

Question: What did you do when you made a lot of mistakes?
Answer: I corrected them or somebody did. Oh yes! You edit and edit and edit. You never finish editing a book... There's always more work to be done.

Question: If you had one part of the book to change, what would it be?
Answer: Well, I haven't thought about changing any particular part of the book. I know there was a chapter I had to take out. And there are some small things I had to change... I deferred to the editor that's the way it goes... Being an author, you never get it the way you want unless you publish it yourself-that's why so many people are self-published...

Question: What is the title of your next book?
Answer: Well, I'm working on a book now about Charlie Bolden, who was a Black astronaut pilot. I met Colonel Bolden a few years ago and he's now a general. It's called "Little Charles, Columbia's Astronaut." Now, at this point that's what it's called. That's the working title.

Question: How many books did you illustrate?
Answer: None-I'm not an artist. Illustrating is a whole different job. Someone else illustrates the books. You may not even know who is going to illustrate it.

Question: When you wrote Dance Kayla, was it hard, easy or was it both?
Answer: There were times when I didn't' know what to write about. I would sit maybe for a long time before the computer before anything inspiring occurred. And then there were times when it would click in and I would have so much to write about. I'd run to my computer. I even got out of bed one night to go write a chapter. Question: Who's your favorite character in the Dance Kayla! Answer: Well, of course, I fell in love with Aaron. I didn't know what Aaron would be like in the beginning...

Question: Did you ever want to give up because it was too hard?
Answer: No! I did have to make changes. I had to change the beginning three times. If you remember, it started with a prologue on the way to Chicago on the train. Then, I had to jump back to the farm. And I had some problems-wanting to start on the farm and bring it straight through or start up front and then go back.

Question: Did you want to dance too (like Kayla)?
Answer: Yes, as a matter of fact, I was a dancer-Can't you tell? I studied dancing a long time.

Question: How did you feel at the end of the book?
Answer: Like I really needed to write another book.

Question: Was [the character] Cheefus based on a relative of yours?
Answer: Cheefus was actually an Indian boy that lived near my grandparent's farm. The relationship was not quite the same as in the book. I had a crush on Cheefus. He was my summer boy friend... I developed the character of Cheefus from that. Question: How many books do you plan to write? Answer: Oh, maybe 100, 500... I have no idea. I'm just going to keep on writing. I've done three books since Dance Kayla! If I do four to five books per year, I'll be happy.

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Jan Spivey Gilchris



Jan Spivey Gilchrist is an illustrator and author. Ms. Spivey Gilchrist is the author and illustrator of Madelia. She has illustrated several books including Angels, Honey, I Love and For the love of the Game: Michael Jordan and Me. She is also a fine artist whose work hangs in many galleries. Ms. Spivey Gilchrist is also on the advisory board of the Open Book Program.




Ms. Spivey Gilchrist grew up on Chicago's south side and wanted to be an artist since she was four years old. "Study real hard" is the advice her father gave her. "I'm still studying," she states.

The questions and answers in Jan Spivey Gilchrist's interview were excerpted from various interviews conducted by student participants in the Open Book Program.


Question: Where do the ideas for your stories come from?
Answer: As an illustrator-the words usually come from other people, the writers. For example, I drew the pictures for the book Angels over many years and then the writer Eloise Greenfield wrote poems to go with it.

Question: What was your first book?
Answer: My first book was Indigo and Midnight gold. I wrote that after my mother died. I was very, very sad.

Question: Where do the titles come from?
Answer: As an example, letıs look at Indigo and Midnight Gold. When I was little the moon used to look like gold and the sky looked like indigo.

Question: Do you start your drawings in black and white?
Answer: When the images come, the colors come too.

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Glennette Tiley Turner


Glennette Tilley Turner describes her children's book, Running for Our Lives, as a story about a family that escaped from slavery "with a dream of being able to benefit from their own labor, to get an education, and to excercise the right to vote."

An advisor to the National Park Service, Ms. Tilley Turner has been active in helping to plan programs and activities for the national historic Underground Railroad trail. She has been doing research on the Underground Railroad for more than twenty years.



Ms. Tilley Turner is also the author of Take A Walk in Their Shoes and Follow in Their Footsteps, collective biographies of outstanding African-Americans, and of Lewis Howard Latimer.

The mother of two grown children, Ms. Turner lives in Wheaton, Illinois, with her husband.

The questions and answers in Glennette Tilley Turner's interview were excerpted from various interviews conducted by student participants in the Open Book Program.


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