Beth Bussiere has taught Science at Thornton Academy since 2004. Prior to teaching, she worked in hospital toxicology, biochemistry research, employee relations, and career counseling. She balances this wealth of experience with a strong curiosity for the world around her that keeps her teaching fresh and exciting. In addition to teaching Chemistry and Honors Physical Science, Beth recently published her first novel Come Home a New Way: Stories of Stuartville. She shared stories from her book and advice for building a strong community to TA students at School Meeting. We sat down with her to discuss the writing process and her thoughts on the importance of community.
Beth Bussiere has taught Chemistry and Physical Science at TA since 2004.
Katy Nicketakis (Thornton Academy Trojan News writer): At Thornton Academy you teach science, how did you get into writing?
Beth Bussiere: When I went to school, you couldn’t put a label on yourself, and say that you only did science or music, or history, you were a student and a learner. I've been writing for a long time in a lot of different types of genres. When I started, the focus of the writing was myself; so I could know myself and the world around me better. Once I started sharing my writing with others, it was exciting to have expanded conversations about the stories and characters and it began to take on a life of its own.
KN: What advice do you have for individuals looking to start writing?
BB: Lots of writing advice is prescriptive: write every day, write in this specific way. That isn’t possible for me so I've found a way that works for me, that is what I can do. Potential writers should consider reading thoughts and advice from other writers but find a way that makes it work for them. Don't write for others, but do it for yourself. Focus on the process, not the product and put something on paper every time you sit down, even if you think you don't have anything interesting to say!
KN: What were some of the challenges during the writing/publishing process?
BB: The book started as a short story originally. I was trying to finish the story, and it kept expanding until it turned into a novel over a period of years. I went through the editing and feedback process multiple times and got enough good feedback to keep going! When I decided to publish the book, I went with Maine Authors Publishing Cooperative, a small press committed to local authors. To have it published, I had to do a manuscript assessment and have professional editing.
KN: I recently read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell which impressed on me the importance and power of language. Which books or authors have influenced your writing?
BB: When I was younger, I loved classics like The Yearling and Anne of Green Gables. I appreciate folk stories from around the world. Science fiction has influenced my writing greatly as it takes on serious, real-world issues while creating believable, fictional worlds.
Mrs. Bussiere and her AP Chemistry class share a moment of laughter after the AP exam.
KN: In your opinion, what is the importance of community?
BB: In the book, community is almost like a character: a relationship exists between Gabe and his community. Because he's different, he's not really seen as himself. When a community is able to really perceive each individual, then the community is truly able to understand itself.
KN: Community is the base for the four TA pillars of Respect, Responsibility, Compassion, and Investment. What type of community have you witnessed here at Thornton Academy?
BB: We are diverse. For example, there are lots of different clubs. You can be a football kid, an Amnesty International kid, an Art kid, an Anime kid or some combination of all of them. Our community is very welcoming. Kids who have bounced around or moved often, say TA made them feel particularly welcome. We do have our challenges. We have a large school population and occasional bullying, but we have a culture of respect that grants us the opportunity to deal with problems in a proactive way.
To end her talk in School Meeting, Beth also had this advice for students in the TA community:
You will spend the school year as part of this community. People that you don’t now are full of hidden treasures. If you just glance at the outside, you will miss out. If you just make stuff up, you will miss out. If you think the people that you knew last year haven’t changed or grown, you will miss out. People that you don’t know now may not turn out to be your best friend or even be your cup of tea, but they are worthy of your respect. Though you may not realize it you have a lot in common—because I happen to know that you, too, are full of hidden treasures.