Welcome to my Blissfully Bookish book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Laurie Wallmark. I really enjoy her nonfcition books that tend to focus on women and STEM, topics that are dear to my heart. Here she is discussing her new book, Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Mathematician illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg and published by Creston Books.
“As the only woman in her classes, Sophie rarely spoke up. One day, while the professor was lecturing, she spotted a mistake on the blackboard. With a pounding heart, she walked to the front of the room.”
I love math and wanted to share this love with children. Although two of the women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) in my picture book biographies have been mathematicians, they were known more for their contributions to computer science. I thought it was time to give a mathematician her due.
- Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Once I knew I wanted to write about a mathematician, I had to choose which one. I thought about the women mathematicians I knew about and looked through lists to find about ones I didn’t. I chose Sophie for two reasons. Her major mathematical accomplishment, the rotation of solid bodies, has real world applications that children can understand. Second, she solved the problem known as the mathematical mermaid. Who would ever think that those two words would appear in the same sentence?
- What is your writing process like, and does it change depending on the project?
For my picture book biographies, my writing process starts with lots and lots of research. Along the way, I make a list of the possible scenes I might include. This helps me figure out the perspective and focus of the book. Then it’s the usual–write, revise, repeat–occasionally doing more research. For fiction, I still might have only to do a little bit of research, but the rest of the process is the same.
- What differentiates your book from others with similar content currently on the market?
Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics is the first biography of this important mathematician. She’s so important, that every year the Association of Women in Mathematics celebrates a Sonia Kowalevky Day. (To find out why this is a slightly different name, look in my book’s back matter that explains transliteration from the Russian alphabet.
6. Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I have another woman in STEM book coming out next year. In addition, I have three fiction picture books on the way. I can’t be more specific than that except for the one book that’s already been announced–Dino Pajama Party. I’m currently working on several more picture books and a novel in verse.
- Please share your favourite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I don’t have a good answer to this question (a common one asked during school visits). It’s too hard to narrow the field. There are so many excellent books out there. I will say that in general what moves me about books is the use of language and the way the story unfolds.
- What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Keep on keeping on.
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
I’d be vanilla, because it’s my favorite ice cream flavor. But I’d hang out with all the other flavors, because what’s life without the great diversity of ice cream flavors (or people for that matter) in the world?
Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture book biographies of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in fields ranging from computer science to mathematics to astronomy. Her books have earned multiple starred trade reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, AAAS/Subaru Prize Longlist, and Parents’ Choice Gold Medal. Laurie has an MFA in Writing from VCFA. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor.
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