Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented nonfiction writer Lisa Amstutz. I consider her one of my mentors, so this is a real treat! She’s got a brand new nonfiction book out, Amazing Amphibians: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring Frogs, Toads, Salamanders, and More published by Chicago Review Press. Let’s support her by buying her book and/or reviewing it.
But first, Lisa is generously offering a FREE critique of a picture book (fiction or nonfiction) or the first ten pages of a longer nonfiction project! To be eligible, please leave a comment on this blog. It’s that easy! Deadline May 25.
Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
Chicago Review Press came onto my radar when several author friends were published with them. I liked the idea of writing for an already existing series, so I studied their catalog to see what might be missing. I pitched several ideas and wrote up a proposal for the one they were interested in, a book on amphibians. This was the longest book I’ve written to date, and I was responsible for finding the images as well, so it was a big project! I learned a lot in the process.
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I’m an ecologist by training, and one of my goals as a writer is to help kids understand and appreciate the amazing world around them. I see education as the first step to building a more sustainable world. People tend to protect the things they know and love!
What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
It varies by project, but I usually start with an outline. For a long project like this one, I break it down into manageable chunks and write one at a time. I am usually researching and writing more or less simultaneously. After I had a draft written, I revised and sent chapters off to critique partners for their comments. One the text was in place, I started searching for photos.
What draws you to the world of nonfiction?
I love the challenge of finding the story in science and making it interesting, fun, and accessible to young readers. It’s a satisfying blend of science and art.
Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
Upcoming titles include PLANTS FIGHT BACK (Dawn Publications/Sourcebooks, Fall 2020) and MARVELOUS MAMMALS (Chicago Review Press, 2021). And of course there are lots of other things in the works!
Please share your favorite 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?
It’s hard to pick just one, but one of my favorite classics is Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I love how she made very complex science topics accessible to the average reader. I’m also a fan of Sy Montgomery’s work and the way she brings the heart to science.
What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Go to a bookstore and browse the shelves in your genre. Notice which books you pick up. What made them stand out? Consider how you can give your book that same quality.
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Since I just finished writing a mammal book, I’ll have to go with Moose Tracks! J
Lisa Amstutz is the author of more than 150 children’s books, including Applesauce Day, Finding a Dove for Gramps, and Amazing Amphibians. She specializes in topics related to science and agriculture. Lisa’s background includes a B.A. in Biology and an M.S. in Ecology/Environmental Science. She lives on a small-scale farm in Ohio with her family.
Available wherever books are sold.
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Amazing-Amphibians-Observations-Salamanders-Naturalists/dp/1641600721
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