Author Miranda Paul on Writing Commercial Nonfiction- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an award winning author who’s not only talented, but one of the kindest people I have ever met, and my own dream agent, Miranda Paul. Check out her new lyrical nonfiction book Beyond: Discoveries from the Outer Reaches of Space, illustrated by Sija Hong, and published by Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing, and see her cosmic journey below…

BUT first- YAY! Miranda is generously giving away a free copy of her book (US continental only). All you have to do is comment on this blog post. Contest ends May 4, 2021.

CapturePlease describe the journey to publication for Beyond: Discoveries from the Outer Reaches of Space.
Sometimes I work on books for so long, the journey becomes a blur. I think it was in 2014 or 2015 when a scientist friend and I dreamed up a book for kids that captured the wonder of places in outer space—including exoplanets—that most kids’ books at the time didn’t yet cover. (Most books seemed to cover the solar system only.) We were originally going to co-author a book, but his plans changed course, and so I continued tinkering with the idea that turned into a book of interstellar space poetry. Beyond sold in 2019 and published in 2021. So many breakthroughs in astronomy came out from the day I “finished it” until it published, which was a wild ride for my editor and me in deciding when last-minute editing and additions would have to stop.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
When I was in fourth grade, we were learning about the solar system. Every model we made had Pluto as the outermost planet. But a teeny-tiny footnote in our textbook (that no one read except me) read that from February 1979 to 1999, Neptune was actually further away from the Sun because of elliptical orbits. At that time, our models were WRONG! It got me wondering what other little details about space weren’t being taught or talked about? And as a grown up, I’m flabbergasted at just how many stars—and planets orbiting those stars—there are in our cosmos. We’ve learned so much, and kids’ books didn’t seem to be catching up fast enough.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from the book.
I’ll share with you one of the most important aspects of the book—something I already knew, but the Cosmologist and Astronomers at LaunchPad Astronomy reinforced again and again—that if there are just a few things to understand about outer space, it’s the sheer size of it and the fact that so much of it is comprised of dark matter, which we know little about. We often focus on all the things (planets, stars, gases) that we can see or detect, but it’s important for kids to realize how much of space is a giant, dark, unknown. So here’s a part of the poem that’s also printed on the back of the jacketflap.

THE FARTHER YOU GO, THE CLOSER SOMETHING BECOMES:

DARKNESS.

THE VAST DISTANCES AND POWERFUL EMPTINESS ARE SO COMMON OUT HERE,
EVERY OTHER ACTUAL THING
BECOMES RARE.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
My writing process often looks like thinking, dreaming, or doodling for months or years before I get a solid draft down. It really depends on the project, though. I want to let writers know not to beat themselves up if their process is messy or varied from book to book. Especially women who are writing “in the cracks of life,” as my friend Susan Manzke once told me. The real world doesn’t always embrace a steady, routine process—and if it did maybe we’d all be churning out the same book one after the other. Who wants that?

An open-ended question- what are some of the characteristics of commercial nonfiction?
I think of commercial nonfiction as having a hook that pulls in a wide range of readers. I don’t think of myself as a lover of history or social studies, but I’ll grab a book with a great premise or exceptional writing. Reaching audiences who wouldn’t normally gravitate toward a book about XYZ, or making something academic or curricular seem relevant and entertaining to kids today are some of the best “ways in” to turning true stories into compelling ones that do well in trade markets.

How do you balance writing and agenting?
To be honest, a lot of writers have full time jobs and already play a balancing game. That’s how I began as a writer—I was a teacher and a writer. So now that I’m not teaching in the classroom everyday, I play a similar balancing game between writing and agenting. But I use a lot of the same skill sets for both, so there is definitely overlap. I suppose it’s not all that different from writers or illustrate who also freelance or work other jobs. Not to mention a lot of writers I know are also parents and we’re used to wearing multiple hats.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
“Beware of being only a writer.” Sometimes, I hear from people who want publication so badly, it’s as if they’ve forgotten that it’s the living and acting upon what we care about that informs our emotions and our knowledge. Getting consumed by the business of publishing might cause a person to overlook all the other beautiful aspects of who you are and the roles you play that inform your writing.Headshot_miranda_new_hires_closer

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, which one would you be and why??
A dolphin! I love these animals. They’re both playful and intelligent. A second runner up would be any of my spoiled cats. They’re living the good life!

 

BIO
MIRANDA PAUL is the award-winning author of several science and nature themed books for children, including One Plastic Bag, Water Is Water, and I Am Farmer. While finishing Beyond, she was able to visit the Wyoming Infrared Observatory during nighttime data collection. Miranda lives in Wisconsin with her family. And yes, it’s true—Miranda is also the name of one of the moons of Uranus. Learn more about her books and resources for teachers at www.mirandapaul.com.

Link to Buy: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beyond-miranda-paul/1137154662

43 thoughts on “Author Miranda Paul on Writing Commercial Nonfiction- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

    owlbagelpluto37397 said:
    May 3, 2021 at 9:56 pm

    Fantastic interview Miranda. So much useful information for writing in general and science in particular.
    I used your friend’s line in a haiku.
    in the cracks of life
    imagination takes flight
    lasso that comet

    Liked by 1 person

    Carrie Charley Brown said:
    May 2, 2021 at 8:41 am

    As usual, Miranda’s encouragement and education go BEYOND! Thanks for inspiring us, Miranda, and thanks, Lydia, for the wonderful interview questions and hosting her. I am excited to read BEYOND.

    Liked by 1 person

    René Bartos (@rebpedmom) said:
    April 26, 2021 at 10:35 am

    Great interview! I am in awe of Miranda’s talent, have several of her books, and cannot wait to read this one. I love her STEM-focus in books for children.

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      April 26, 2021 at 12:29 pm

      Me too! STEM for young kids is the best thing ever.

      Like

    chardixon47 said:
    April 24, 2021 at 2:25 pm

    Congratulations on your latest book, Miranda. It’s a terrific read! I’ve already got several of your amazing books on my personal book shelf and my kindle 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Marcie Mahuta said:
    April 24, 2021 at 12:57 pm

    Great interview & helpful advice, especially about the broader appeal for a possibly narrow NF topic. Love all Miranda’s books and cant wait to read this one. Personally, I think space IS fascinating 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    cindyargentine said:
    April 23, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    I’m excited to read this! Space has always been fascinating to me, too–especially, as Miranda mentions, the sheer magnitude of it. I also love her advice to not be so obsessed with getting published that we forgot to enjoy the hobbies, dreams, and journeys that prompted us to write in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      April 24, 2021 at 5:30 pm

      I think as writers we all get stuck in that obsessive state at times!

      Like

    yangmommy said:
    April 23, 2021 at 6:44 am

    Miranda, all your books are amazing & they always compel me to explore more about that given topic. Guess I’ll be looking into dark matter, now 🙂 BTW, those first few lines from the jacket copy would also work great as a spooky kids’ read. Hmmm….now my wheels are really churning, LOL! Can’t wait to read your latest!

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      April 23, 2021 at 11:38 am

      Have you read Are We Pears Yet?

      Like

        yangmommy said:
        April 23, 2021 at 2:28 pm

        That’s a funny book, Lydia! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    katiefischerwrites said:
    April 23, 2021 at 6:34 am

    I remember being so excited to learn about the elliptical orbit of Pluto and waiting for it to again the furthest out.
    It looks like a beautiful book, congrats! I know a lot of space-loving kids who will be wowed.

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      April 23, 2021 at 11:38 am

      An exciting fact for adults and children alike…

      Like

    Lauri Meyers said:
    April 22, 2021 at 7:53 pm

    I love you tackling a space book! It seems like a departure from your other work which always felt so grounded right here on earth:)

    Liked by 1 person

    Pamela Harrison said:
    April 22, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    I love Miranda’s books! This new picture book looks amazing. Her advice on writing is a true gift.

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      April 22, 2021 at 7:08 pm

      I love all her books too! All great mentor texts

      Like

    RebeccaTheWriter said:
    April 22, 2021 at 1:54 pm

    Miranda is the best! I love how she’s able to bring rhyme and lyrical language into her books to make them so accessible and fun to read. Can’t wait to read this one. It looks amazing. Congrats Miranda!
    Rebecca Gardyn Levington

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      April 22, 2021 at 7:07 pm

      Yep, she does rhyme well, which can be challenging.

      Like

    Angie said:
    April 22, 2021 at 9:35 am

    This sounds like a beautiful book! And elliptical orbits! Who knew? Cant wait to read it. And live. Great advice, Miranda. We do get laser focused at times in the publishing industry. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    josetteabruzzini said:
    April 22, 2021 at 8:10 am

    I love Miranda’s advice about relishing more than our roles as writers. I think my nature has always been to write, but my decades of living, and all that entailed, revealed the passions that I eventually started writing about. Thanks Mitanda and Lydia for an inspiring interview!

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      April 22, 2021 at 7:06 pm

      Yes, it’s a deep thought that really resonated with me too.

      Like

    Jilanne Hoffmann said:
    April 22, 2021 at 2:49 am

    Yes, it’s interesting to follow the circuitous route that it takes to make a book. I loved reading this one! Miranda really captured the essence of that place called space!

    Liked by 2 people

    mindfulmiro said:
    April 22, 2021 at 2:36 am

    Love her books and this interview! Great advice and insight into Miranda’s genius:) Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    seschipper said:
    April 21, 2021 at 9:56 pm

    What an incredible interview! I feel as if I learn so much from these posts! The advice from Miranda is really something to hold on to as well! Thanks again for a great interview! Looking forward to reading Miranda’s book! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Lynn Baldwin said:
    April 21, 2021 at 7:56 pm

    This book looks beautiful and I love Miranda’s advice at the end about “beware of being only a writer.” Thanks for a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      April 21, 2021 at 8:52 pm

      It’s great advice, and something I never really thought about…

      Like

    Deborah Williams said:
    April 21, 2021 at 6:09 pm

    I love it that you book idea evolved and went beyond the conventional subject matter. I love the variety in your body of work!

    Liked by 2 people

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      April 21, 2021 at 8:53 pm

      Right, the fact that she masters fiction AND nonfiction….

      Like

    rosecappelli said:
    April 21, 2021 at 6:08 pm

    I always learn so much from Miranda! This book looks wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

    Lindsey Hobson said:
    April 21, 2021 at 5:50 pm

    Great interview! For anyone who hasn’t taken Miranda’s nonfiction course through Storyteller Academy, I highly recommend it!

    Liked by 2 people

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      April 21, 2021 at 8:54 pm

      I actually never did!! So I feel lucky to get all that wisdom through being her client….

      Liked by 1 person

    tracysmithschmidt said:
    April 21, 2021 at 5:25 pm

    Great interview. Miranda has such good advice, and I love getting insights into her writing process. Can’t wait to read this book!

    Liked by 2 people

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