Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an award winning author from my neck of the woods; Canada! I feel fortunate to know Susan Hughes, whose massive body of work has always amazed me. From fiction to nonfiction to graphic novels, she does it all. Check out her latest book, LIGHTS DAY AND NIGHT: THE SCIENCE OF HOW LIGHT WORKS published by Kids Can Press. See her journey below…
BUT first- YAY! Susan is generously giving away a free signed copy of her book (US or Canada). All you have to do is comment on this blog post- contest ends Sept 17, 2021.
Please describe the journey to publication for this book, LIGHTS DAY AND NIGHT: THE SCIENCE OF HOW LIGHT WORKS.
LIGHTS DAY AND NIGHT: THE SCIENCE OF HOW LIGHT WORKS is my newest book: a 32-page non-fiction picture book which was published September 7!
Because it’s the second in a series, this book’s journey to publication was fairly straightforward.
After I wrote Sounds All Around: The Science of How Sound Works, I was keen to explore and explain another science concept to young readers—a companion book to the “sound” book. When I proposed the idea to my editor, Jennifer Stokes, who was then at Kids Can Press, and specifically suggested I write a book about “light,” she liked the idea. Yay!
Next, step? Writing an outline.
I didn’t know much at all about the physics of light at the time, so I had lots of learning to do. I was fortunate in that I had the Sounds All Around story to use as a template. It helped guide my thinking about how much of the content I’d gathered I could include in this next book, and to get a handle on the level of complexity. Using frequent peeks at both the US Next Generation Science Standards and the science curricula of many Canadian provinces/territories, I enjoyed figuring out which concepts about light would best be included and how to share them with readers in an accessible and accurate way.
After I created a fairly comprehensive outline—more of a draft manuscript than an outline actually—I sent it off to Jennifer. She took it to an acquisition meeting with the Kids Can team and it got the thumbs up!
After lots of editing and the manuscript being passed back and forth between us, it was finalized—to a point. I was fortunate to have Ellen Rooney as the illustrator of the story. She came up with unique ways to present the information visually, and occasionally this meant revising some of the text. When the manuscript was truly final, it was sent off to be read and reviewed by physicist James Rabeau, University of Melbourne.
What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
It really does vary from project to project, but I do spend time every week working on my own projects. I fit these in around and between my editing work (I provide freelance editing, critiquing, and story coaching services for clients) and writing commissioned pieces for various publishers. It’s a super combination! The editing and coaching I do often fires me up creatively so when I return to my writing, I’m raring to go. And vice versa: after I spend time working on my own writing, I’m inspired to shift that same passion to my editing and coaching!
As for tackling the individual project, when writing fiction, I often just sit down and write, without having any sense of what my story might be. I play with images or dialogue or a phrase or the idea for a character. As I write, sometimes the story evolves! Non-fiction is different. Assuming I have a basic concept, I’ll begin playing with possibilities for how best to deliver the information. Sometimes, the project will end up being purely non-fiction; sometimes it will become informational non-fiction. The tone and flavor of the narrative evolve almost simultaneously with the form.
Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
“Summer, a cloudy night, no moon or stars.
The sky is so dark, then …
Such a tiny insect, but its light glows brightly in the darkness!
Then, a breeze picks up. The treetops bend and sway, and the sky begins to clear.
The sky is full of stars. They are millions of miles away, but their light travels all the way from there … to here.
<Sidebar>A star is a spinning ball of gases — made of matter that isn’t liquid or solid. The center of a star is incredibly hot. This heat creates an enormous amount of energy, making the star glow!
You have published a slew of books without an agent, how do you do it?
I was fortunate to have my first few manuscripts accepted after submitting them myself directly to editors at Canadian publishers. Now, I continue to send my manuscripts, both fiction and non-fiction, to these publishing houses and their editors remain willing to consider them.
Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I plan to continue writing children’s books for all ages—picture books, of course, but also stories and non-fiction for older children. Oh, and as well as being excited about the publication of Lights Day and Night, I’m looking forward to two more picture books coming out next year, both with Owl Kids: Same Here: The Differences We Share (spring, 2022) and Hooray for Trucks! (fall, 2022)!
Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
Reading has always been one of my favorite things to do—and it still is! I read widely—adult, YA, middle-grade novels, and picture books, fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, verse novels, and poetry. Sometimes I’ll be reading a book that I’m loving so much it’ll simply fill me with a need to write. I’ll have to set it aside in the middle of a chapter, in the middle of a paragraph, turn to my own project, and begin work.
Every book I’ve ever read has been a mentor text for me. Together, over and over, these books have given me instruction in good writing, not-so-good writing and spectacular writing—in character development, dialogue, setting, plot …
Before I begin a specific project, I may read in a genre or for the particular audience I’ll be aiming at, but mostly I’ll read a wide variety of texts simply to re-enter into the spirit of the written world, to remind me to be open to possibilities, to free up my narrative voice, to explore beyond the boundaries.
What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Sit down and do it. Write. A page, a paragraph, a sentence, a phrase, a word. Write. A word, a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph, a page … Give the magic an opportunity to happen!
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
Well, my favorite animals are dogs—but I wouldn’t want to be one. I think I’d choose to be a …. hawk so I could soar high above the ground and survey the world from above.
Susan has written more than 30 traditionally published award-winning children’s books, including picture books, chapter books, MG novels, young adult novels, both fiction and non-fiction for all ages. Some of her titles are WALKING FOR WATER: HOW ONE BOY STOOD UP FOR GENDER EQUALITY, illus by Nicole Miles (Kids Can, 2021); CARMEN AND THE HOUSE THAT GAUDI BUILT, illus by Marianne Ferrer (Owl Kids, 2021); the TIME TO series (Annick Press, 2017); THE PUPPY COLLECTION series, illus by Leanne Franson (Scholastic Canada, 2016-2013); OFF TO CLASS: INCREDIBLE AND UNUSUAL SCHOOLS AROUND THE WORLD (Owl Kids, 2011), the WILD PAWS series, illus by Heather Graham (Scholastic Canada, 2009), and EARTH TO AUDREY, illus by Stéphane Poulin (Kids Can, 2005).
Susan is an experienced freelance story coach and editor who works with writers, both novice and experienced, providing critiques and developmental edits, and guiding them in their writing practice. She also works with educational publishers to develop student books on topics from geography and history to science and Aboriginal studies for a wide range of grade levels. She writes commissioned stories and articles for many clients.
She has been delighted to serve as juror for many book awards and volunteer her expertise with CODE, the CNIB, and other non-profit organizations. She’s an active member of SCBWI, CANSCAIP, and the Writer’s Union.
Social media links:
– webpage: http://www.susanhughes.ca
– twitter: @childbkauthor
– instagram: https://www.instagram.com/susanhughes2518/
– Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/susan.hughes.9465/
– link to purchase:
This entry was posted in Children's literature, Education, Inspiration & motivation, Publishing industry, Resources for writers, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing tips and tagged author, blog, books, Children's literature, giveaway, nonfiction, publishing, writing.