Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome the fabulous author and one of my dear CPs, Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan! We both share the same agent (Miranda Paul) so I was excited to chat with her about her new nonfiction book, Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research, published by Chicago Review Press.
BUT first- YAY! Elizabeth is generously giving away a FREE critique for a nonfiction or WFH project. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends May 27, 2022.
Where did you draw the inspiration for your book, Animal Allies?
First, I love animals. I’ve had all kinds of pets throughout my life. Second, and maybe most important, awhile back, a hashtag on Twitter caught my eye. The hashtag was #DistractinglySexy. It was being used by people who identify as female to respond to some terrible comment by a male scientist who said women don’t belong in science because they distract real scientists from their work. I knew I wanted to help share the stories of amazing scientists.
Do you have a personal connection to animals?
Yes, I love animals. And I’m lucky my parents do, too, because I brought home ALL KINDS OF PETS as a kid. Hamsters, fish, birds, turtles, ducks and chickens. In college I had a hamster and a lizard. We had hermit crabs, but we don’t support hermit crabs as pets anymore. Once I rescued a cat from a storm even though I’m highly allergic. We’ve had lots of dogs, and my mom even had a rabbit.
What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
I’m a proud plotter. I love an outstanding outline. I like to know my general path (maybe because I’m a runner and map out my routes in advance?) but I welcome the serendipitous discoveries along the way. So, for this particular book, I had a narrative structure for each chapter that I had developed based around a consistent set of questions. But I always made room for the unique and surprising stories these scientists shared with me!
Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
During her research, Corina set up video cameras to watch the nests. She had videos of eggs hatching, parents feeding, the wind shaking the grasses that hold the sturdy structures.
She also set up camera traps in the nearby area. Camera traps are motion-triggered. They turn on when something moves by them, like a hungry raccoon or rice rat.
Sometimes the videos were difficult to watch. Corina has observed the struggles of sparrows. She’s seen rice rats take chicks. And she’s watched new dangers arrive. Rising water lev- els flood more nests and bring new predators, like fish, to prey on chicks. One loss of a chick caught on video was especially hard for her.
“I cried. My heart was broken,” says Corina. “These birds are declining in number. Every nesting success for these birds means so much. I imagined what that chick was feeling, but also thought about the larger population. Because of climate change, nest flooding will keep happening. Chicks are going to drown. Plus, now there are new predators.”
Despite her heartbreak, Corina knew this video was important.
“No one would have know it happened without the scientists doing this research. I felt honored to offer this perspective. I did the work to get this up-close look to provide important info about protecting them. It gave me purpose.”
Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I am working on a historical fiction about a woman who was not a scientist but contributed immensely to the environmental conservation movement in the U.S. I like the fact that she wasn’t a trained expert or professional, but she took action. I think her story can inspire others.
Please share your favorite nonfiction middle grade books that have inspired you.
When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead
Habibi, Naomi Shihab Nye
Bomb and Undefeated, both by Steve Sheinkin
The River Between Us, Richard Peck
Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson
What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers? (I it)
Write the kind of story you love to read.
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
A red-tailed hawk! I did a flight simulator that made it feel like I was a soaring bird and I loved it! Also, raptors are awesome.
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan is an author and teacher from Pittsburgh, PA. She loves exploring history and science and has written over a dozen fiction and nonfiction books and graphic novels. Her books include Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research and The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci. Elizabeth lives with her family and pet schnoodle and loves board games, birding, and baking. She’s a lifelong runner and community volunteer.
Links to pre-order the book here: https://elizabethpagelhogan.com/nonfiction/animal-allies-15-amazing-women-in-wildlife-science/
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