Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an award winning author I greatly admire, Jennifer Swanson. She can take expository nonfiction and make it super engaging for children! Here she is discussing her new book Footprints Across the Planet published by Reycraft Books.
Please describe the journey to publication for Footprints Across the Planet
You know when books “speak” to you? Well, this one said, “make me a picture book!” 😊
That was unusual for me, because I normally write much longer books.
But, I tried.
And I tried.
A picture book is not easy to write (despite what people think), so it took me awhile to get this one exactly right. In fact, the book you see now is nothing like the story I first wrote. It has changed many times.
I never gave up because I knew this title was really good. I just needed to find the right story to go with it.
This final version came about because I was inspired by a combination of events–the first March for Science and the Women’s March in 2017, watching young Greta Thunberg make a difference, and also being able to listen to the amazing Ruth Bader Ginsberg speak at the National Book Festival. I thought- WOW- look at all of these people making a huge impact on the world just by showing their support for something they are passionate about.
THIS is what this book is about.
I had the idea, but I still had to write it.
Thankfully, I had my bike. Yes, that is where this book “wrote itself.”
I was taking a break from work and started on my 5-mile bike ride. As I was enjoying being outside—and away from the computer for once—the words started forming in my brain. They just kept coming, line after line. They were so good, that I knew I had to stop and write them down. But I didn’t have paper or pen. So, I texted them to myself. We all know that if you don’t listen when your muse speaks and write it down, you’ll never remember them.
If anyone was watching me ride that day, they would have thought, what is wrong with that woman? Why does she keep stopping and texting? Is her conversation that important that it can’t wait? Yes. It was.
Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
Footprints come in all shapes and sizes colors and species.
Some are large and deep, strong and purposeful.
Others are small and shallow, barely leaving any imprint at all.
Footprints represent people who stood up for change
And those who strive to follow them.
Can you share any tips on how to write expository nonfiction that engages children?
Have FUN with it! Find a really great hook, a way into the story that is unique or creates curiosity. Then pretend you’re a 10-year-old kid and think about your topic from that POV. What would you want to know? What wouldn’t you know about this (so it needs to be explained really well). How would you make the information flow in an easy-to-understand manner? And give them some fun facts. Kids (of all ages) love fun facts. Finally, have FUN (I said that, right?). Well you want your reader to have fun, too. So much so that they don’t even realize they are learning. That’s what makes great expository nonfiction.
Tell us a bit about Solve It! for Kids, the podcast you created.
My pandemic project has turned into an award-winning science podcast for kids. Within 2 years, we have over 35,000 downloads and we keep growing.
Solve It! For Kids is a science podcast for curious & creative kids and their families.
Peek into the world of real-life scientists, engineers, and experts as they solve problems in their every day jobs. Kids and families are then invited to take on a challenge and solve a problem themselves! Join Jennifer and Jeff as they ask questions, solve problems, and offer challenges that take curiosity and creativity to a whole new level.
We’ve interviewed engineers and scientists from NASA, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, CERN, the National Museum of Art, Brookhaven Lab, the Georgia Aquarium and many more prestigious institutions. We’ve talked about how dung beetles roll their poo, how to train sharks, how to listen to a black hole, how to save sea turtles, and how do you doctors diagnose you. Check us out wherever you listen to podcasts.
What is the important message you’d like people to take away from your book?
You are already making an impact on the planet, each time you take a step.
Like you, every being on the planet leaves an imprint
with their feet
Whether human or animal, voices or activity, each mark has a purpose.
To remind us of our history, give us a glimpse of our future, and maybe even inspire us to change the world.
Footprints, when taken in the right direction, can make a world of difference.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Listen to your Muse. Whenever it “speaks”, listen and most importantly, write it down!
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could meet anyone famous, alive or not, who would it be and why?
There are so many scientists, engineers, and experts that I’d love to meet, so this is a tough choice, but I would be honored to meet Dr. Sylvia Earle, the first female aquanaut, or Dr. Kathy Sullivan, the first US woman to walk in space and also she became an aquanaut and was head of NOAA. They are hugely inspiring pioneers in both of the fields of ocean and space, and heroes to me.
Jennifer Swanson is the author of 40+ nonfiction books for kids. She has recently been tapped to write the second children’s title in the NYT bestselling Atlas Obscura series. She is the creator and cohost of the Solve It! For Kids podcast which, in its two years of being on air, has 30k+ downloads, is ranked in the top 5% of all podcasts Worldwide, and is #1 in the Top 10 Best Podcasts for Learning by All Digital School. A few weeks ago, Solve It! was picked up for distribution by Kinzoo Messenger (the host for NASA/Hubble and Nickelodeon) during which time it has become the most downloaded path on the platform. Her passion for science and technology resonates in all of her books but especially, Brain Games, named one of the 50 Best Science Books Ever by ThePlanets.org, Super Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up, Astronaut-Aquanaut, and Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner, Save the Crash-test Dummies. Her books have received starred reviews, been on the Booklist ‘Best Tech’ books list, won a Green Earth Book Honor Award, a Florida Book Award, California Reading Association awards, and National Science Teaching BEST STEM awards. Jennifer is an accomplished speaker at events and schools around the country, including the National NSTA conferences, the World Science Festival in NYC, and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival.
Whether big or small, each of us is responsible for leaving a positive footprint on our planet. We can all do our part to create a more sustainable future through simple everyday habits and actions. “Footprints Across the Planet” thoughtfully tackles the very big job of teaching the next generation to love, nurture and explore our oceans and lands and the life teeming within them. Through the book, Jennifer Swanson is leaving her own mark on the world that will last for years to come, inspiring young children to adopt a strong sense of self-awareness when it comes to their personal impact on the world around them. — Fabien Cousteau, Aquanaut, Explorer and Founder, Executive and Board Member at Proteus Ocean Group Ltd.
Twiter and IG @jenswanbooks or @kidssolve
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