Author Patricia Newman on Empowering Young Readers- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an award winning author who really puts in the work, Patricia Newman. Here she is discussing her new book, A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn, a nonfiction picture book illustrated by Natasha Donovan and published by Millbrook Press.

BUT first- YAY! Patrica is generously giving away a FREE critique of 10 pages of an NF book or the overview and outline sections of a NF proposal (up to 10 pages). To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends October 14, 2022.

Please describe the journey to publication for A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn.

A RIVER’S GIFTS began as a casual conversation in September 2018, between my husband and one of his colleagues about where her college-aged triplets worked the past summer. Theo, one of the triplets, interned with the Elwha River Restoration on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Engineers had just breached two dams to drain Lake Aldwell above the one-hundred-year-old Elwha Dam and Lake Mills above the eighty-five-year-old Glines Canyon Dam. Theo had helped replant the barren lakebed with native seeds and seedlings, one member of a small army of botanists and volunteers who would go on to plant 400,000 plants on 800 acres of lakebed over seven years.

When my husband arrived home that evening, he told me about Theo’s internship and said the Elwha River Restoration seemed like a great idea for a book. He was right!

I interviewed Theo and a number of other stakeholders, including Olympic National Park scientists, members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, politicians, and community members. Next, I created a proposal to outline the idea for my editor. My agent submitted the proposal in February 2019. By July, I had an offer. Between July 2019 and now, I wrote, revised, and revised some more, Natasha Donovan delivered sketches and then final illustrations, and we weathered supply chain delays while the book was printed.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration and what is the takeaway?

The perseverance of the people who worked on the Elwha River Restoration project inspired me. More than twenty-five years passed between the date the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe first lobbied for the dams’ removal and the date the dams were removed. I admire the dedication of this group of scientists, conservationists, and citizens.

The Elwha Restoration project is about connection. Our connection to the river and the river’s connection to us. In every environmental book I write I try to demonstrate our connection to nature.

What’s your research process for nonfiction books?

I usually travel for research. Being on site enriches the details, especially sensory details. I learned about salmon from a fish biologist at Olympic National Park. A tribal host gave me a tour of the Lower Elwha Klallam Museum. She shared the tribe’s connection to salmon, plus their stories, language, and ceremonies. I visited a tribal fish hatchery built to keep the salmon run alive for the Lower Elwha Klallam people while the river was dammed. A botanist took me on a hike to one of the former lakebeds, now a riot of plants native to the area.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

The following lines come from the first two spreads. I wanted to start the Elwha’s story back when the river first formed tens of thousand of years ago.

Mountain snow melts. Plip . . . plop . . . plip.

  The drops flow together as trickling streams,

    and then unite as one river.

For thousands of years the roar and thunder of this river

  tumbled through steep canyons,

    carrying rocks, branches, gravel

      and winding a twisting path through the forest.

Always, it flowed north to the sea

  sharing its gifts with

    animals, plants, and people

      who cared for it in return.

Millions of years ago, before Washington became a state,

  before humans walked the earth,

    before wooly mammoths roamed,

      powerful forces transformed rocks under the sea into mountains that touched the sky.

        Rocky, craggy, rough, and steep.

Ice fields blanketed mountains and lowlands,

  and fed smaller glaciers that marched slowly forward,

    carving the narrow canyons

      and broad valleys

        where the Elwha River would soon flow.

I love your mandate “Empowering young readers to act.” What are some tangible things children can do to initiate change?

Thank you. The power of a child’s voice is important to me. They may not be able to vote, but they have the power to touch our hearts with their ideas and their commitment. Here are five easy ways to get started:

  1. Pack a zero-waste lunch for school. No plastic bags or plastic packaging allowed. No plastic straws. The only items you should throw away are items that can be composted, such as orange peels or apple cores.
  2. Read books about the environment and talk to your friends, parents, and teachers about them.
  3. Participate in a beach or river clean-up. If you don’t live near a beach or river, take a walk around the block or your school yard and pick up trash. Categorize what you pick up and share your findings with your class.
  4. Have a family meeting to talk about energy and water conservation. Do you turn off lights? Turn off the water when you brush your teeth? How can you conserve even more energy and/or water?
  5. Pay attention to the people running for elected office. Write to one of them and ask them about their plans for the environment.

Please share your favorite books from 2021/2 that have inspired you.

When the World Runs Dry by Nancy Castaldo

How to Build a Human by Pamela S. Turner

Dressing Up the Stars by Jeanne Walker Harvey

Serengeti: Plains of Grass by Leslie Bulion

Tree Hole Homes by Melissa Stewart

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other nonfiction writers?

Write from your heart. Your topic must be something you’re passionate about. The best nonfiction books make emotional connections not only to our readers, but between us as authors and the research we do.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any ice cream flavor, what would it be?

Heath Bar Crunch


Critically acclaimed author of nonfiction books for children, recipient of a prestigious Sibert Honor,

Patricia Newman empowers her readers to seek connections to the real world and to use their imaginations to act on behalf of their communities. Using social and environmental injustice as inspiration for books, Patricia frequently speaks to adults and children to share how we can affect change.

Patricia’s nonfiction books for children have been welcomed in classrooms and libraries around the country. A River’s Gifts received starred Kirkus and starred Booklist reviews. Other titles include Planet Ocean – Orbis Pictus Recommended, Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, Outstanding Merit; Sea Otter Heroes – Robert F. Sibert Honor, ALA Notable Book; Eavesdropping on Elephants – Outstanding Science Trade Book; Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year; Eureka! Gold Award from the California Reading Association; Zoo Scientists to the Rescue – Eureka! Gold Award from the California Reading Association, Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature Best Children’s Books of the Year; Plastic, Ahoy! – Green Earth Book Award, AAAS/Subaru Science Books and Film Prize, finalist; Neema’s Reason to Smile – Parents’ Choice Recommended.

Buy links for A RIVER’S GIFTS: Amazon  Lerner Books


Twitter:  @PatriciaNewman

Facebook: @PatriciaNewmanBooks

Pinterest:  @newmanbooks



17 thoughts on “Author Patricia Newman on Empowering Young Readers- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

    Pam Dougherty said:
    October 14, 2022 at 9:35 am

    I just keep running “the power of a child’s voice” through my head. Whew so point on!!! Thank you Patricia.


    marianariosr said:
    October 14, 2022 at 6:24 am

    Thanks for sharing, it was a very interesting interview and I love what you said about writing from the heart and making emotional connections. Congrats on your book! 🎉


    Melissa-Jane Nguyen said:
    October 10, 2022 at 1:17 am

    Fabulous interview! And so inspiring for a NF picture book manuscript I’m currently grappling with. Thank you!


    seschipper said:
    October 6, 2022 at 11:47 pm

    Great interview! I love the research that goes into writing NF! Thanks Lydia and Patricia!


    Jilanne Hoffmann said:
    October 6, 2022 at 11:44 pm

    This sounds like such a lovely, lyrical book. And such a worthy project! We’ve participated in a little habitat restoration in the SF Bay area, but there’s nothing happening on this scale here.


    S. K. Wenger said:
    October 6, 2022 at 6:04 pm

    I’ve worked on some restoration projects. I love that you wrote this Book! Congratulations!


    cindy johnson said:
    October 6, 2022 at 5:23 pm

    love your message of empowering kids! Thank you for the great interview, Patricia and Lydia!


    Kate DeMaio said:
    October 6, 2022 at 1:35 pm

    I started writing my first NF this week inspired by a new fact I learned. Seeing your process and excerpt is so helpful!


    Natasha Zimmers said:
    October 6, 2022 at 12:33 am

    I’m so in love with this book. It’s amazing in all sorts of ways, with so many invitations for kids to become curious, question, and investigate.


    streetlynn said:
    October 5, 2022 at 10:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing your research process! Looking forward to this book!


    Hannah Roy LaGrone said:
    October 5, 2022 at 9:34 pm

    I also really appreciate the list of books! I will be checking these out. Congrats on your book!


    chardixon47 said:
    October 5, 2022 at 5:21 pm

    Congratulations, Patricia. Thank you for sharing the backstory of your new book. I’m looking forward to reading it.


    savoringeverymoment said:
    October 5, 2022 at 1:55 pm

    What a fantastic story. Thank you for this interview.


    Wendy Greenley said:
    October 5, 2022 at 10:47 am

    I have gone back and forth writing a story in NF and informational fiction structure. Your beautiful language is inspiring me to focus on the NF!

    Liked by 1 person

      Lauren Harris said:
      October 5, 2022 at 11:16 am

      Thanks so much for sharing your story and the process with us!

      Liked by 1 person

    Susan Johnston Taylor said:
    October 5, 2022 at 10:31 am

    Thanks for the great interview, Lydia and Patricia!

    Liked by 1 person

    lizluvselephants said:
    October 5, 2022 at 10:22 am

    Really excited about this book! I loved seeing the list of books that have recently inspired Patricia. Thank you for this interview!

    Liked by 1 person

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