Author Elaine Kachala on Sharpening One’s Focus- PLUS a GIVEAWAY!
Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish and my first Q & A for 2023! My first guest is Canadian like me, and also loves writing nonfiction. Please welcome Elaine Kachala as she discussed her book journey for Superpower? The Wearable-Tech Revolution, a middle grade book illustrated by Belle Wuthrich and published by Orca Book Publishers.
BUT first- YAY! Elaine is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends Jan 27, 2022, Canada/US only.
Please describe the journey to publication for Superpower? The Wearable-Tech Revolution.
Thrilling! Nerve-racking! Fun! It was filled with many emotions and challenges since this was my first book. It was also a heartwarming experience because of all the people who supported me.
My journey began six years ago at a writer’s workshop, where we discussed STEM/STEAM topics for middle readers. We talked about the impact of technology on people and the world and what would be the hook for this age group. I’m intrigued by STEM/STEAM topics because I have two daughters who work in these fields. I also work in health care policy, and in my job at the time, I was learning about incredible technologies that were improving people’s lives, especially those with disabilities.
My earliest drafts included many different technologies. The style was descriptive, and there was too much information; I had to sharpen the focus and needed a narrative arc. I reflected on what I saw in healthcare and dug deeper into the research. Many drafts later, I landed on the topic of wearables—technology that’s on, in, or attached to your body. I wondered why I was suddenly so invested. I realized two things: first, this multifaceted topic has to do with health, well-being, and equity—issues that are important to me. And, beyond the blow-your-socks-off cool factor, our society faces many challenges with wearables as these sophisticated devices go mainstream. I wanted to write a book exploring how wearables are changing our lives and delving into technology’s pros and cons. Suddenly, many threads came together, and the idea for this book was born!
When Kirstie Hudson at Orca Book Publishers said she wanted to publish Superpower? as part of Orca Think, a nonfiction series for middle-readers, I was thrilled beyond belief! I’m ever grateful to Kirstie and the Orca team for their unending enthusiasm and support. We signed in April 2020, and this book became my passion project. Working with Orca Book Publishers has been an incredible experience. They are a fantastic publisher.
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I drew inspiration from a few sources, including my work in health care, the books I was reading about the impacts of fourth industrial revolution technologies, and the incredible inventors I interviewed, including the young inventors! Their steadfast passion for inventing technology to improve the world and their keen insights into the ethics and challenges had me at the edge of my seat and wanting to know more.
What is your writing process and does it vary depending on the project?
When I’m writing middle-grade nonfiction, I always begin with research. I glance at what’s in the headlines of credible magazines (e.g., Forbes, Harvard Business Review), news reports, reputable websites (e.g., professional associations), etc. But I quickly delve into the literature, focusing on primary sources (e.g., books, scholarly journals, government documents) to further validate what’s in the headlines. I also watch video presentations (e.g., TEDx) and listen to podcasts by experts. I find these especially helpful for clarifying information with highly technical topics. I also read middle-grade books of the same genre to learn about the market, what topics were covered, where there are gaps, and how authors I admire present the information. I note names of experts I’d like to talk to, and after I know the book’s focus, have a clear structure and understand the topic, I write outstanding questions for interviews.
I’ve tried writing informational fiction picture books in the past, and my process was different. I’d focus on getting down my ideas and then go back and forth with research. But so far, the process I have for writing middle grades feels most comfortable. Maybe if I go back to writing PBs, my process will change.
Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
Wow, this is a tough choice! I hope you don’t mind me sending four short excerpts that I love:
“…those of us designing social virtual reality (VR) better get it right, and fast! This technology will transform our lives and how we communicate…we can’t ignore the darker side, and we each have a role in defining how this technology is shaped and developed.” (VR expert Dr. Jeremy Bailenson)
“We have to realize technologies can be used maliciously. They need to be managed, controlled and regulated. And it’s the responsibility of people inventing to focus on ethical innovation.” (Young inventor Soumiya Sivasathiyanathan)
“Technologies are tools made and used by people. We do have a say in how they advance. Caution! Move slow and think human.” (Author Elaine Kachala)
“Imagine being totally alert but unable to walk, speak or move our hands to turn on a light switch. It’s like you’re locked in your body. Now imagine a technology that helps you do these things using only your thoughts. That technology is called a brain-computer interface.” (Author Elaine Kachala)
Did you consult an expert for this book?
Yes! Many experts and they’re named in the Acknowledgments. Since there are many different technologies in the book, I had to check with various specialty experts. I interviewed several, including young inventors, and I also had experts with diverse backgrounds fact-check the manuscript.
I loved your fourth chapter entitled ‘Are We Crossing the Line?’ Can you please briefly comment on the ethics of technology?
Thank you! That was one of my favorite chapters to write. To quote Dr. Mary Lou Jepsen in the chapter, “there’s no denying it, the ethics are huge.”
In this chapter, I focused on brain-computer interface (BCI) and virtual reality (VR) technologies because, in my view, they best illustrate the dichotomy between the tremendous benefits coupled with the extraordinary challenges that we’ll face. Like Dr. Jepsen says, “I’m going to make a life-saving medical device, but…it will also make telepathy possible.” As she also says, we have to ask questions and make choices, and it’s essential to have discussions now about how we’ll allow these technologies into society because once they’re out there, we will use them!
We’re fortunate to have scientists like Dr. Jepsen and others speaking out to make us aware of the challenges and advocating for the responsible design of technology. I also think our best chances for reaping the benefits and mitigating the risks are when two things are in place. First, when technology is designed collaboratively by diverse teams and when society works fast and furious to ensure kids everywhere have access to STEM/STEAM education where they can be part of the ethical conversations and prepared for job opportunities.
Please share your favorite books from 2022 that have inspired you.
The books that most inspired me while I was writing Superpower? came before 2022, they included: Klaus Schwab’s The Fourth Industrial Revolution (2017) and Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (2018). Schwab has a new book, The Great Narrative (2022), and it’s on my reading list! Two other books also inspired me: Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age (2019) by Microsoft’s Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne and Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do by Jeremy Bailenson (2018). I read the Age of AI: And Our Human Future (Henry A Kissinger and Eric Schmidt, 2022) after writing Superpower? It is a fascinating book. When I’m not reading books related to the subject I’m writing about, I love reading books by Mitch Albom!
What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Be prepared for the considerable time commitment that goes along with marketing and promotion, so start early and make a plan! I was new to the publishing industry and needed more M & P experience. So about ten months in advance, I started researching and attending workshops. You’ll be better prepared to work with your publisher, you won’t miss opportunities, and you’ll be able to plan and budget; there will be costs, but it’s an investment.
And a bonus question just for kicks! Would you rather forget the ending of every book shortly after reading it OR not be able to re-read a book ever again?
Oh, I’d rather forget the ending and re-read it! I love re-reading; I learn new things each time.
Elaine Kachala is a health-policy researcher, writer and adviser. She has over 20 years of writing experience with health agencies. SUPERPOWER? The Wearable-Tech Revolution is her first book. She’s curious and hopeful but can’t help being a little worried about how wearables will impact our health, well-being and equity. With degrees in psychology and sociology from the University of Toronto and a master of environmental studies from York University, she brings a unique perspective to the topic. Elaine lives with her family in Toronto.
Elaine’s excited to announce that SUPERPOWER? is on best book lists including the National Science Teaching Association & The Children’s Book Council’s – Best STEM Books for K-12, The Children’s Book Council Hot Off The Press, November 2022 and tinlids best books for schools & libraries, Fall 2022.
YouTube Book Trailer https://youtu.be/hvbNOG7V48Y
The book is available at bookstores and online, including Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.
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.
6 thoughts on “Author Elaine Kachala on Sharpening One’s Focus- PLUS a GIVEAWAY!”
January 19, 2023 at 5:08 pm
Wow! Intriguing, fascinating, and exciting! As a former engineer (with a son who’s just beginning his own engineering journey), I get super excited to see STEM shared in a way that excites kids and sends them down this path while keeping ethics and social impact in mind. Congrats, Elaine!
January 18, 2023 at 11:07 pm
Looking forward to reading this book! My husband is a computer engineer, .and enjoys everything related to technology! I will have to share this one with him!!! 🙂
January 18, 2023 at 4:30 pm
I’m so excited to hear about your interest in my book! Thank you.
January 18, 2023 at 10:43 am
Thank you for sharing your book!
January 18, 2023 at 10:26 am
So amazing! Wearable technology sounds fascinating, and yet also very important to learn about and discuss. This sounds like a great book for middle grade (and older readers like myself who would benefit from learning about new technology). Congrats, Elaine!
January 18, 2023 at 9:43 am
Sounds like such a cool book! Can’t wait to read it 🙂