Author Heather Camlot on the Importance of Factchecking- PLUS A GIVEAWAY!
Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish! I’m excited to introduce my next guest, a fellow Canadian author who writes incredible books (plus I went to high school with her brother). Please welcome Heather Camlot! Here she is discussing her nonfiction middle grade novel, BECOMING BIONIC illustrated by Victor Wong and published by Owlkids Books.
BUT first- YAY! Heather is generously giving away a FREE copy of BECOMING BIONIC. To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends June 2, 2023– US and/or Canada.
Please describe the journey to publication for BECOMING BIONIC and Other Ways Science Is Making Us Super.
I started working on the nonfiction proposal for Becoming Bionic in early 2020. It was divided up by superpowers, as it is now, but each section carried too many ideas. I worked with Owlkids Books editorial director Karen Li (who is now the publisher at Groundwood) to find a better flow and we settled on a format where each section would have a spread for past, present and future technology. I created a new proposal and then got started on the writing. I worked with editor Stacey Roderick — this is our third book together! — and while I was writing she was looking for illustrators (among the myriad of other things she does!) We were both smitten by Victor Wong’s work and were excited when he said yes. It’s his first children’s book and he knocked it out of the park! The process was a lot of back and forth on the copy, to make it as kid-friendly and clear as possible, and some back and forth on the illustrations. Then Owlkids worked its magic. It’s an incredible team. Three years later, Becoming Bionic is out in the world.
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I was doing some translation work for Owl Magazine. The magazine and their French sister publications, Les Débrouillards, share some content and I was translating all these cool stories about flying men and invisible towers and super-strong fibers made from slime. I just thought, there’s something here. So I kept a file folder of these and other stories I came across in the newspaper, online, etc., and realized, I don’t remember why or how, that they related to superhero powers! Science was turning us into superheroes!
What is your writing process and does it vary depending on the project?
All my work is heavily researched and factchecked, regardless of whether it is fiction or nonfiction. As a journalist, I won’t let anything leave my desk without having at least three sources to confirm the facts and without the text being triple-checked. So as you can imagine I spend a lot of time digging online and reading books. That would be my process for anything I produce.
In terms of the actual writing, I don’t think I have a process, though I probably should! With a novel like Clutch or The Other Side, I just start from the beginning, knowing only the basic story arc, and write. With nonfiction I tend to have a fat file folder of articles that I use to create a nonfiction proposal. Once accepted, I write one section at a time, doing further research to find new and surprising gems to include, to fill in for length and to ensure I’m getting the facts right. I’m always changing things because I love doing research. My “here, there and everywhere” nonfiction process is probably not an example to follow! Except for the factchecking. Always triple-check everything with proper sources!
Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
Of all the powers Superman possesses, his X-ray vision seems to spark the most debate: scientists have studied whether it would really be possible, while others have wondered about the ethics of being able to see through almost anything. Sure, it’s super useful to be able to scan a body for broken bones or pinpoint the exact location of bad guys in a hostage-taking situation, but could X-ray vision also cross a line into invasion of privacy? Hmm …
The power to go unseen has its pros and cons, too. While Nelvana of the Northern Lights uses her invisibility in the name of protecting the people of the North, those who aren’t so righteous may choose to rob banks, spy, or worse, knowing they can’t be identified.
Will science ever give us Superman-like X-ray vision? No. The high doses of radiation needed for the fictional superpower to actually work would likely cause cancer. But the good news is there are other forms of super vision in development, including smart lenses and bionic eyes.
And while we won’t ever have the power of invisibility either, there are scientists experimenting with some pretty amazing ways to help us hide in plain sight. And who hasn’t wanted to make like Violet Parr from The Incredibles and hide from the world every now and then?
I love your work! You develop great hooks with a lot of kid appeal. Some NF writers try to write about a topic they’re passionate about, but can’t find the right way in. Do you have any advice?
Thank you! I now have five nonfiction books and they are in three different styles: expository/journalistic articles (What If Soldiers Fought with Pillows? and Secret Schools), browseable entries (I Can’t Do What: Strange Laws and Rules from Around the World and Becoming Bionic) and narrative nonfiction/verse (The Prisoner and the Writer).
I’ve been very fortunate to work with editors who loved my ideas, but who also rightly envisioned a stronger way to convey them. For example, I wrote What If Soldiers Fought with Pillows? as a picture book. Owlkids thought the subject was great, but said the messaging was too old. Karen Li, then editorial director of OKB at the time, asked if I could find real-world examples of all the questions in that book and write it as middle-grade. Karen was also behind The Prisoner and the Writer. I brought her my picture book about Alfred Dreyfus and Emile Zola and she immediately saw the parallels in the two men’s lives. We sketched out a new plan and I rewrote. The great thing about nonfiction, for middle-grade and older, is that you don’t write the book first like you would with a novel. With a nonfiction proposal, you have this opportunity to work with editors if they like your idea to find that right way in.
I would also say you should read nonfiction constantly. There is a huge chance you’ll find a story format already in print, mentor texts as they’re called, that works for your idea. That was also the case for The Prisoner and the Writer, and certainly for Becoming Bionic.
Please share your favorite nonfiction books from 2022 that have inspired you.
Yikes, that’s a tough question. Okay, SOME of the nonfiction books from 2022 that I’ve loved include:
- Boy Friends, by Michael Pedersen.
- Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adam’s Photographs Reveal about the Japanese American Incarceration, by Elizabeth Partridge and Lauren Tamaki.
- Star: The Bird Who Inspired Mozart, by Mireille Messier and Matte Stephens.
- One Tiny Bubble: The Story of Our Last Universal Common Ancestor, by Karen Krossing and Dawn Lo.
- Building an Orchestra of Hope: How Favio Chávez Taught Children to Make Music from Trash, by Carmen Oliver and Luisa Uribe.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Write about what inspires and excites you. If you’re not passionate about your topic, why should readers be?
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, which one would you be and why?
A bird. Although I’m afraid of heights, some days I would really like to fly away and see the world or sit in a tree by myself, sing my song and observe the goings-on.
Heather is an award-winning children’s author, journalist, editor and translator. Her two middle-grade novels, Clutch and The Other Side, received Skipping Stones Honor Awards and nominations for Forest of Reading, among other honors. Clutch was also named a 2017 Best Book from Kirkus Reviews and a finalist for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People.
Heather is also an accomplished nonfiction writer. She is the author of the award-winning middle-grade What If Soldiers Fought with Pillows? True Stories of Imagination and Determination, I Can’t Do What? Strange Laws and Rules from Around the World, Secret Schools: True Stories of the Determination to Learn, Becoming Bionic and Other Ways Science is Making Us Super and The Prisoner and the Writer, the story of wrongly imprisoned Captain Alfred Dreyfus and author Emile Zola’s fight to have him set free.
Mabel’s Fables: https://mabelsfables.com/browse/filter/t/heather%20camlot/k/keyword
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.
8 thoughts on “Author Heather Camlot on the Importance of Factchecking- PLUS A GIVEAWAY!”
May 31, 2023 at 1:03 pm
I love the concept behind this book and based on previous work from the author and publisher, I know it will be great. I can’t wait to read and share with my kids (who both wear hearing aids!). Thanks for the interview.
May 31, 2023 at 11:13 am
Congrats, Heather! Sounds like a great book.
May 29, 2023 at 4:03 pm
Thanks for sharing! I’m looking forward to reading it!
May 28, 2023 at 11:43 am
Thanks for sharing your story! Congratulations! 🙂
May 24, 2023 at 1:52 pm
Great interview, and looks like a great book!
May 24, 2023 at 10:55 am
This is exciting! Congratulations and thanks for sharing with us!
May 24, 2023 at 8:57 am
Thank you for sharing your story and your journey with us!
May 24, 2023 at 6:39 am
I love reading (and writing!) NF! Will check this out with my 8 yo who loves books like this!