Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Laura Purdie Salas, whose engaging nonfiction books serve as mentor texts for me (and countless others). Check out what she has to say about her new book Snowman-Cold=Puddle:
Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I had been submitting manuscripts to the awesome Alyssa Pusey at Charlesbridge for several years. A couple had come close, but nothing had been the perfect fit. I first sent her just the equations–no sidebars, though I envisioned sidebars from the beginning. After she expressed interest, I did a revision (maybe two) and added the sidebars (an early version of them). Then Alyssa took the manuscript to an acquisitions meeting, and I got the good news that I would finally get to work with her. (“Good news! Equations + poems + science = high publisher interest!”) I got to have a lot of input into the choice of illustrator and the concept of how the book would look. It was such a great collaboration between illustrator Micha Archer, the Charlesbridge team, and me, even though of course Micha and I never talked directly with each other. (I also share more about the path to publication for this and my other two spring 2019 books in this video: https://youtu.be/iOUtTtQKDRY)
Where did you first draw inspiration the book’s inspiration?
The inspiration for this book came strictly from the format. I was brainstorming different ways to share nonfiction content with kids, and in my picture book ideas list, I wrote: “___ + ___ = _________. Bees + flowers = honey. Short equation. Then longer prose explanation. All science-related. BECAME SNOWMAN – COLD = PUDDLE!”
Please share some of your writing process.
Because the format came first, my writing process started with spewing out dozens and dozens of equations on tons of different topics. Eventually, I realized I needed to narrow things down. First, I tried a year in a park–all four seasons. It still felt too jam-packed. So I decided to focus on spring. So much transformation happens in spring, and equations are all about how different elements change each other to create some new result. I did a lot of research to get the chronology of these spring events in a typical, logical order. And I spent a lot time on the language in the sidebars, too. I wanted the prose there to be just as playful and inventive as the equations themselves.
Why are you drawn to nonfiction?
I like to write all sorts of things, but I do think nonfiction calls to me because I’m 1) curious and 2) constantly amazed by our incredible world. I hope introducing kids to how cool the world is will lead to their loving it and valuing it.
Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I hope to keep having more and more picture books come out–and maybe some easy readers, too, though those are very hard to sell! In the next 12 months, I’ll have three books come out: Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle! How Animals Get Ready for Winter (rhyming non-fiction, Millbrook, 2019); If You Want to Knit Some Mittens (humorous nonfiction, Boyds Mills Press, 2020); and Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten (fiction, Two Lions, 2020).
Please share your favorite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
I’m going to call Dav Pilkey’s 1999 God Bless the Gargoyles my “classic” book. Does that count? When I read that melancholy story full of yearning and fell into its saturated art, my mind spun with the possibilities of the kinds of moods and stories picture books could share. Lola Schaefer’s An Island Grows is a book that made me see nonfiction picture books in a whole new way and introduced me to the idea of rhyming non-fiction. So many other books have inspired me, of course, but those two I clearly remember making a little bell ding in my head. An Island Grows was definitely a mentor text when I wrote A Leaf Can Be….
What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
You learn more from writing five different picture books than you do by polishing the same picture book manuscript for five years. Don’t be afraid to let go of a manuscript (even a good one) and move on to the next one!
Bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Amaretto with toffee bits–because it’s a good mix of the familiar and the unexpected. I’m a pretty ordinary, everyday person, but I’m of course weird in many ways.
Laura Purdie Salas has written more than 125 books for kids, including Meet My Family!, If You Were the Moon, Water Can Be…, and BookSpeak! Her books have earned the Minnesota Book Award, NCTE Notables, starred reviews, and more. She offers resources for children’s writers at https://laurasalas.com/writing-for-children/ and has a Patreon community with extra resources for Patrons: https://www.patreon.com/LauraPurdieSalas She enjoys teaching and speaking at writing conferences around the country.
Newsletter for kidlit writers: https://laurasalas.com/sign-up-for-a-writer-can-be/
Patreon community: https://www.patreon.com/LauraPurdieSalas
Writing for Children Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WritingForChildren1/
Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Hannah Holt. Her engaging nonfiction book The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds & The Life of H. Tracy Halls blew me away with its lyricism. I was grateful she took the time to answer some of my questions about her writing experience.
Can you describe the journey to publication for this book? And in your case, the journey to finding the right agent?
From the beginning, I knew wanted an agent. Agents can submit work more widely and also keep better tabs on what editors want. In theory, my agent would watch the market for me, so I could spend more time focused on writing. In practice, it was a little more complicated.
My first agent was Danielle Smith. She is no longer working in the industry.
My second agent was Laura Biagi. She is no longer working in the industry, but before she left, she sold my first two books.
My third agent was another agent at the same agency as Laura and took over my work after she left. I liked her a lot; however, I wanted to be at an agency focused more exclusively on children’s literature.
I’m now with Jennifer March Soloway at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Jennifer has been great to work with. While this business if full of twists and turns, I plan to stay where I’m at for a long, long time. Publication has been a long and winding road for me. Over the years, I’ve accumulated well over 100 rejections.
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The Diamond and the Boy is a biography of inventor Tracy Hall—my grandfather. He built a machine that turns graphite into diamond. The idea to write his biography was simple enough, but how to tell the story eluded me for years. I took the story in a dozen different directions before landing on the dual narrative with graphite.
Please share some of your writing process.
I wrote over eighty drafts of this story before it sold. I’m someone who write and rewrites over and over again. In fact, I wrote another post sharing thirteen different openings I tried for The Diamond and the Boy.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I wrote my first complete novel in fourth grade (forty handwritten pages). My early journals are also filled with poetry. I’ve always enjoyed writing, although it wasn’t until my thirties that I decided to pursue it as a career.
Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I’m working on a middle grade novel and have several picture books close to completion. I’m hopeful for upcoming submissions and looking forward to drafting several new stories this year.
Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day: I vividly remember sitting on the carpet during library time while hearing this book for the first time. I was six or seven years-old and remember thinking, ‘Yes, that’s exactly what a bad day feels like.’ That sense of connection lingered long after storytime finished.
The Remember Balloons: This book beautifully captures the frustrations and longings family members experience as an older family member goes through Alzheimer’s. My grandfather—Tracy Hall—suffered from Alzheimer’s, and The Remember Balloons treated the subject in a unique and child-friendly way. I’ll rave about it to anyone who will listen.
What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
There is no deadline for success. Take your time, learn your craft, and find the right publishing path for YOU!
And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Tillamook Mudslide Ice Cream because it’s twisting veins of fudgey goodness are like a treasure hunt in a bowl.
Hannah is a children’s author with an engineering degree. Her books, The Diamond & The Boy (2018, Balzer & Bray) and A Father’s Love (2019, Philomel) weave together her love of language and science. She lives in Oregon with her husband, four children, and a very patient cat named Zephyr. She and her family enjoy reading, hiking, and eating chocolate chip cookies.