children

Q & A with nonfiction author Melissa Stewart

Posted on

Hello all!

Welcome to my book blog. For my first Q & A, please welcome the talented author Melissa Stewart, whose engaging nonfiction books serve as mentor texts for me (and countless others). Check out what she has to say about her new book Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs:

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book? Did you have an agent and how did that come about?
No, I didn’t have an agent when Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs was acquired in 2015. I’ve been working with Peachtree Publishing Company since 2001, and I’m grateful that my editor saw the potential in the Pipsqueaks manuscript. I’m now working with Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I was referred to EMLA by author and friend Cynthia Levinson.

Where did you first draw inspiration for the “animal underdog” theme?
I’ve been fascinated by animal superlatives for as long as I can remember. After all, who doesn’t admire the world’s biggest, fastest, strongest creatures? But in early 2013, I began thinking about anti-superlatives—the smallest, slowest, weakest animals. Maybe I could write a book about them.
One morning, I woke up with the beginning of the book in my head:
“Everyone loves elephants. They’re so big and strong.
Everyone respects cheetahs. They’re so fast and fierce.
But this book isn’t about animals we admire. It’s about the unsung underdogs of the animal world. Don’t you think it’s time someone paid attention to them?”
It was a gift—but it came with a price. I realized that this wasn’t going to be just an anti-superlative book. It was going to be an anti-bullying book, too. And to write it, I’d have to revisit the bullying that I endured as a child.
I wasn’t ready for that, so I shut the file, and I didn’t come back to it for months and months. But eventually, I felt prepared to face my past. I was a clumsy, uncoordinated, unathletic kid, so the western fence lizard in the book represents me.
In the end, Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs is a book about animal adaptations and celebrating the traits that make us different and unique. I think pretty much every child has felt like an underdog at some point, so I hope the book will resonate with readers.

How do you go about researching your books?
No two books are the same, but I generally begin by drawing information from the nature journals I’ve been keeping since 1989. Additional information comes from books and articles and conversations with scientists and naturalists. I often use the internet to track down the experts I interview.

When did you first realize you were drawn to the world of nonfiction, and what is the appeal for you?
Many writers gravitate toward fiction because they love to invent characters and create made up worlds, but for me, the real world is so amazing, so fascinating that I just want to learn as much as I can about it and share it with other people. That’s why I write nonfiction.

Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
In 2014, uber-talented illustrator Sarah S. Brannen and I published a book called Feathers: Not Just for Flying. The minute I saw the sketches for the last page of that book, I envisioned another similar book about seashells and dove into the research. We are so pleased that Seashells: More than a Home will be published on April 2.

Please share your favorite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
Oh my, there are too many to name. Some of my favorite authors include Steve Jenkins, April Pulley Sayre, Jess Keating, Cynthia Jensen-Elliott, Diana Hutts Aston, Lita Judge, Nicola Davies, Owen Dewey, Joyce Sidman, Jennifer Ward, Heather Montgomery, Candace Fleming, Deborah Heiligman, Elizabeth Partridge, Gail Jarrow, Patricia Newman, Sandra Markle, Loree Griffin Burns, Sarah Albee, and Barb Rosenstock.
This is really a golden age for nonfiction. Authors are experimenting in all kinds of ways and stretching in new directions. It’s so exciting! I can’t wait to see what my colleagues come up with next.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
It’s pretty simple: Keep on writing! Being a writer is full of challenges and frustrations and so many things we can’t control. But we can control how much time and energy we devote to honing our craft.

Bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Chunky Chocolate Pudding ice cream from Bedford Farms in Bedford, MA. It’s my favorite.

BIO
Melissa Stewart is the award-winning author of more than 180 nonfiction books for children, including Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs, Can an Aardvark Bark?, and No Monkeys, No Chocolate. She is the co-author, with Nancy Chesley, of Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science. Melissa’s highly-regarded website features a rich array of educational resources for teaching nonfiction reading and writing.

Website: https://www.melissa-stewart.com/
Blog: http://celebratescience.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @mstewartscience
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melissa.stewart.33865
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/mstewartscience

Advertisements

Multicultural Children’s Book

Posted on

Hello all!

Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day. I feel honoured to participate, and review a book from a talented Greek author, especially since I myself am Greek! And it fosters diversity, which is crucial.

Here goes:

Review of The Wounded Swallow  By Vaggelio Kondaki-Karametou

I had the pleasure of reading this short children’s book and I was immediately drawn in. It started off in a very sweet yet mysterious way that left me wanting to know more. I could feel the love between the mother and her daughter in the opening sequence and I was curious about the swallow they kept mentioning.

Then the story traveled to another place and time, morphing into a story narrated by the mother. It was unusual and gripping. The act of war was personified, which I found to be very original. Read the rest of this entry »

What Does it Take to Publish a Book- Part 2

Posted on Updated on

Following my last post about what it takes to publish a book, here’s a real life example:

In 2014, I had a great idea for a book. It was about a Rabbit who is afraid of everything and then comes face to face with a gigantic bear. So I started writing it. A month in, I realized I didn’t know how to end the story. SoI decided to put the book away for a while.

I circled back to it a few months later and managed to finish it. Then I spent a few months editing it (though I don’t love the editing process!). I also sent it to a few of my critique partners to get their honest opinions. In total, I spent 11 months writing and editing the book.

When I finally had a polished version, I started to query editors. To my dismay, it was one rejection letter after the next.
After a while, I decided to give up seeking out editors and instead focus on finding an agent.

After spending months crafting the perfect query letter and researching every agent and their areas of specialty, I went to work. I queried agent after agent, with a different book. And then…again…it was a few years of more rejection letters.
But I knew it was part of the process and I never gave up.

In 2016, I finally got an agent! I was ecstatic! She started submitting my books to publishers. But my excitement was a bit deflated by the rejection letters that came in one after the other.

But, I kept believing.

Unfortunately, things were not going that well with that agent. I began to have my doubts. But I was too afraid to make a big move, for fear of once again being agentless and feeling “lost at sea.”

In 2017, I decided to take the plunge. I let the agent go. I was upset for a few weeks and felt lost, but then I picked myself up and went back to the drawing board. Read the rest of this entry »

How I Got an Agent, Lost that Agent, and Found a New One (Without Losing my Mind)

Posted on

(This post originally appeared on the WriteForKids Blog)
https://writeforkids.org/blog/2018/06/got-agent-lost-agent-found-new-one-without-losing-mind/

Like many of you, I’ve been knee deep in the querying trenches, desperately trying to make my submission stand out in the staggering slush pile. And as we all know, this process is time consuming. It goes on and on, peppered with rejection letters, until we finally get a bite.

I signed with my first agent a few weeks after I got my first bite. In my mind, my problems were now over. Yahoo! No more submissions! No more Twitter pitch parties! No more querying! I was already visualizing a book contract with the Big Five.

But that’s not how the cookie crumbled.

Here are 3 truths nobody tells you about landing an agent:

  1. It can be anti-climactic: Don’t expect a book deal the next day, week or month.
  2. You will still need patience: The submission process is laborious, no matter who’s doing the submitting.
  3. You will still get rejected: The difference is that now, the rejections get sent to your agent.

Read the rest of this entry »

Where Young Authors can Submit their Work

Posted on

I work with children giving writing and literacy workshops, and I love to encourage their own writing process. Many students are interested in getting their work published or entering competitions, so I compiled a list of useful resources. Good luck to all you aspiring writers!!

Magazines & Online

Stone Soup is a creative magazine for children written and illustrated by children, aged 8-13.
http://www.stonesoup.com/

Skipping Stones is a multicultural children’s magazine that encourages children aged 7-17 to submit their writing.
www.skippingstones.org

Amazing Children eZine – young writers ages 5-17 may submit poetry, stories, book reviews, movie reviews, music reviews, essays, articles, etc.
www.amazing-children.org/

Bazoof! Accepts youth submissions, comics, puzzles, games, crafts, jokes, sports, girl stuff, pet fun, movie previews, stories, recipes, interviews, true stories, posters & more for ages 8-12.
www.bazoofmag.com

Read the rest of this entry »

Grade 6 Rocks!!

Posted on

I love writing for children, especially the younger ones. My sweet spot is ages 5-7.

I also love giving writing workshops. I’m passionate about sharing my passion and encouraging literacy.

Side note: kids are hilarious. Seriously.

Every time I’m in a school, I bring a notepad and pen and sometimes take notes on the funny things they say. Kids are like little comedians. They’re not necessarily trying to be funny, but they just are.

I give workshops in elementary schools, so I deal with students aged 5-12. Now, when I walk into a grade 6 workshop, I honestly never know what to expect. Grade 6 students are not so innocent anymore. They’re branching off on their own and starting to truly find themselves. And I respect that. They’re on the verge of turning into teenagers and young adults. It’s another world!

But when I walked into Ms. White’s grade 6 class at Sherbrooke Academy, I was blown away by the students. They were friendly, bubbly, and bright. They participated in the workshop and we had a blast.

Sometimes, the energies align and magic happens. There are times where I feel I’m truly connecting to the students, and they’re receiving with open arms. Those are special moments. I appreciate them because they don’t happen every day.

That was one of the funnest workshops I’ve hosted this year. So thank-you Ms. White, and thank-you to each student who helped brighten my day!!

The Face of Autism

Posted on

Studies show that 1 in 68 children are currently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism does not discriminate; it affects children of all races, ethnicities, gender and socio-economic groups. With the right support, all individuals with ASD can thrive. But understanding its complexities and raising awareness is critical.

Sally Meadows is a published author who travels to schools talking about her book The Two Trees (see summary below) and speaking to children about autism and the importance of being a good friend. I conducted a Q & A with her, and I hope her thought provoking answers illuminate you.

 What are the most important messages you bring to children regarding autism and the importance of being a good friend?

I am a former teacher and I use a teaching technique that encourages students to draw on their own experience and knowledge to ultimately bring out the important messages in my book. As a start, I ask the children (ages 5-9) to brainstorm practical ways as to how they could show friendship and kindness to Syd, the boy with autism in the story, if he went to their school. Then I ask them to share what they know about bullying. (There is a scene in the book where Syd is pushed up against a wall and the other kids throw balls at him.) I emphasize that when we say or do something hurtful to someone, it can stay with him or her throughout his or her life. Read the rest of this entry »