publishing

Author Cynthia Levinson on Social Justice- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome yet another talented nonfiction writer: Cynthia Levinson. Here she is, discussing her book The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art, illustrated by Evan Turk and published by Abrams. The title alone captures the hook of the story, and I encourage you all to read it.

BUT first- YAY! Cynthia is generously giving away a free critique of of the first 1000 words of a nonfiction picture book. All you have to do is comment on this blog post. Contest ends April 16, 2021.

Please describe the journey to publication for The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art.
As with all of my books, the journey was long and circuitous. I am deeply grateful to my critique partners in both Austin and Boston as well as to veteran picture book author Chris Barton for helping me focus the story and hone the arc. From the beginning, which was way back in 2016, the manuscript (I’m too superstitious to call anything I’m working on a “book” until a publisher buys it) concentrated on Shahn as a story-teller. This approach allowed me to show how he bucked artistic conventions of the time by displaying real life instead of the pastoral scenes his teachers advocated. However, the early drafts read too much like a magazine article rather than a picture book. They were about Shahn’s life but not through his eyes. The book is layered—merging art and politics—and it took me a while to work out how to do that without having text that was dense.COVER

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Since all of my books so far deal with social justice in some way, you would think that I would have figured out more quickly that fairness and justice, which compelled Shahn’s life work, would form the backbone of my approach! Once I realized his concerns for immigrants, working people, civil rights, voting rights, basic human rights, anti-war activism, and other causes needed to be the core, I, too, felt inspired.
In addition, I’ve known about Shahn for many years because of his installations in synagogues, his Passover Haggadah, incorporation of Hebrew lettering, and other Jewish-related themes. He stood for tikkun olam, Hebrew for “repair the world.”

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
I wish my process had evolved over time! But, regardless of the project, I always do too much research. Then, I write multiple versions from different perspectives, throw them at my very patient and perceptive critique groups, slow-walk them past my agent, and, finally, after literally years and multiple drafts, hope to land with an editor who will really show me how to write the book.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
The final spread includes the line, “Ben drew until the end of his life, handing down his stories of justice from generation to generation.” But, what’s really compelling his Evan Turk’s art.

Many say the market for PB bios is saturated at the moment, do you have any tips on how to create fresh bios that capture the editor’s attention?
First, write the stories to which you feel and can show a personal connection. Secondly, consider writing historical fiction.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I have no idea where my career is headed! Two books are under contract. One, which I think of as a biography of a place in free verse, is about the Highlander Folk School. The other is—surprise!—a historical fiction picture book about a Supreme Court case. Other WIPs remain manuscripts not books!

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
For picture books, I strive but have so far failed to write with the economy and poetry of Patricia MacLachlan, Barb Rosenstock, Deborah Freedman, Barb Kerley, and Candace Fleming. Candy’s middle grade books, along with those of Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Steve Sheinkin, Deborah Heiligman, and Ann Bausum, whose research and story-telling skills are exemplary, guide me.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? 
Listen to your book. Let it tell you what it needs to be.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
An elephant because they’re so empathetic.Ms favorite IMG_2810ac

BIO
Cynthia Levinson writes (mostly) nonfiction for (mostly) young readers, focusing on social justice. Her books have won a number of awards including the Jane Addams Book Award, SCBWI Golden Kite and NCTE Orbis Pictus Honors, NAACP Image Award Finalist, Junior Library Guild and Parents’ Choice selections, and the ILA Social Justice Award. She and her husband live in both Austin and Boston.

LINKS
Free virtual event on April 28: https://www.bookpeople.com/event/virtual-event-cynthia-levinson-evan-turk-peoples-painter
Website: https://cynthialevinson.com/
Facebook: Cynthia Levinson
Twitter: @cylev
Instagram: cylevinson

Author Lisa Amstutz on Connecting Kids with Nature- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome a talented NF writer who’s a mentor to me, and who also just became an agent at Storm Literary, Lisa Amstutz. After writing over 150 books, she still had time to release another: Mammal Mania, middle grade nonfiction, published by Chicago Review Press. Check out her book journey below.

BUT first- YAY! Lisa is generously giving away a free critique of a PB or up to 10 pages of a longer ms (double-spaced). All you have to do is comment on this blog post. Contest ends April 6, 2021.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for Mammal Mania.
I had previously written a book for Chicago Review Press’s Young Naturalists series called Amazing Amphibians. CRP was wonderful to work with, so my agent and I pitched some more ideas and this was the one my editor chose. My background is in ecology, so both of these books were right up my alley and fun to research and write.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Connecting kids with nature has always been one of my passions. Like the others in this series, this book is aimed at helping kids discover nature through engaging text, photos, and hands-on activities.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
It definitely varies by the project. The two books I wrote for this series were very research-heavy, so I would take one topic at a time, research it, and then figure out a good way to share that information in a kid-friendly way. Some of my others, like Applesauce Day and Finding a Dove for Gramps, were more like writing poetry – a spark of inspiration that flowed out onto the page—followed, of course, by lots of revisions.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
“Imagine that you took a beaver and a duck and mixed them together—you might come out with something like a platypus. In fact, when European scientists first saw a platy­pus specimen, they thought it had to be a fake! But they were eventually convinced that this odd-looking mammal was real.”

You’re skilled at writing nonfiction, what are some effective strategies to engage young readers while disseminating information?
Writing nonfiction is really no different from writing fiction, except that you can’t make stuff up. The same rules of good writing apply – use strong nouns, active verbs, metaphors/similes, wordplay, a compelling story arc (if writing narrative NF) – in other words, general good writing techniques.

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
Because this was part of a series, I used previous books in the series as mentor texts. Others that have inspired me in terms of engaging middle grade nonfiction include Some Writer by Melissa Sweet, All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat, Something Rotten by Heather Montgomery, Astronaut-Aquanaut by Jen Swanson, and many more.

You recently became an agent at Storm Literary, how do you balance writing and agenting?
Well, my pace has slowed a bit, but I’ve always had to fit my own writing in around freelance client work (writing, editing, etc.), so this doesn’t feel much different. Like anyone else with a day job or other full-time responsibilities, I write in my spare time – evenings, weekends, etc.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
When an opportunity presents itself, don’t let fear and ‘what if’s’ stop you. Say yes—then go figure out how to do it. My writing mentor gave me this piece of advice early on, and it has served me well, even though it often stretches me out of my comfort zone.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
Hmm. Maybe a cat—judging by my own three, it’s a pretty luxurious life!

BIO
Lisa Amstutz is the author of ~150 science and history books for kids. She spent eight years as a freelance editor, working with individual authors as well as corporate publishers. She also served as Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI: Ohio North and as a volunteer judge for Rate Your Story. Lisa recently joined Storm Literary Agency as an Associate Literary Agent.
Lisa’s background includes a B.A. in Biology and an M.S. in Environmental Science/Ecology. A former outdoor educator, she specializes in topics related to science, nature, and agriculture. She lives on a small farm with her family.

LINKS
Website: www.LisaAmstutz.com
Twitter: @LJAmstutz
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LJAmstutz
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lisaamstutz.author/
Mammal Mania is available anywhere books are sold.
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mammal-Mania-Activities-Observations-Naturalists/dp/1641604360/
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mammal-mania-lisa-j-amstutz/1137370629?ean=9781641604369
IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781641604369

Author Barb Rosenstock on How to Craft NF Bios- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an author who needs no introduction, and who landed a Caldecott Honor in 2015 among many other awards: Barb Rosenstock. Read below to see her journey creating Mornings with Monet, a nonfiction picture book, illustrated by Mary Grandpré and published by Knopf / Penguin Random House. It’s fascinating how she sifted through various facts during her research phase, and focused on what she felt a personal connection to, and what had kid-appeal.

BUT first- YAY! Barb is generously giving away a free copy of Mornings with Monet (U.S. shipping only). All you have to do is comment on this blog post. Contest ends March 29, 2021.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for Mornings with Monet.
I grew up in Chicago and have loved the Monet and his artist friends since first seeing their work in the Impressionist Wing at The Art Institute as a child. It’s easy art to love, colorful and for the most part gentle subject matter. Mary Grandpré and I have done 3 art books together: The Noisy Paint Box, Vincent Can’t Sleep and Through the Window. I kind of wanted to round it to an even number of four books. I first started looking into female Impressionist, Mary Cassatt. After a bit of research, I just wasn’t drawn to the subject. I decided to try to tackle the most famous Impressionist, the first Impressionist, Claude Monet.  I thought I’d be writing about Monet and his garden, or Monet and the first Impressionist exhibition, or his Haystack series paintings, which were all big topics. But books do what they need to do, and this one needed to be a very small story.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I would typically attempt to start a book in a subject’s childhood, but Monet’s young years were not all that compelling. Also, as I began researching, there was a lot about Monet the man that I found unappealing. In spite of his many character flaws, his glorious art kept calling me. I decided to look into specifically how he created his art, his process. I wasn’t originally aware that at times Monet actually painted from a boat. I liked that boat more than anything else in his whole life, and so I thought I’d set myself the challenge of building an entire picture book biography that takes place in about a roughly 4-hour painting session on the boat. It worked, thanks to Mary Grandpré’s stunning art!

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
I’m never sure enough of myself as a writer that I’m at all clear on what my “writing process” is anyhow. I sit down and write, sometimes it goes well, sometimes it does not, that is the process.  Every book takes the time and energy it needs and each time I sit down to do a book, I’m not sure how (or if) it’s going to work out. Basically, I just keep asking questions, first of the research and later of my own words. Questions like:  So what? What does that mean? Is that what you’re trying to say really? Is that logical? What does it feel like? Will kids find this interesting? For me the process is answering my own questions. After a decade at it, it’s just a process of trusting that my curiosity will eventually shape itself onto the page.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
Wow, maybe you should tell ME which parts are compelling. But here goes, at least this is my favorite part, drawn from my own life (as well as Monet’s):
“Anyone who creates understands—that art is not magic. It is work…and work…and work, and then…it is magic.”

What draws you to the world of nonfiction?
I have always liked true stories ever since my maternal grandfather told me “true” (or mostly true J) family stories. I liked historical fiction and history-based nonfiction the most as a child and read a ton of it at my public and school libraries. I still like true or “based on truth” movies better than anything fictional. I think the idea that a story is real makes is MUCH more compelling than anything made up.

Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I have a book on citizen science and monarch butterflies coming out next year with illustrator Erika Meza from Knopf. And I’m excited to be working with Katherine Roy again on a book about the Sargasso Sea from Norton.  It was great to take a step away from history for a bit, but I’ll get back to it I’m sure. There’s a few more titles in the works, but no use talking about them so early, you know how long picture books take!

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
The picture books that started me writing are still mentors: The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, and my all-time favorite, Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann. Favorite picture book authors include: Jen Bryant, Carole Weatherford, and Candace Fleming. I have been obsessed with every single thing Cynthia Rylant ever put down on paper for almost 30 years. I have favorite illustrators too other than the ones I’ve worked with: Elisha Cooper, Kadir Nelson, Emily Sutton, Floyd Cooper, Eliza Wheeler, The Fan Brothers, Jason Chin, Brendan Wenzel, Frank Morrison, Hadley Hooper, and the late Mordicai Gerstein.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Get the actions right and the feelings right, and the rest will follow.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
A dog, because…DOGS! They are curious, loyal, loving, understanding, people feed them and they can take naps virtually any time they want.

 

BIO
Barb Rosenstock likes true stories best. She is the author of eighteen nonfiction and historical fiction picture books that combine deep research with playful language. Her book, The Noisy Paint Box, illustrated by Mary Grandpré, received a Caldecott Honor in 2015. Other awards include the SCBWI Golden Kite, an Orbis Pictus Honor, a Sydney Taylor Honor, and the South Asia Book Award, as well as numerous national and state recognitions. Barb loves sharing stories and inspiring students in schools and libraries across the country. She lives with her family north of Chicago.

LINKS
www.barbrosenstock.com
Twitter: @barbrosenstock
Instagram: @brosenstock
Mornings with Monet can be purchased from:
https://bookshop.org/books/mornings-with-monet-9780525708186/9780525708179

Author Patricia Newman on Getting Through Rough Drafts- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author an award winning author I admire greatly for her skilled NF writing, Patrician Newman. Read below to see her journey creating Planet Ocean, middle grade NF, with the lovely photographs of Annie Crawley, published by Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing.

BUT first- YAY! Patricia is generously giving away a free manuscript critique (max. 10 pages) or a 20-minute virtual school visit. All you have to do is comment on this blog post. Contest ends March 19, 2021.

Please describe the journey to publication for Planet Ocean.
I first met Annie via telephone in 2010 or 2011. I had cold-called her to see if she’d like to be the photographer for a book I was proposing called Plastic, Ahoy! Annnie had been on the ship with the scientists and had the only photos available. She was thrilled someone else wanted to “talk trash” and jumped at the opportunity. We became friends and looked for other opportunities to work together.
In 2016, Annie and I were driving through a Colorado blizzard to visit a black-footed ferret conservation center that we featured in Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. During the long drive, we began discussing our next book – because well, I guess we’re over achievers. Annie’s underwater photography and her advocacy for the ocean seemed a natural fit for an ocean book.
While the ocean book idea percolated, I researched and wrote Eavesdropping on Elephants. And finally, in 2018 the timing was right to begin working together again. In November 2018, we submitted a proposal to Carol Hinz at Millbrook Press who had published our Plastic, Ahoy! and Zoo Scientists to the Rescue collaborations. By February 2019, we had an offer.
Then the fun began. I traveled to Annie’s hometown in Seattle where we interviewed several people for our Salish Sea chapter. Annie traveled to Indonesia and Utquiaġvik, Alaska for the Coral Triangle and Arctic chapters. In between trips, I interviewed Annie. We shared information via email, Dropbox, Google Drive, Facebook, text message, and phone.
In the meantime, I wrote. Fast and furiously. Our contract stipulated a September 2019 manuscript delivery deadline. While Carol and I revised the text, Annie and I began work on the videos for the QR codes. I wrote drafts of the scripts and Annie narrated and produced the videos.
When COVID-19 pushed our fall 2020 release date to spring 2021, we took the extra time to meticulously select photos for every page of Planet Ocean – even the QR code icons. Millbrook Press finalized the layout and sent the book to the printer in late 2020.
Throughout every step, Annie and I worked as a team, sharing ideas and more than a few laughs. Planet Ocean is our heart book.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Our ocean itself. The ocean makes me happy and I have several ocean memories that helped fuel this project. Scientists are just beginning to understand that the ocean soothes us and boosts our creativity.
Annie Crawley was another inspiration. She feels at home underwater and has gathered a staggering amount of ocean knowledge on her expeditions with scientists and explorers.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
I wouldn’t wish my process on anyone. It’s messy, especially at the beginning. I agonize throughout the first draft but find my stride during revision. Usually, I stop tinkering when Carol says the book must go to the printer.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
For the Salish Sea chapter of Planet Ocean, Annie and I interviewed Dana Wilson, a Lummi elder fisherman. I love this passage because it shows Dana’s deep connection to the sea.

While science marches on, members of the Lummi Nation mourn the lack of salmon. For centuries these Coast Salish people have called themselves the Salmon People because of their dependence on salmon fishing.

“We lived our lives around salmon,” says Dana. “We migrated with them. Salmon are who we are—our economy, our trade, our songs and dances. It’s how we always sustained ourselves.” According to Lummi culture, the salmon’s migration symbolizes the struggle that makes life worthwhile. The annual Lummi salmon ceremony used to give thanks for the abundance of salmon.

“At the ceremony I attended,” Annie says, “the Lummi prayed for the salmon’s return. For the first time in his life, Dana is not fishing for salmon because not enough of them are returning.”

How can aspiring NF writers make their writing more trade oriented and engage writers on a universal level?
Nonfiction writing is more than just the facts. Successful nonfiction authors start every project with a personal connection that comes from the heart. For narrative nonfiction, we tell stories that connect readers to their world in ways that resonate with them. You have only to read Planet Ocean to discover how invested Annie and I are with the ocean’s story as our story.
In expository nonfiction, we organize facts according to some unifying focus unique to us. For an example, Melissa Stewart’s Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs morphed into an anti-bullying book. In a blog post Melissa says, “I’d have to revisit some painful parts of my childhood” to write this book.
I suggest budding nonfiction authors read Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep for inspiration. The book, edited by Melissa, features craft essays from fifty award-winning nonfiction authors.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
Plastic, Ahoy! was my first foray into environmental nonfiction for children, and I think I’m going to say here. There are so many stories left to tell.
My next book releases in the fall of 2022. Illustrated by the talented Natasha Donovan, it tells a happy conservation story about a river.

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
I always have trouble with this question because I love so many books. Most recently, I used Jason Chin’s Grand Canyon and Ashley Spire’s The Most Magnificent Thing as mentor texts for two different projects I’m working on.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Find a personal connection to your writing project. Your prose will be richer, and ideas will flow from your heart.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
An elephant. Who wouldn’t want to have a trunk?

BIO

Patricia Newman’s books show young readers how their actions can ripple around the world. Using social and environmental injustice as inspiration, she empowers young readers to seek connections to the real world and to use their imaginations to act on behalf of their communities. A Robert F. Sibert Honor recipient, Patricia’s books have received starred reviews, ALA Notable recognition, Green Earth Book Awards, an Outstanding Science Trade Book Award, a Parents’ Choice Award; been honored as Junior Library Guild selections; and been included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists.
One Texas librarian recently wrote, “Patricia is one of THE BEST nonfiction authors writing for our students in today’s market, and one of our MUST HAVE AUTHORS for every collection.”
Patricia frequently speaks at schools and conferences to share how children of any age can affect change. Her presentations are described as “phenomenal,” “fantastic,” “mesmerizing,” “passionate,” and “inspirational.”

LINKS

Link to a 4-min video Patricia and Annie made about why your library needs Planet Ocean: https://youtu.be/OWMoEcABvL0
Support independent booksellers and buy Planet Ocean at Bookshop.org.
Website: https://www.patriciamnewman.com/
LitLinks – a blog series that highlights connections between STEM and language arts
Twitter: @PatriciaNewman
Facebook: Patricia Newman, Author & Literacy Advocate
Pinterest: Patricia Newman, Children’s Book Author

Author Andrea Wang on Using Mentor Texts- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author and EMLA agency sister Andrea Wang, here to chat about her newest picture book, Watercress, illustrated by none other than Jason Chin, published by Holiday House/Neal Porter Books. Check out her author journey below.

BUT first- YAY! Andrea is generously giving away a copy of her book (signed by her and Jason Chin)! All you have to do is comment on this blog post. Contest ends March 8, 2021.

Please describe the journey to publication for Watercress?.
When I wrote down my memory of picking watercress for the first time, it was in the form of a personal essay. I had taken a course in writing personal essays during my MFA program and thought it would be a good form to use. But I didn’t know how to end the essay, so after some time, I rewrote it as a fictional picture book. That worked better, but the ending still wasn’t right. I shoved it into the proverbial drawer and didn’t look at it again for about seven or eight years. I was inspired to take it out after reading A Different Pond (written by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui) and rewrote it again, entirely from scratch. It was a long journey just to revise the manuscript, but I needed those years to find the heart of the story.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I was inspired by a childhood memory of being forced to pick watercress by the side of the road. It was a memory that haunted me. I had to write the book in order to understand why I couldn’t let this memory go and what it really meant to me. I also wanted to honor my parents and their experience as immigrants from China.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from the book.
Mom and Dad press me to try some.
“It is fresh,” Dad says.
“It is free,” Mom says.
I shake my head.

Free is bad.
Free is
hand-me-down clothes and
roadside trash-heap furniture and
now,
dinner from a ditch.

This excerpt shows the depth of misunderstanding and miscommunication between the main character and her immigrant parents. The gap feels insurmountable, until the mom shares a story from her past.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
My process does vary depending on the project and whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. Most of the time I start by writing down ideas and notes in a notebook and then progress to doing a lot of research and making more notes. I’ll jot down phrases or sentences that might work for the story, and once I feel ready, I’ll write a very rough draft on the computer. I’ll revise it numerous times, often based on feedback from critique partners, and then I’ll either share it with my agent and editor if it feels submittable, or shelve it until I find my way into the story and can rewrite it again, as I did with Watercress. I find that I need to let most of my stories marinate in the back of my mind for a while before I can move forward with writing them.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I’m super excited to have my debut middle grade novel releasing this August from Kokila. It’s a contemporary coming-of-age story called The Many Meanings of Meilan, about a Chinese American girl whose sense of self fragments after her extended family has a falling-out. I have another picture book coming out next year, also from Neal Porter Books, that is called Luli and the Language of Tea. It’s about a young girl who bridges a language gap through a shared love for tea. I’m also working on another contemporary MG as well as two nonfiction picture books. As for my career, I’d love to keep writing books that explore identity or have to do with food – preferably both at the same time.

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
As I mentioned above, A Different Pond was a huge inspiration for me and also served as a mentor text for Watercress. There are so many brilliant PBs that it’s impossible to pick favorites, but I rely on the works of Chris Barton, Hayley Barrett, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Maria Gianferrari, Minh Le, Theresa Robeson, Lisa Robinson, Barb Rosenstock, and Carole Boston Weatherford. For MG, I’m especially inspired by J. Anderson Coats, Debbi Michiko Florence, Erin Entrada Kelly, and Lisa Yee.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Don’t be afraid to write from a place of vulnerability. Embrace what you don’t know and write until you understand it. Readers deserve complete emotional honesty.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
Can I be a plant instead? I’m borderline obsessed with ginkgo trees and would love to be one. They’re long-lived, scrub pollution out of the air, are possibly fire-retardant, have medicinal seeds, and are graceful (something I am not!).

BIO
Andrea Wang is the award-winning author of The Nian Monster (APALA Honor, PW starred review) and Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando (Freeman Book Award Honor, Sakura Medal, JLG Selection, SLJ starred review). She has two books releasing in 2021: Watercress (JLG Gold Standard Selection, multiple starred reviews); and The Many Meanings of Meilan, her debut middle grade novel. Her work explores culture, creative thinking, and identity. She is also the author of seven nonfiction titles for the library and school market. Andrea holds an M.S. in Environmental Science and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People. She lives in the Denver area with her family.

LINKS
Website: https://andreaywang.com
Twitter: @AndreaYWang
Instagram: @AndreaWhyWang
Linktree (including buy links): https://linktr.ee/AndreaYWang

Author Baptiste Paul on Slowing Down and Connecting- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome the acclaimed author Baptiste Paul, here to chat about his newest picture book, Peace (Paz/Frieden), co-written by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Estelí Meza and published by NorthSouth Books/Nord-Sud. Check out his author journey below. I absolutely love the message about slowing down and re-connecting with nature, and also with one another. I think we could all benefit from this motto in life.

BUT first- YAY! Baptiste is generously giving away a signed copy of his book Peace! All you have to do is comment on this blog post. Contest ends Feb 19, 2021.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for Peace.
My memory is a little cloudy about the journey for Peace simply because we wrote the story many years ago. My wife and I sometimes have very late night writing sessions—like most working parents, it can be tricky to coordinate schedules. But my wife and I work together on projects we feel deeply, and on projects that embody the kind of world we want to live in and leave for our children. Working toward peace is one of those goals, and we don’t think anyone is too young to start thinking about that word and all the things it means. We wrote the text years ago, then fine tuned it again after an editor was interested. The process, as most people probably know, is always years in the making.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
As we are more and more plugged in with our devices, I feel that we are becoming more disconnected to the people around us. If we want to make peace a priority, we have to take time to slow down and connect. And we must show care not just just for people and animals but for the entire planet.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from the book.
Peace can begin with a laugh and a wave
And grow into actions remarkably brave.
Because peace is linked to justice, peace is more than calm or friendship. These lines, and Estelí’s remarkable art show young readers that peace requires both thoughts and action, and those actions require courage.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
My process varies because I write both fiction and non fiction. I always start with pen and paper because it’s reliable and does not crash. Some days, I’m knee deep in research, literally. Other days I let my imagination run wild.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
Knowing that we are still in the midst of a pandemic, it’s really hard to gauge a career path. However, I would be completely content if all I do is write books that inspire children to dream.  I just finished a fiction picture book called To Carnival!  – A celebration in St. Lucia which is coming out on April 1st. Also, I have another book called Climb On that’s coming out in 2023 —the process takes time.

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
I have a long list of books that have served me well. These are just a few that I think of on a regular basis, The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman and A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
All the stories you want to write are inside of you. I’m always at peace when I’m mining my own memories. Your peace awaits—keep mining and keep writing.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
That’s an interesting question. I’d be a cockroach, not because I’m a pest although to my kids I can be, but for its ability to survive almost anywhere.

BIO
Baptiste Paul grew up in St. Lucia, where at age seven he propagated a root cutting that still produces breadfruit for his community. He holds an Environmental Science degree and is the author of The Field which received multiple starred reviews. He is also the co-author of I Am Farmer, Adventures To School, and Peace, with Miranda Paul. His forthcoming book, To Carnival! A Celebration in St. Lucia will give readers a small taste of his homeland.  Learn more at baptistepaul.net.

LINKS
Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/baptiste.paul.5
Twitter.@baptistepaul
Instagram @baptistepaul77  

 

 

Author Jolene Gutiérrez: Writing about STEM- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hello world, and Happy New Year!!

After a rough start to the year thanks to my computer crashing (remember to backup your files, people!), I’m back. Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author Jolene Gutiérrez, author of the nonfiction book Bionic Beasts: Saving Animal Lives with Artificial Flippers, Legs, and Beaks published by Millbrook/Lerner Publishing. Check out her author journey below.

BUT first- YAY! Jolene is generously giving away a critique for a non-rhyming PB (750 words or less). All you have to do is comment on this blog post. Contest ends Jan 29, 2021.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for Bionic Beasts: Saving Animal Lives with Artificial Flippers, Legs, and Beaks.
My Bionic Beasts book journey started in 2018 when Millbrook/Lerner Publishing editor Carol Hinz put out a call for STEM picture books. I’d never written a nonfiction picture book, but I’m fascinated by many STEM topics, so I decided to give it a try! I wrote a 1,000 word picture book titled Bionic Beasts and explored ways humans are helping animals through science, technology, and engineering.
Within a few months, I heard back from Carol. She asked if I’d be willing to expand the book from a picture book to a middle grade book with five chapters, each about a different animal. Of course, I said yes!

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I chose to write about animals with prosthetic limbs/body parts because I grew up on a farm where injured animals were oftentimes “put down.” This broke my heart, then and now, and I wanted to help animals in some way. After shadowing a veterinarian as a teenager, I realized that wasn’t my path, and now I know that writing one of the ways I can help animals. My hope is that this book will inspire children to become people who think about how they might help animals.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
“Not long ago, a bird without a beak might have starved to death. An elephant without a foot would have hobbled painfully, permanently damaging her spine and remaining legs. Now animals like these are becoming bionic beasts, animals who have artificial body parts that help them move or function.
Using innovative designs and technology such as 3-D printing, humans can help animals in need. People around the globe—including students like you—are making custom prostheses, replacement bionic body parts that allow animals to move, eat, and live their best lives.”

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
My writing process changes depends on the project. I teach full time, so I’ve learned to use every spare bit of time and postpone bigger projects until I have breaks from school if possible. Because I’m a mom and my kids have always been active in extracurriculars, I’ve also learned how to write while sitting on the sidelines at soccer practice, in the school cafeteria, or in my car. I also try to approach different parts of a project at times when I’m mentally able to handle them. That means I might be organizing research and reading through notes after work and then doing some of my social media promoting and connecting at night after dinner. I might save my actual writing for the weekends when my brain is energized and better able to function. While I believe that the practice of writing every day is important and can be beneficial for writers, I’m not always able to do that, so I offer myself grace around that and just find time when I can.

Please tell us a bit about your book Mac and Cheese and the Personal Space Invader.
Oliver wants nothing more than to be a good friend. As he’s studying class guinea pigs Mac and Cheese, Oliver hears his teacher mention how Mac and Cheese are the best of friends. Oliver thinks, “Oh, NOW I know how to be a good friend!” But when he tries nuzzling and snuggling his classmates like guinea pigs do, Oliver’s classmates quickly show him that they don’t like when he invades their personal space bubbles. With the help of his teacher and classmates, Oliver learns that being a friend means respecting personal space.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
This past July, I signed with agent Kaitlyn Sanchez! Kaitlyn is amazing and has helped me get some of my manuscripts ready for submission. I’m so excited for what the future holds because, as you know, Kaitlyn is a powerhouse in so many ways. I also just released the series Stars of Latin Pop with Rourke Educational, and I learned that a poem of mine will be included in a poetry anthology from Charlesbridge.

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
Oh, goodness! I’m a librarian and write for basically all ages, so that’s a tough question. I love stories that will make a difference in children’s lives and lyrically written books. Some of my favorites include Elena K. Arnold’s An Ordinary Day, Francisco Jiménez’s The Christmas Gift: El regalo de Navidad, Yuyi Morales’s Dreamers, Patricia MacLachlan’s The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse, and Laurel Snyder’s Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova. At the middle grade/young adult levels, some of my favorites are Jerry Craft’s New Kid, Rex Ogle’s Free Lunch, Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s Under the Mesquite, Leslie Connor’s The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, Paul Mosier’s The Train I Ride, and Jacqueline Woodson’s Harbor Me.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
If writing is your calling and publication is one of your goals, keep writing! Your journey may be long and arduous, but take comfort in the thought that you are on the right path and growing as a writer and person. Every day, know that you’re one day closer to achieving your goals. If you don’t give up, you will eventually make your own dreams come true!

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
This one’s easy—a horse! I think they’re the most beautiful animals. I love speed, so the fact that horses can gallop is an added bonus. I used to ride when I was younger, and there was nothing better than sitting on a horse’s back and feeling like I was flying.

BIO
Jolene grew up on a farm, surrounded by animals, plants, and history. She is an award-winning teacher-librarian and has been working with diverse learners at Denver Academy for the past 25 years. She holds a Master’s degree in Library Science. She’s a wife of 22 years and mama to two teenage humans, three preteen dogs, a kitten who plays fetch, and an ever-rotating variety of other animals including a crested gecko, a ferret, and a rescue squirrel. She’s an active member of SCBWI and The Author’s Guild, a We Need Diverse Books mentorship finalist, a Writing with the Stars mentee, a Highlights Foundation scholarship winner, and the winner of the Cynthia Levinson nonfiction picture book biography scholarship to the Writing Barn. She’s an active member of the Perfect 2020 PBs group, a member of the critique group 6 Ladies and a MANuscript, and a co-creator of #KidlitZombieWeek.
Jolene is the author of a picture book, MAC AND CHEESE AND THE PERSONAL SPACE INVADER (Spork, 8/20), a nonfiction middle grade book, BIONIC BEASTS: SAVING ANIMAL LIVES WITH ARTIFICIAL FLIPPERS, LEGS, AND BEAKS (Lerner, 10/20), and the biographical 4-book series STARS OF LATIN POP: SHAKIRA, OZUNA, J BALVIN, and SOFÍA REYES (Carson Dellosa, 01/21). She is represented by Kaitlyn Sanchez of Olswanger Literary.

LINKS
Website: www.jolenegutierrez.com
Facebook: facebook.com/writerjolene
Twitter: twitter.com/writerjolene
Instagram: instagram.com/writerjolene
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/writerjolene
Pinterest: pinterest.com/writerjolene
My books can be purchased here: https://bookshop.org/shop/writerjolene

Author Kaye Baillie on the Power of Revision plus a GIVEAWAY

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author Kaye Baillie who released her picture book entitled Boo Loves Books, illustrated by Tracie Grimwood and published by  New Frontier Publishing (Australia)/Lerner Books (USA). Take a look at her writing journey below.

But first, YAY! Kaye is generously giving away a PB critique (fiction or nonfiction, no rhyme, under 1,000 words)-simply comment on this blog post to enter, contest ends November 30, 2020.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for Boo Loves Books.

In 2016 I read an online article about kids reading to cats at an animal shelter. I wrote a story based on the article and one month later sent it to an agent. Silent rejection. Did I get the story critiqued beforehand? No, I didn’t. I still had much to learn even though I had been writing for years and had one picture book contract with an Australian publisher. One month later I submitted to an Australian publisher and one more agent. Two more silent rejections.

The following month I paid for a critique with an editor at a publishing house in the US. I received encouraging feedback but no offer. Feeling discouraged, I put the story away for over one year. I decided to take another look at the editor’s comments. I decided to rework the story. I sent it to my new critique group formed through SCBWI. With their feedback I renamed the story, did more edits and prepared to submit it again. So then, two years after I wrote the story, I submitted it to four publishers – 3 Australian and 1 small US one. Almost four months later, one Australian publisher replied and said my story was delightful and asked if it was available! I replied ‘yes’! The book was released 1 May 2020 in Australia, UK and New Zealand and 6 October 2020 in the USA.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

As a children’s author, I’m always looking for inspirational true stories to write about. One day I read in the Huffington Post about a Book Buddies program where primary school students read to homeless cats at the Animal Rescue League of Berks County, Pennsylvania. What captured my attention was the transformation of a boy who took part in the program and his loving attitude towards the cats.

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?

It does vary. My process for writing picture book biographies involves lots of research. Once I have completed my research which can take months, I begin sifting through the facts and events to figure out what to put in the story. I also use mentor texts to look at page turns, language, words per spread, first and last lines etc. When writing fiction, I use mentor texts in the same way. A fictional story may require some research, but the writing isn’t restrained by telling the truth as it is when writing non-fiction. And the time to write a fictional story is usually a lot less. I do writing related tasks usually for 2-4 hours a day and I write in my studio out the back. When I have the story in good shape, I get my critique group to look at it and also send it to Rate Your Story. When I’m getting close to finished, I get a paid critique. Then, after final revisions I send it to my agent.

What differentiates your book from others with similar content currently on the market?

Boo Loves Books is about anxiety, being afraid or embarrassed about making mistakes and realizing that you can do things at your own pace in your own way. The story differs to others on the market as it has two settings: school and an animal shelter. Phoebe the main character sees that Boo also has fears and I think the way she solves the situation is heartwarming and extremely empowering for children. Plus, the story is based on a real program for reading to animals.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.

“This dog is a little bit scared. But he would never hurt you.”

Scared, thought Phoebe. Of me?

“Talk about the pictures,” said Miss Spinelli. “Your voice is all he needs”.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?

I have had three picture books released in Australia over the last two years. Boo Loves Books was originally released by New Frontier Publishing Australia, and they also released it in the UK, New Zealand and now it has been released in the US. My fourth picture book comes out in Australia, March 2021. After I signed with literary agent Essie White of Storm Literary in 2019 after meeting her at the SCBWI conference in Sydney, Australia, she sold my first picture book biography which is due out at the end of 2021 with The Innovation Press. I’m very lucky to have an agent who is happy to represent me just for those. I write picture book biographies and also fiction. Several stories are out on submission and I have just sent Essie my latest PB biography. I intend to keep writing picture books. It’s what I love to do.

Please share your favorite 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?

Classic – ‘Goodnight Moon’ by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd. I adore the mood created in the story and the gentle lyrical language. It’s also quite a mysterious book which sets it apart from others.

Contemporary – ‘Windows’ by Julia Denos and E.B. Goodale. I love this simple yet gentle story of a boy walking through his neighborhood at night. It’s lyrical (I love lyrical) with minimal word count and it has a warm comforting ending.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? 

Read your work out loud – OFTEN! Listen to its rhythm, voice and page turns. Rework the parts you are not happy with.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??

Licorice because it’s a bit different and I love it.

BIO

Kaye Baillie completed a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing in 2005. Her favourite subject was Writing for Children and she eventually switched from her role as an executive assistant to children’s author. Her first picture book Message in a Sock won in the History Category in the Northern Lights Book Awards USA (2019) and was shortlisted in the Western Australian Young Readers’ Book Awards and the NSW Premier’s History Awards (2019). She has a passion for telling stories about remarkable people.

In 2020 Kaye had two picture books released. The Friendly Games with MidnightSun Publishing and Boo Loves Books with New Frontier Publishing.

In 2021 Kaye has two picture books due for release. When the Waterhole Dries Up with Windy Hollow Books and her USA debut Olive Dennis, Train Engineer with The Innovation Press.

She is an active member and the Assistant Co-ordinator of SCBWI Victoria, Australia and is a member of the Children’s Book Council of Australia. Kaye lives in a Victorian coastal town with her family.

LINKS

Twitter Kaye Baillie

Website Kaye Baillie

https://www.instagram.com/bailliekaye/?hl=en

https://www.facebook.com/kaye.baillie.5

https://lernerbooks.com/shop/show/20570 for book purchase

SCBWBI Bookstop Page https://www.scbwi.org/scbwibookstop-display/?id=701277

#FallWritingFrenzy Winners!!

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Aloha #FallWritingFrenzy peeps-

So…who’s excited to hear about the winners of the second annual Fall Writing Frenzy??

There were 354 wonderful entries. It wasn’t easy but guest judge Donna, Kaitlyn, and I have some wonderful winners to share! And of course, we have more than the original 36 prizes to give…we just couldn’t help ourselves!

Thank you to everyone for your patience, but most of all, for the way you all came together as a community. In the past few weeks, Kaitlyn and I have been so happy to watch you make connections with one another, become inspired in your writing, and cheer each other on. This is what makes the kidlit community so special!

And now….the time has come to make the special announcement everyone has been waiting for…BUT- before we do, we would like to say, from the bottom of our hearts, that you are ALL winners in our eyes. Kaitlyn and I had trouble narrowing down and choosing the winners because there were so many stellar entries. You are all tremendous writers, and what’s more, you’re devoted to your craft. And that’s the most important thing. So please don’t be disappointed if you don’t see your name below, we could only pick a certain amount. So here we go…

The winners for the #FallWritingFrenzy contest for 2020 are:

Ana Gascon Ivey, Brown Princess, will receive a critique from Amparo Ortiz
Sandhya Acharya, Amma, Is Diwali here?, will receive a critique from Erin Siu (Erin made this selection!)
Danielle Sharkan, The Meadow of Spirits Unknown, will receive a critique from Vivian Kirkfield
Colleen Murphy, No Turning Back, will receive a critique from Diana Murray
Andrew Hacket, The Stars You Don’t See, will receive a critique from Wendi Gu
Lisa Stauffer, Among the Trees, will receive a critique from Josh Funk
Ashlee Hashman, Backward, will receive a critique from Joyce Sweeney
Dana Miroballi, Cinderfella the Sculptor, will receive a critique from Valerie Bolling
Janie Reinart, Cry Wolf: Poem for Two Voices, will receive a critique from Lynne Marie
Carrie Karnes-Fannin, A Red Legend, will receive a critique from Mira Reisberg
Jakki Licare, The Red Spark, will receive a critique from Harriet Low
Shannon Nelsen, The Wonders of the Leaves, will receive a critique from Alli Brydon
Janelle Harper, Big Sis, Lil Sis, will receive a critique from Charlotte Wenger
Karen Keesling, Falling Apart, will receive a critique from Nadia Salomon
Liz Kehrli, Skeleton’s Change of Heart, will receive a critique from Tammi Sauer
Kelly Jensen, Star Seed, will receive a critique from James McGowan
Laurie Carmody, No Bones About It, will receive a critique from Tara Lazar
Sharon Fujimoto-Johnson, Mama’s Sunflowers, will receive a critique from Teresa Robeson (Teresa made this selection!)
Preeti Gopalan, A song of light and dark, will receive a critique from Saadia Faruqi
Melissa Trempe, Hungry Wolf, will receive a critique from Heather Bell
Jolene Gutiérrez, Lost in the Woods, will receive a critique from Annie Lynn
Judy Sobanski, Fall-ing, will receive a critique from Alexandra Alessandri
Melissa Mwai, More Than Magic, will receive a critique from Sydnee Monday
Amber Hendricks, Fall Begins, will receive a critique from Vicky Fang
Kelly Zhang, An Autumn Daydream, will receive a critique from Megan & Jorge Lacera
Amy Flynn, Ever & Oak, will receive a critique from Ellen Leventhal
Laura Clement, The Gift, will receive a critique from Amanda Davis
Katie Grant Watson, The Autumn Parade, will receive a critique from Ana Siqueira
Bonnie Kelso, Autumn, will receive a critique from Janna Morishima
Michele Ziemke, Karma is a Witch, will receive a critique from Aya Khalil
Aixa Perez-Prado, Brujita BOO!, will receive a critique from Ernesto Cisneros
Kirsten Leestma, The Haunted House, will receive a critique from Meera Sriram
Tina Mowrey, This Halloween Night, will receive a critique from Kyle Lukoff
Brenda Whitehead, The Rainbow Tree, will receive a critique from Donna Barba Higuera (Donna made this selection!)
Dazzle Ng, Needle, the Evergreen, will receive a critique from Ishta Mercurio (Ishta made this selection!)
Brittany Pomales, The Bones, will receive a critique from Candice Conner (Candice made this selection!)
Ashley Chalmers, The Adventure of Skeeter S. Squirrel, will receive a critique from Lydia Lukidis (Lydia made this selection!)
Nicole Loos Miller, Alive, will receive a critique from Jolene Gutiérrez (Jolene made this selection!)
Ebony Mudd, If Only, will receive a critique from Jolene Gutiérrez (Jolene made this selection!)
Krista Legg, The Unthinkable Path, will receive a critique from Kaitlyn Sanchez (Kaitlyn made this selection!)
Alicia Curley, Brewing, will receive a critique from Kaitlyn Sanchez (Kaitlyn made this selection!)
Kara Sibilia, The Lonely Road, will receive a critique from Kaitlyn Sanchez (Kaitlyn made this selection!)
Karen Pickrell, I Need a Hero, will receive a critique from Kaitlyn Sanchez (Kaitlyn made this selection!)

To the winners- expect an email in the next few days, matching you with your donor.

If you would like to read the winning entries, please have a look at this page: https://lydialukidis.wordpress.com/2020/09/30/fall-writing-frenzy-entry-form/

We send you all virtual hugs – please continue to write and connect with the kidlit community! Each voice is distinct and special.

Thank you for this wild ride, we are already looking forward to next year’s edition. In the meantime, please follow Kaitlyn and I on Twitter, our Twitter handles are @KaitlynLeann17 and @LydiaLukidis to continue connecting. And feel free to follow our blogs, we both interview writers and industry professionals and regularly host giveaways. Here’s Kaitlyn’s blog: https://kaitlynleannsanchez.com/blog/ and to follow mine, please click “follow” on the top right corner.

Have a fabulous day and we look forward to keep connecting with you all!

Nonfiction Author Melissa Stewart on Digging Deep

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome a nonfiction author I consider both a mentor and a friend- Melissa Stewart. She just released Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-Winning Children’s Book Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing published by the National Council of Teachers of English. This is a MUST HAVE for all nonfiction authors!

Please describe the journey to publication for Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-Winning Children’s Book Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing.

The idea for this book traces back to the 2017 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, when I was fortunate to participate in a panel titled “The Secret of Crafting Engaging Nonfiction” with two of the most talented children’s nonfiction authors of our time—Candace Fleming and Deborah Heiligman.

During our discussion, moderated by educator and children’s nonfiction enthusiast Alyson Beecher, we dove deeply into what fuels our work and why we routinely dedicate years of our lives to a single manuscript. As we compared our thoughts and experiences, we came to realize something critically important—each of our books has a piece of us at its heart. And that personal connection is what drives us to keep working despite the inevitable obstacles and setbacks.

Several other nonfiction authors attended our presentation, and afterward they praised our insights. That conversation helped us all understand our creative process in a new and exciting way. I wanted to bring this important discovery to teachers, students, and aspiring writers, so during the 2018-2019 school year, I invited a wide range of nonfiction writers I admire to discuss the topic on my blog.

Educators loved the essays and almost immediately started asking me to compile them, so they could be read as a group as used to inspire young writers. Eventually, my effort to fulfill their request led to this anthology.

This book is a wealth of knowledge, how long did this project take?
It took me a while to find a suitable publisher for the project and way to finance it, but since the essays were already written, once NCTE expressed interest, things moved pretty quickly.

After sorting the essays into three broad categories—choosing a topic, finding a focus, and making personal connections—I wrote an introduction to the entire book and introductions to each of the three chapters. Then I developed three sets of activities and teaching strategies to round out the presentation. This process took about 6 months. And then production took another 6 months or so.

I’m dying to know—what is the secret of engaging nonfiction? What can readers learn from this anthology?

The book’s primary audience is educators, who we hope will use it as a teaching tool to help their students become stronger nonfiction writers. But the book also has A LOT to offer aspiring children’s book writers. First of all, it can provide inspiration. But it also includes practical activities to help writers find a hook, theme, or central focus that will engage readers. And it emphasizes the importance of writers at all levels having skin in the game—that’s the secret.

I think author Laura Purdie Salas really captures what the book is all about in this quotation from her essay:

“There’s a common, crushing misconception that fiction is creative writing drawn from the depths of a writer’s soul, while nonfiction is simply a recitation of facts that any basic robot could spit out. The reality is very different. My personality, my beliefs, and my experiences are deeply embedded in the books I write.”

In the end, the underlying message of Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep is simple but powerful: To create nonfiction that delights as well as informs, professional writers as well as student writers have to dig deep to make the writing truly their own—something that only they could create. The goal of the anthology is to share personal stories as well as tips, tools, and activities that can help writers at all levels feel personally invested in their writing, so they can craft prose that sings.

What else should people know about this anthology?

100 percent of the proceeds from Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep will be divided among the National Council of Teachers for English (NCTE), We Need Divers Books (WNDB), and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

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

Enjoy the journey and celebrate successes—even the small ones!

So many things about book publishing are out of our control, and there are lots of challenges and disappointments along the way. That’s why it’s important to make a big deal out of every single bit of progress, from a “good” rejection to a starred review.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be another kind of animal, what would you be and why?

That’s easy. I’d be a chipmunk. I love the way they zip around during the summer, and I’d love to be able to hibernate all winter long

BIO

Melissa Stewart has written more than 180 science books for children, including the ALA Notable Feathers: Not Just for Flying, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen; the SCBWI Golden Kite Honor title Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis; and Can an Aardvark Bark?, illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Steve Jenkins. Melissa maintains the award-winning blog Celebrate Science and serves on the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators board of advisors. Her highly-regarded website features a rich array of nonfiction writing resources.  

Links

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