Friday, December 20, 2019

Meet NF Fest blogger Kelly Milner Halls!

Kelly Milner Halls was a crazy curious kid asking hundreds of questions about anything she found interesting. Now she’s a prolific children’s book author who travels all over the world talking to kids about the weird stuff she writes and the subjects she finds interesting. We’re happy that this NF Fest author will be sharing her ideas on When the Line Between Truth and Fiction Blurs.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Meet NF Fest blogger Susannah Buhrman-Deever!

When growing up, Susannah Buhrman-Deever dreamed of being a lighthouse keeper, a teacher, a writer and a biologist.  Years later, she has done most of those things (still working on lighthouse keeper). She earned her PhD in animal behavior, taught biology, and now writes books for young and curious readers, including Predator and Prey, A Conversation in Verse. Susannah lives near Rochester, NY with her husband and sons.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Meet Author Meeg Pincus!

Meeg Pincus, author of Meip and the Most Famous Diary will join the NF Fest to discuss how to research like a reporter and get the details to write a world changing book. Her book about the woman who saved Anne Frank’s diary received starred reviews in both Kirkus and School Library Journal. Meeg will share tips and techniques on finding the hidden gens of stories and bringing them to light.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Meet NF Fest Blogger Lisa Kahn Schnell!

Lisa Kahn Schnell is an artist and the author of the award-winning book High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs. She has worked in all sorts of interesting places including Denali National Park, Ghana, a Costa Rican cloud forest and a prison in Missouri. When she's not writing, Lisa enjoys dancing, making bread, and spending time outdoors. We look forward to her post on layered text during NF Fest! To learn more, visit http://www.lisakschnell.com/

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Beautiful Shades of Brown by Nancy Churnin

My mission is to to shine a light on people who inspire me, people who will inspire kids to go out and make a positive difference in the world. It struck me how few books I’ve seen about women who are painters. I was looking at paintings and I saw one of the singer Marian Anderson that blew me away. I couldn’t stop thinking about it! I saw that it was painted by Laura Wheeler Waring and it was part of the National Portrait Gallery collection in Washington D.C. I had to find out everything I could about Laura Wheeler Waring. She had never had a picture book written about her and I couldn’t rest until I wrote it. I have created a project, called Paint Your World, to go along with the book, that asks kids to share their artwork of people in their families and communities on a dedicated Paint Your World page on my website nancychurnin.com.


Friday, December 6, 2019

Should You Write What You Know? by Lisa Amstutz


Many writing teachers say you should “write what you know.” This is good advice – you should utilize your unique background, experiences, and knowledge. It’s easiest to write what you know, and your expertise can be a strong selling point for your book.

But what if you’ve always wanted to learn about sheep herding or jellyfish or how to play the kazoo? Does the fact that you’re not already an expert mean you can’t write about them? Not at all! Writing can be a great way to explore topics you want to study. It just takes some extra time and effort.

Imagine that you’ve agreed to write a how-to book on knitting despite never having picked up a pair of needles. You could read books or watch YouTube to learn the basics. But unless you spend hours practicing, you won’t be able to write authoritatively about it—and trust me, your readers will notice!

As nonfiction writers, we have a responsibility to our audience to be accurate. It’s important to do our homework, and especially so when we’re writing outside our zone of expertise. This means not just finding facts and stringing them together, but also framing them in a larger context of understanding. Which facts are important, and why? And how do they relate to each other? For a picture book, this might not be too daunting. But for a longer book, it can mean months or even years of immersion and study.

It’s the same with science, history, art, or any other nonfiction topic. I’m an ecologist by training, so I’ve written lots of books on life science topics. But I’ve also written on Ancient Egypt, the Titanic, the laws of physics, and even bicycle safety. It took months and a maxed-out library card to get enough of a handle on some of these topics to write about them effectively.

It also required outside help. In each of these cases, an expert reviewed the manuscript before it went to press. When I wrote Amazing Amphibians, my background knowledge helped immensely. But I’m not a herpetologist. So I contacted one and asked him to review the manuscript. He caught a few errors, suggested some additions, and clarified some points, ultimately making the book stronger. Don’t skip this step—it’ll help you sleep better at night.

So, should you write what you know, or what you don’t know? I say either—or both. Share your unique knowledge with the world—or go down that bunny trail. Just be sure to do your homework first!


Amazing Amphibians explores the major amphibian groups—frogs, salamanders, and caecilians—including their anatomy, behavior, and conservation needs. The book will be published in January 2020, and is available wherever books are sold. For more on Lisa’s books as well as her critique and mentorship services, see www.LisaAmstutz.com.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

How I Hooked a Big One by Peggy Thomas

There I was sitting by myself at a book signing table trying look engaging as people passed by without a glance, when a woman stepped up and introduced herself. “You should write about Henry Ford,” she said.

The look on my face must have appeared as perplexed as I felt, because she explained. “He did lots of stuff with farming, too.”
           
This bit of news about Ford and farming was not as random as it sounds. My last two books had been about the agricultural interests of two presidents. Still, I couldn’t see myself writing about a millionaire car manufacturer. Then the woman said, “He even grew a car.”

Sometimes I have to fish around for a while to find my next project. But this woman had conveniently dangled a fat, juicy, still-wriggling idea in front of me, and I was hooked. What do you mean, he grew a car? How do you grow a car? How come I’ve never heard of this? We chatted a while longer, I signed a book for her, and made sure I got her name. Then I grabbed my phone and googled it.

She was right! There was a photo of Henry Ford standing next to a portly sedan. The caption read, “Built with soybean plastic panels.” The more I dug, the more fascinated I became. “Every Ford contains a bushel of beans,” a car advertisement announced. I found the recipe for Henry’s favorite soybean crackers, and the printed menu from a banquet where every course featured soybeans. Henry even wore a soybean fiber suit!

THANK YOU, AMELIA!!

It is rare that a book idea comes personally delivered, and so I will be forever grateful to Amelia Miller from Michigan for providing the spark that led to Full of Beans, How Henry Ford Grew a Car.  

Hey, Amelia. Got anymore bright ideas?

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Keep Your Ears On and Your Mind Alert for Great Book Ideas by Susie Kralovansky

As a librarian, my favorite way to teach research was to cover the material and follow up with a game or activity to reinforce learning. The day I was teaching the kids how to use a Thesaurus, we used a Ven Diagram to cover the similarities and differences between a thesaurus and a dictionary. Next, we changed a boring letter into something amazing with the new words we were learning. Finally, I handed each child a thesaurus to play That’s My Word (I call out a word. They look it up and call out a better word.) They said, “We do what?” Throughout the day, I got the same reaction: interesting lesson, fun activity, and then totally confused. That’s when I began searching for a book to help explain how to use a thesaurus. When I didn’t find one, the lightbulb went off – I’ll write it myself!” What Do You Do with a Thesaurus, was based on my students and their questions. I shared my construction paper version of What Do You Do with a Thesaurus with my students, and something clicked. Now they knew exactly what to do! When teachers began asking to borrow my manuscript, I knew it could succeed as a published book.



Something similar happened with This or That? Whale or Fish? The idea and the first page came from a second-grader who needed help finding the fish books. She said, “I’m doing my report on whales!” I turned and said, “Is a whale a fish?” She gave me a look that said, ‘You are crazy!’ and said, “Yes, Mrs. K! Whales live in the ocean like fish. They swim like fish. They look like fish.” And I said, “But, a whale is not a fish.” That night I knew I had a great idea for a series and began Whales or Fish? using our words for the opening.

Even though I no longer teach, I still notice the things that make me say, Why? Who? How did that happen? Like the day I was bitten by a fire ant, and I wondered why their sting was so fiery. And that led to my upcoming book, How Fire Ants Got Their Fire.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Women Who Dared by Linda Skeers

I love discovering interesting tidbits in history -- especially when they involve lesser-known women who have done extraordinary things! When I was researching WOMEN WHO DARED, I chose women who inspired me, andgave me goosebumps! I wanted to sit down next to each one of them and just listen to  their stories for hours -- and then give them a high-five and a fist bump. I mean, Annie Edson Taylor went over Niagara Falls in a barrel on her 63rd birthday -- how cool is that?

How I Hooked a Big One by Peggy Thomas


There I was sitting by myself at a book signing table trying look engaging as people passed by without a glance, when a woman stepped up and introduced herself. “You should write about Henry Ford,” she said.

The look on my face must have appeared as perplexed as I felt, because she explained. “He did lots of stuff with farming, too.”
           
This bit of news about Ford and farming was not as random as it sounds. My last two books had been about the agricultural interests of two presidents. Still, I couldn’t see myself writing about a millionaire car manufacturer. Then the woman said, “He even grew a car.”

Sometimes I have to fish around for a while to find my next project. But this woman had conveniently dangled a fat, juicy, still-wriggling idea in front of me, and I was hooked. What do you mean, he grew a car? How do you grow a car? How come I’ve never heard of this? We chatted a while longer, I signed a book for her, and made sure I got her name. Then I grabbed my phone and googled it.

She was right! There was a photo of Henry Ford standing next to a portly sedan. The caption read, “Built with soybean plastic panels.” The more I dug, the more fascinated I became. “Every Ford contains a bushel of beans,” a car advertisement announced. I found the recipe for Henry’s favorite soybean crackers, and the printed menu from a banquet where every course featured soybeans. Henry even wore a soybean fiber suit!
THANK YOU, AMELIA!!

It is rare that a book idea comes personally delivered, and so I will be forever grateful to Amelia Miller from Michigan for providing the spark that led to Full of Beans, How Henry Ford Grew a Car.  

Hey, Amelia. Got anymore bright ideas?


Monday, December 2, 2019

Welcome to NF Fest blogger Don Tate!

We’re fortunate to have Don Tate, the author and/or illustrator of more than fifty award-winning and critically acclaimed books for youth. You probably knew that Don was the author/illustrator of Strong As Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth (Charlesbridge, 2017). But, did you know that Don is a gym-rat and competed (in better fit days – his words, not mine) in bodybuilding competitions? Join us in February when this NF Fest author will be sharing the Challenges in Writing Globetrotters.

How Much Truth is Too Much?

The truth is messy, and that's a fact!
I love writing nonfiction, but sometimes the truth hurts. There are often very sad endings to famous people's lives. They don't always get the happily-ever-after storybook ending. Or that brilliant genius may have been involved in some activities that children aren't ready to process. As an author I have to make decisions about how much truth my audience is able to handle and at the same time be honest about my subject.

When writing Insane Inventors I wanted to let children know that scientists often take great risks in their research and creative process, and because of this people believed they were crazy. Alfred Nobel blew up his laboratory trying to invent dynamite. Lawrence Patrick was a human crash test dummy and broke nearly every bone in his body. And then there was Nikola Teslsa - brilliant and in love with pigeons. How much truth should I include?

I firmly believe that authors have an obligation to tell the truth about a subject, but I also believe that we can leave some facts for readers to investigate when they are older and better able to process information. Authors need to sift through the facts. Which ones are necessary to explain the story? Did children need to know that Nikola Tesla claimed to love a pigeon as he would a woman? I didn't believe that was necessary in a middle grade book. But I did tell them that he spent his final years living with pigeons. When they are older they can investigate further and draw their own conclusions. They will still be able to look back at my writing and know that I told them the truth.

It's a fine line. We need to be honest with readers and not cover up the more difficult parts of history, but we also need to be sensitive to the developmental age of our audience.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Researching Selectively by Pat Miller


The Hole Story of the Doughnut (illustrated by Vincent Kirsch) began when I heard a Boston Harbor tour guide say, “Somewhere around here they buried the guy who invented the doughnut.” We know who that is? I wondered. I jotted the fact in the writing notebook I carry in my purse.

Months later, I found the inventor’s name and began my research in the genealogy section of my county library. My first search pulled up a census record from 1910, showing that Gregory Hanson was an inmate,Oh no! I thought. I hope he’s not a murderer.

Reading the heading of the page showed Captain Hanson was an inmate in the Snug Harbor Sailors Home. In those days, anyone cared for in a public institution was an inmate, whether orphan, criminal, chronically ill, or, in this case, a retired seaman living in a group home.

This was my first nonfiction book. I would not advise researching like I did—writing down all kinds of information because I didn’t know what would be needed for the book. I had no focus other than learning as much as I could. After I’d gathered more than 200 pages of notes, documents, pictures, and more, I reluctantly turned from the thrill of the hunt to the drill of the page.

I wrote several versions of the book. The first was from the point of view of a child who was interviewing Captain Hanson at the Home for a school project. The final version tells the Captain’s story in a narrative fashion, but also mentions the legends that sprang up about the doughnut invention.

It pained me—even grieved me—to leave out so many human interest stories I’d discovered about this bold sea captain with a tragic personal life. It was like I had started with a remarkable VW sized piece of wood in order to carve a toothpick.

Now when I research, I begin with questions I want to answer, beginning with “Why should we care?” As the dig progresses, I try to focus on what it is I want children to take away from the story. That helps me to choose the facts I save. Asking myself, Does this contribute to my takeaway? Does this make us care? saves time and work. It’s like handpicking beach shells by color rather than using a backhoe.

Captain Hanson’s story is a rousing one of the sea, with the doughnut invention being an impulsive solution to a problem—a mere footnote to his life. I was captivated by his exploits as a Maine schooner captain who earned a medal from the Queen of Spain for bravery and sailed around the Horn to supply the gold rush of California. But for kids, its more about the doughnut. In a picture book, you have to make hard choices as you use your limited cache of words.

Captain Hanson Gregory’s courage and perseverance are inspiring, but it is his breakfast solution that gives him his place in history. Hopefully, The Hole Story of the Doughnut will make doughnut lovers aware of its remarkable inventor.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Welcome to Kerry McManus!

So excited to have Kerry McManus, Marketing Manager at Boyds Mills & Kane, joining us for the NF Fest. With almost 20 years experience in marketing children's books, Kerry is the perfect person to share with us what NF writers should know about marketing our nonfiction. Welcome Kerry!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Welcome Jill Esbaum to NF Fest!

Jill Esbaum writes nonfiction for National Geographic that includes a picture book, Animal Groups, and titles in the following series:  Little Kids Big Book of (4), Angry Birds Playground (4), Picture the Seasons (5), and Explore My World (9). Hot off the press is another picture book with Nat Geo, We Love Babies! Her first historical fiction picture book, Jack Knight’s Brave Flight, will be published by Calkins Creek in 2022.

Jill created a group blog of fellow picture book writers and illustrators called Picture Book Builders (www.picturebookbuilders.com), teaches writing at conferences around the country, and co-hosts (with Linda Skeers) the Whispering Woods Picture Book Writing Workshop each summer. Find more information at her website, www.jillesbaum.com

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Meet author Jen Bryant!

Jen Bryant is the award-winning author of numerous picture book biographies, as well as five books of poetry and five novels in verse. You may know that she is a prolific writer and writing instructor, but there's more to Jen than that! She has worked on a road crew, as a bank teller, and a cross-country coach, among other interesting jobs. She is an avid Phillies fan, and loves smaller museums. A favorite is the American Visionary Museum in Baltimore. She will be talking to us about how to strip your story down to its essence. Now that's a good thing to know!

GIVEAWAY FUN!

Here's your chance to win your very own autographed copy of one of the Nonfic Chicks' books!

Just click on the Rafflecopter button on the website and you will be entered to win. Come back each day until December 7 to get more chances to be a winner. 

 Be sure to visit December 1 - 7 when the blog will feature these books and their author's inspiration.
Lucky winners will be announced December 7!




Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Welcome to author Traci Sorell!


Traci Sorell, author of the Siebert Award Winning book We are Grateful, will join NF Fest to discuss Writing from an Informed Cultural Point of View. Traci will share her passion of writing stories for young people and her mission to add to the canon of literature showing that Native Nations and their citizens still exist and thrive in the world today.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Meet NF Fest Blogger Cynthia Levinson!


Award-winning author Cynthia Levinson was in high school when Audrey Faye Hendricks marched to jail. When Cynthia met Audrey forty-five years later, she knew she had to write The Youngest Marcher. Cynthia spent more than three years interviewing marchers and researching the events. She’s also written nonfiction middle-grade books, including Fault Lines in the Constitution, which are widely researched. We are thrilled that this NF Fest author is sharing her secrets on keeping track of your research.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Meet NF Fest Blogger Donna Janell Bowman!

Donna Janell Bowman is the author of award-winning nonfiction books for young readers, including Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About KindnessAbraham Lincoln’s Dueling Words, and the recently released King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara. According to Donna, “crafting an irresistible 32-48-page picture book biography is like carving a giant Redwood tree down to an 8×10 picture frame.” Lucky for us, this NF Fest author will be sharing her thoughts on choosing the structure for your picture book biography.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Meet Author Mary Kay Carson!

Mary Kay Carson is an author of nonfiction books for young people. She began her writing career working on the classroom magazine SuperScience at Scholastic in New York City. Carson has been a full-time freelance writer for twenty years and is now the author of more than fifty books for kids and teachers about space, weather, nature, and other science and history topics. Her books include a number of titles in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s award-winning SCIENTISTS IN THE FIELD series. We look forward to Mary Kay's tips on doing research in the field during NF Fest!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Meet Editor Nancy Tuminelly!


Nancy Tuminelly enjoys world travel, cooking, gardening, and being with family, friends, and her grand dog, Louie. She has been in the publishing field for over three decades, wearing many hats from product conception to marketing and sales. Nancy is passionate about creating content that makes a difference in young readers’ lives. We look forward to Nancy’s tips on what an editor looks for in a NF book proposal during NF Fest this year!  http://www.mightymediapress.com/

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Introducing Sophia Gholz

Sophia Gholz, who will be posting about Visual Storytelling for NF Fest, made her smashing non-fiction debut with The Boy Who Grew a Forest (illustrated by Kayla Harren, Sleeping Bear Press). It’s the true story of Jadv Payeng, who began planting trees to help his island home and ultimately, over the years, transformed a bare space into a 1,300-acre forest filled with native plants and animals. Praised by School Library Journal and Booklist, this 2019 Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Honor Award recipient is rich in evocative language. Sophia will share how she, as a trained artist, brings that winning visual component to her storytelling.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Join the party!


Meet NF Fest blogger Heidi Stemple!

You may know that the child in Owl Moon is Heidi Stemple, whose father is in the story and whose mother, Jane Yolen, wrote it. But you may not know that Heidi wasn't interested in the family writing business, becoming a probation officer in Florida after college. Luckily, her genes triumphed and this NF Fest author went on to write more than 25 books for kids.

Another sneak peek!

NF Fest will begin with a co-presentation from Karen Blumenthal and Candace Fleming.Karen Blumenthal's favorite book when she was a kid was Harriet the Spy. Now, the longtime journalist, who edited and wrote for decades for The Wall Street Journal, uses detective techniques to discover the real story behind what everyone thinks they know about everything from Steve Jobs to Hillary Clinton and Bonnie and Clyde. A Dallas-based graduate of Duke University with an MBA from Southern Methodist University, she's also a huge Dallas Cowboys fan, believes cookies are the perfect food and bakes such delicious ones, she’ll have you believing that, too. Her new book, coming out in February, is Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights (Macmillan Children's).

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Meet Melissa Stewart!

Melissa Stewart has published more than 180 books on a variety of science topics from seashells to tyrannosaurs. Before she was an author she was a children’s book editor for nine years. She knows her stuff from both sides of the editorial desk. Her research has taken her on safari in East Africa, swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos, and exploring rain forests in Costa Rica. And now her love of writing is bringing her to NF Fest in February 2020! Don’t miss her detailed post “Without a Hook It’s Not a Book”. Learn more at www.melissa-stewart.com.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Coming in February!


Beth Anderson loves gardening, exploring nature, and weaving both textiles and words. She writes narrative nonfiction and historical fiction picture books and loves burrowing into history in search of inspiring characters and just the right words. A news blurb about Ben Franklin inventing his own alphabet inspired Beth’s new book, An Inconvenient Alphabet. We look forward to Beth’s tips on writing non-typical biographies during NF Fest this year! https://bethandersonwriter.com/

A sneak peek at our NF Fest lineup


Over the next few months, we'll be giving you a sneak peek at our NF Fest blogger lineup. Follow this blog and our Facebook page so you don't miss a post!
 
NF Fest will begin with a co-presentation from Karen Blumenthal and Candace Fleming. Candace began her storytelling career with such realistic tales of her three-legged cat that no one knew there was no such pet. Today Candace still creates fiction stories, but her nonfiction is meticulously researched. She writes science and seven biographies including Eleanor Roosevelt, P. T. Barnum, and The Family Romanov, for which she earned seven starred reviews and 20 prestigious awards including the Orbus Pictus Award and a Robert F. Siebert Honor award.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Coming soon!

If you write picture books, you have the StoryStorm online challenge. Poetry writers have NaNoPoWriMo and novelists have NaNoWriMo. But until now, there was NO online monthly challenge for nonfiction writers. 

Which leads to my big news! The seven Nonfiction Chicks have remedied this oversight. Starting in 2020, there will be NF Fest, an online challenge for nonfiction writers for kids! February has 29 days, an auspicious month in which to begin NF Fest! Daily author blog posts, prizes, activities! Stay tuned to learn more. It begins four months from today!

REGISTRATION is January 15 - 31. Much more info to come!