Monday, November 7, 2011

Fuel for the Writer's Fire

 Another great day at the Rochester Children’s Book Festival. If you have never been, it is worth the trip. A chance to meet more than 40 authors and illustrators, to peruse hundreds of children’s books, make crafts with your kids, listen to stories, learn how some of your favorite authors work, and generally steep yourself in all things wonderful.

From 10 to 4 I was busy talking with kids and parents, teachers and librarians, and future authors. I was thrilled that my newest book, For The Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson was so well received. More than once a child zoomed up, grabbed the book and said, “Oh Wow!” or “This is the one.” When I asked if they liked birds, they would nod vigorously. “Yeah!” Those are the kids I write for. The ones who have a passion to learn. They already have a fire inside of them that is just waiting to be stoked with just the right fuel – true stories. I imagine those are the kids that someday might grow up to be scientists, journalists, teachers, librarians, or nonfiction writers.

I also met several writers struggling to break into publishing. One woman has written a biography about a relative of hers who was the “father of American apiculture.” He was the person to figure out the “bee space” the specific distance that bees maintain between honeycombs. This allowed bee keepers to create bee boxes with walls that slide in and out without harming the bees. Another woman mentioned wanting to write about the women of the Jazz era who were not allowed to play in clubs.

It is such a treat to meet people who are so fired up about a subject that they want to share it with others. I hope my book Anatomy of Nonfiction: how to write true stories for children will help them hone their craft, so that someday I will walk into a bookstore and see a new bee book or biography of a Jazz legend. That is what I find so amazing in this children’s book business. We are all eager to share what we know, if for no other reason than to someday get to read the other person’s book. There is no competition because we all have our own projects and passions. And it behooves all of us to lend a hand. The more amazing nonfiction that is out there, the better it is for the reader, the publishers and for the writer. More fuel for the fire in all of us.

Some photos of the day --

The best seat in the house.

My table mate busy signing books - Julie Berry (in prison garb) and Kate Messner (in blue).

Other Nonfiction Writers and Illustrators who were there --

See you next year!


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