Questions & Answers
How do you learn about the people/events in your books?
Research is the most exciting and challenging part of my job. While researching a new project, I read books (mostly primary sources), visit museums/historic sites, and interview experts.
The research for Countdown: 2979 Day to the Moon took about 8 years. Although I'd worked on rockets during my engineering career, I still had a lot to learn. I interviewed the 4th man on the moon, Alan Bean, studied real moon rocks, read NASA transcripts, watched old newscasts, worked with NASA experts, examined spacecraft, spacesuits & more!
For Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, I studied Gwendolyn's autobiographies, read many of her interviews, reviewed Gwendolyn's handwritten poetry journals at the Univ. of Illinois library, and met Pulitzer Prize winner Tyehimba Jess, who shared personal stories about meeting Gwendolyn.
While writing Dangerous Jane I visited Chicago's Hull House and interviewed the curator, read Jane Addams' handwritten diary, examined her Nobel Peace Prize, and studied the FBI's file on this "Most Dangerous Woman in America." I also read many books Jane wrote.
How are the illustrators for your books selected?
Editors and Art Directors at publishing houses usually select the perfect illustrator for each book, though they often ask authors for ideas. For example ...
Calkins Creek selected the creative & musical Stacy Innerst to illustrate The Music in George's Head.
Little, Brown invited the talented Veronica Miller Jamison to illustrate A Computer Called Katherine.
She did a lot of research to create her gorgeous and scientifically accurate illustrations.
How did you become an author?
My writing journey began in first grade
with this first story. Though it was sloppy
(and had 22 misspelled words,) my teacher
Miss Hudson said it was "absolutely terrific"
and gave it two stars and a smiley face.
In 4th grade my teacher asked each
student to write to his/her favorite author.
I wrote to Beverly Cleary and she sent back
a letter with a handwritten note. I learned
authors are real people and very nice.
In grade school, my family took a trip.
I wrote about the places we visited
and drew pictures in a journal.
It was my first book!
In college I studied engineering.
After graduation, I worked on car brakes and
Delta and Titan rockets. Working in engineering
Years later my husband and I went to Paris,
France for work. One day, we got a call that
a special baby had been born. So we flew
home and adopted our daughter. Soon, along
came our son. As I read piles of picture books
to my them I decided to write children's books.
It took over 8 years and 80 rejection
letters before my first book was published.
I hope to keep writing books for a long time!