Nancy Bo Flood and Marty Crump spoke at our April SCBWI meeting at Alamosa Books this month about "Writing with Heart."
Nancy Bo Flood has a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology and has studied fish brains and taught college courses as part of her academic career. She discussed making the journey from academic research writing to writing for children and told the group it is vital not to talk down to children. She discussed her non-fiction titles and said that schools are using non-fiction books more and more to provide the richness of information that children crave.
She discussed how being forced to meet a short word count makes her very conscious of word choice. Deciding how to communicate courage and excitement and commitment about a subject like bull riding in a 150 word article is the type of challenge she often faces as a writer.
Even for fiction, an author must find the through line, the story arc, the journey, and the passion of their story. She said a good question to ask yourself is -- When the reader closes the book, what do you want them to remember? What is the theme? What is the heart of the story?
She told us that the theme of Sand to Stone and Back Again is that rock, just like you, is always changing. Nancy likes to engage young students by teaching them to write
Diamond poems which go from one thing to another using the sand to stone example in her book.
To read more about Nancy and her books visit Nancy's website.
Marty Crump is a biologist who spent much of her life writing scientific papers where she was forced to edit out all creative ideas and use very specific jargon. When she started writing for the general public, both adults and children, the hardest part was realizing that most people are not interested in the amount of detail that she discovers in her research. She said it's important to pick the most crucial information.
Marty writes about the environment and nature and her favorite part of the process is collecting research, but that she must then distill all the information she has collected and tell only the absolute best parts. She learned that lesson the hard way when her first draft of Mysteries of the Komoda Dragon was 12,000 words but her editor only wanted 2,500. That experience forced her to make every word count.
Thank you to both authors for a wonderful evening, and stop by again the next time you're in Albuquerque.