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Nonfictionary

Notes from a Reluctant Researcher 

Loah Lon­don­der­ry, hero of my new mid­dle grade nov­el, The Most Per­fect Thing in the Uni­verse, is the daugh­ter of a not­ed ornithol­o­gist ded­i­cat­ed to sav­ing endan­gered birds of the Arc­tic tun­dra. That sen­tence con­tains four words that, when I start­ed writ­ing, I knew lit­tle about: ornithol­o­gist, endan­gered, and Arc­tic tun­dra. Uh oh. I’ve nev­er been a fan of

What Do They Do With All That Poo?

Ideas and Details 

When I was doing lots and lots of author vis­its, many schools were focus­ing pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment — and writ­ing instruc­tion — on Six Traits: Voice, Ideas, Pre­sen­ta­tion, Con­ven­tions, Orga­ni­za­tion, Word Choice, and Sen­tence Flu­en­cy. I liked to show ways that I, a pro­fes­sion­al writer, also dance and wres­tle with those traits. In par­tic­u­lar, I liked to focus on ideas and details. What makes

Author Candice Ransom

Science + History = Whole Picture” 

On my “final” draft of Bones in the White House: Thomas Jefferson’s Mam­moth, I drew a line of lit­tle mastodons troop­ing across the bot­tom of the man­u­script pages. Each ani­mal bore a date that matched a side­bar fact or ref­er­enced the main text. I thought this was a clever way to remind read­ers of the march of time.  The first lit­tle mastodon

Susan Latta

Dead Ends on the Long Road of Nonfiction Research 

Research­ing in non­fic­tion isn’t much dif­fer­ent. You run into many dead ends. But the key may be in know­ing when to find a dif­fer­ent route and when to change up your pur­pose. Is the sto­ry impor­tant and viable? Then I believe there are ways to work around those dead ends and get the car mov­ing again.

Jen Bryant

What Gets Left Out 

In my three decades as a pro­fes­sion­al author, I’ve writ­ten about many intrigu­ing, accom­plished peo­ple: the Wyeth fam­i­ly of artists, painter Geor­gia O’Keeffe, abo­li­tion­ist Lucre­tia Mott, author Peter Mark Roget, poets William Car­los Williams and Mar­i­anne Moore, self-taught artist Horace Pip­pin, inven­tor Louis Braille, and most recent­ly Pulitzer Prize-win­n­ing play­wright August Wil­son. In every case, I’ve

Melissa Stewart

What is Research, Really? 

From an ELA point of view, “research” is some­thing you do to gath­er infor­ma­tion for a report or project. But if you’re a sci­en­tist, research has a whole dif­fer­ent mean­ing. It’s a way of devel­op­ing a new under­stand­ing of the world and how it works. Every once in a while, my hus­band and I have a con­ver­sa­tion about why two seem­ing­ly dif­fer­ent pur­suits have

Elizabeth Verdick

Aging Down, Aging Up 

Back when my kids were lit­tle, I start­ed work on a non­fic­tion SEL (Social and Emo­tion­al Learn­ing) series called the “Best Behav­ior” series. More than a decade lat­er, these board books and paper­backs are still going strong, I’m hap­py to say. Titles in the series include Teeth Are Not for Bit­ing, Voic­es Are Not for Yelling, and Worries

Roxane Orgill

Pairing Verse with Nonfiction 

Why write non­fic­tion in verse? If you do, is it still non­fic­tion? Good ques­tions in a time when gen­res are expand­ing. I’ve used verse in two non­fic­tion sto­ries: a pic­ture book, Jazz Day: The Mak­ing of a Famous Pho­to­graph, and a book for ages ten and up, Siege: How Wash­ing­ton Kicked the British out of Boston and Launched a Revolution

Sarah Aronson

Five Things I Learned
Writing My First Picture Book Biography 

You would think that being friends with Tanya Lee Stone would mean I wrote lots of non­fic­tion. But the truth is, until I decid­ed to try and write a biog­ra­phy of Rube Gold­berg, I stayed far away from this genre. As a read­er, I loved it. As a friend, I learned so much read­ing Tanya’s work — not just about the facts — but about the foundations

Melissa Stewart

The Writing Process as a Living Story 

In some ways, it’s too bad that the cur­ricu­lum in most schools calls for writ­ing per­son­al nar­ra­tives at the begin­ning of the school year because I think stu­dents could learn a lot by craft­ing a per­son­al nar­ra­tive about the process of research­ing, writ­ing, and revis­ing an infor­ma­tion­al writ­ing assign­ment. What do I mean by that? Well, late­ly, I’ve been

Carla Killough McClafferty

Putting Emotion into Nonfiction Books 

Many peo­ple think writ­ing non­fic­tion is just string­ing togeth­er a bunch of ran­dom facts. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. While writ­ing non­fic­tion, I use every sin­gle fic­tion tech­nique a nov­el­ist uses. I feel strong­ly that I need to write my text in a way that will lead my read­ers to invest emo­tion­al­ly with my non­fic­tion text. Real. Raw. Emotion.

Pamela S. Turner

Pairing Nonfiction and Fiction 

Non­fic­tion and fic­tion are like peanut but­ter and choco­late. Each excel­lent on its own, but when combined…so sub­lime. INVITE A DISCUSSION My non­fic­tion account Samu­rai Ris­ing: The Epic Life of Minamo­to Yoshit­sune (2016, grade 6 and up) describes the dra­mat­ic rise and fall of a 12th-cen­­­tu­ry samu­rai. One of the joys of research­ing the life of this Japanese

Aimee Bissonette

Connecting Kids to Nonfiction:
Personal Experience Matters 

Per­son­al pref­er­ences and expe­ri­ences guide our life choic­es. They impact what we wear, eat, do, even the peo­ple we spend time with. It should come as no sur­prise, then, that per­son­al pref­er­ences also affect what we read— maybe even whether we read. Stud­ies show that young read­ers who feel a per­son­al con­nec­tion to what they are reading

Susan Latta

Nonfiction Setting and My Comfy Chair 

I’m fussy when it comes to choos­ing where to sit. The com­fy chair or the well-worn red sofa? Lights on high or nice­ly dimmed? Soft throw blan­ket? Some­times even in a restau­rant, I ask to sit at a dif­fer­ent table than the one the host choos­es because it doesn’t feel right. My hus­band rolls his eyes. Set­ting whether in