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Nonfictionary

Elizabeth Verdick

You Write Books with … Messages?

Yes. Yes I do. Sure, I know there’s a whole school of thought that says “shar­ing a mes­sage” in a children’s book is some­thing to avoid. That chil­dren will learn more, feel more, by read­ing books — sto­ries — that evoke an emo­tion­al response and increase empa­thy through strong char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and vivid lan­guage. Yes. Yes that’s true. But.… Some­times chil­dren, and the adults raising

Peter Lourie

Summery 

A well-known jour­nal­ist in a local bagel joint, after not see­ing me for a few weeks, would always greet me with, “Wel­come back, Pete.” It wasn’t because he knew where I’d been, but he knew I trav­eled a lot to write my children’s adven­ture books. Since I’d seen him last, I’d prob­a­bly been out climb­ing Aztec or Mayan temples,

The Coolest Fact 

Reports about ani­mals are bor­ing, and they usu­al­ly go like this: Hon­ey­bees are insects. Hon­ey­bees eat nec­tar. Hon­ey­bees live in a hive. See? BORING!

Susan Latta

Sorry — I Mean Structure—Seems To Be the Hardest Word 

There’s an old Elton John song titled, Sor­ry Seems to be the Hard­est Word. Well, I won­der if he’d mind if I changed the title to, Struc­ture Seems to be the Hard­est Word. Struc­ture is a lot like voice; it needs to be present, yet it must be invis­i­ble and unforced. With­out it, the writ­ing may fall down just

Karen Blumenthal

Re-claiming Women’s History — Still 

At a meet­ing at the Dal­las Pub­lic Library one day, a retired chief exec­u­tive explained to me his vision for a per­ma­nent dis­play on a soon-to-be-ren­o­­­vat­ed floor hon­or­ing the men who built up the city’s down­town after World War II. I looked at him skep­ti­cal­ly. “What about the women?” “There aren’t any,” he snapped back. Of course there were! But because

Melissa Stewart

How Infographics Can Help Students Avoid Plagiarism 

My book Pinoc­chio Rex and Oth­er Tyran­nosaurs, is chock­ful of text fea­tures, includ­ing this fun info­graph­ic: The process of design­ing it began with a VERY rough sketch by me. Let’s face the facts. My draw­ing skills leave a lot of be desired, but this sketch was enough to give the tal­ent­ed folks in the Harper­Collins art depart­ment an

In Her Own Words:
The Impact of Personal Accounts on Biography 

I admit it. I am a his­to­ry nerd. Like all biog­ra­phers, I am fas­ci­nat­ed by the past. I love learn­ing about the world of long ago: what peo­ple wore, what they ate, the jobs they had, the wars they fought.  And noth­ing thrills me more when I am research­ing than to dis­cov­er a first­hand account, a per­son­al writ­ing … a pri­ma­ry source. How do

Jen Bryant

Working with an Editor 

What’s it like to work with an editor?”is a ques­tion I often get from teach­ers, stu­dents, and aspir­ing authors and it’s one that takes some time to ful­ly answer. In the best sit­u­a­tions, an editor’s rela­tion­ship to her author is like a coach’s rela­tion­ship to an ath­lete: know­ing her author’s per­son­al­i­ty, tal­ent, and poten­tial, she encour­ages her strengths,

Karen Blumenthal

The Good Thing about Bad Words 

It’s mid-Jan­u­ary, I have this Non­fic­tionary dead­line, and all I can think about is Pres­i­dent Trump’s lat­est vul­gar­i­ty. His recent word choice about cer­tain coun­tries jumped from my phone like an elec­tri­cal charge, lit­er­al­ly and phys­i­cal­ly jolt­ing me back­wards. For the rest of the day and beyond, my soul hurt and my spir­it sagged. But it was

Susan Latta

A Science Rookie: Learning to Craft a Science Narrative When
You Know Next to Nothing about Science 

Enter the fresh­man chem­istry tutor dressed in torn jeans and a flan­nel shirt. His job? To get me through entry lev­el chem­istry at Iowa State Uni­ver­si­ty. My first col­lege plan was to major in Hotel and Restau­rant Man­age­ment because my father owned a com­pa­ny that did busi­ness with these types of insti­tu­tions. So, what the heck, I didn’t

Susan Latta

Biography: How to Decide
What Goes into the Soup Pot (and What Doesn’t)

It is cold up here in the north coun­try, so late­ly my thoughts have turned to cre­at­ing a steam­ing pot of soup. For soup, you have to hit the high­lights; the chick­en, onions, a car­rot or two. If you toss in too many ingre­di­ents, noth­ing will stand out and the result will be a mud­dled mess. You must

Karen Blumenthal

A Picture and a Thousand Words 

As a reporter and edi­tor for decades, I often heard peo­ple accuse my col­leagues and me of “bias,” of hav­ing a par­tic­u­lar slant on a sto­ry — usu­al­ly a point of view that the accuser dis­put­ed. It was a com­mon charge, espe­cial­ly if the issue was con­tro­ver­sial. But in truth, reporters are no dif­fer­ent than any­one else. Every­one comes to a sub­ject with some

Melissa Stewart

Why Young Writers Need an Authentic Audience 

For me, writ­ing non­fic­tion is a fun adven­ture. A game to play. A puz­zle to solve. A chal­lenge to over­come. But many stu­dents don’t feel the same way. Accord­ing to them, research is bor­ing. Mak­ing a writ­ing plan is a waste of time. And revi­sion is more than frus­trat­ing. It’s down­right painful. Why do young writ­ers have a point of view that’s

Pamela S. Turner

Getting Inside the Head of the Long Dead 

Don’t be alarmed by the ghoul­ish­ness of my title. Try­ing to res­ur­rect the life of some­one who turned to dust cen­turies ago is a chal­lenge, espe­cial­ly if the per­son left behind no per­son­al writ­ings such as let­ters or diaries. But it can be done. In prepa­ra­tion for writ­ing Samu­rai Ris­ing: The Epic Life of Minamo­to Yoshitsune,

Qualifying Credibility 

I long for the good ol’ days when every­one agreed that facts were true and fic­tion was make-believe and made-up facts were lies. Sev­er­al years ago, the dis­sem­i­nat­ing of cur­rent events entered the truthi­ness zone — only to emerge in today’s sur­re­al “alter­nate facts” par­al­lel uni­verse. It is under­stand­ably dif­fi­cult for many peo­ple — and espe­cial­ly young peo­ple — to know how

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