When I opened the e-mail, I wasn’t sure how to react. I’d used the Audio Name Pronounciations on TeachingBooks.net to help students learn the names of their favorite authors. Once you hear some of them, you never forget how to say them. Scieszka rhymes with Fresca.
But why would they contact me? Sue Bradford Edwards. That’s pretty straightforward.
They has provided me with several links so I listened to Neil Gaiman explain his pronounciation and the origin of his family name. Maya Angelou explains how she got the name Maya which isn’t her given name.
Stories. Hmm. I can tell a story. And, like much of what I write, this would be nonfiction. I’m good at that.
It took me about a week to decide on a story. Then I wrote it out and rehearsed. When I could read it through out loud without stumbling, I called the handy dandy phone number and recorded my message. You can hear it here.
It would have been easy to just let this opportunity slide. After all, my name is easy to pronounce so I don’t think that teachers are going to look hither and yon for how to say my name. But as I poked around the site, I discovered that each author has a page. The page includes links to their website and blog and at least one of their books. Otherwise, it is a great place for teachers to look for author information but also a “safe place” for young readers.
And now I’m a part of it. What might be the most fun? I can share this recording far and wide. That means that I have an interesting little tidbit that I can share with people who are interested in me and my writing. Now, I have to figure out how to imbed it in my web site…
My audiobook of the moment is Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. The title may be all Typhoid Mary all the time, but after listening to the first 1/3 of the book, I’d have to say that the focus of the book is on George Soper. Soper billed himself as an expert on epidemics, specifically typhoid but he had no medical background. He was a civil engineer. I had a grad class on urban history so this makes sense — a big focus for the early civil engineers and city planners was public health. They fought to keep people healthy as American cities grew.
What a timely topic! But without Typhoid Mary I don’t think it would have been an easy sell.
George Soper? Whose George Soper and why do we care? Civil engineering just doesn’t have any play as a “sexy” topic.
Flash “Typhoid Mary” in front of an editor and you just might grab their attention. Sell it from a new angle – a medical mystery pursued by a new kind of investigator and you’re reeling that editor in. If you can find a way to make it sing, you’ve likely got a sale. Clearly, Bartoletti did and this reads like an episode of Bones or a crime drama.
As much as editors tell us to submit the biography they haven’t already seen, the completely unfamiliar is a remarkably hard sell. Too rarefied and editors know it will be tough to locate an audience, no matter how fascinating the subject.
This means that if you’ve found someone unknown, look for a way to tie them into something well-known or timely. Even if someone doesn’t know Mary Mallon, they’ve probably heard of Typhoid Mary. Fears of West Nile and the Zika virus are rampant and this ties into that mind-set. Bartoletti also found a way to make it sound like true crime. It may not be easy to make the connections but the more you can make the more likely you will be to make a sale.