One Writer’s Journey

February 6, 2019

Dig Deep: Writing for the Kid You Were

My first grade class. I’m in the middle row, third from the end.

When you choose writing projects, do you think about the kid you were and what fascinated you?  I have to admit that when I’ve remembered to do this it has paid off.

I was a horse crazy kid.  Horse.  Crazy.  I didn’t have one and no amount of begging was going to get me lessons but if there was a horse in the vicinity that’s where I was.  I learned to ride from a family friend on a Tennessee Walker that was so big I couldn’t dream of reaching the stirrups.

What does this have to do with my writing life? My first regular gig was with Young Equestrian Magazine. When the editor put out a call for manuscripts, I sent her a query for a bio of Marguerite Henry.  Like every horse-mad girl, I had read all of Henry’s books.  I got the gig.

My grandad taught me to fossil hunt.  With him, I’d walk West Texas trails flipping rocks with the toe of my shoe.  He taught me to never grab a rock with my hand.  Rocks provide shade for desert reptiles.  I collected a wide variety of crinoids fossils and learned to observe animals and how they adapted to the high desert.

These enthusiasms led to The Evolution of Reptiles and The Evolution of Mammals.  But this tendency to question and observe also made nonfiction in general a natural fit.  From his childhood in the South, I learned to question authority.  If they said X, I knew there had to be a reason, someone who was served by believing this.  I’d have to gather the facts and make up my own damn mind. That’s more or less a direct quote.

What were the things you loved as a child?  Plants?  Animals?  Pretend play?  Chances are that any and all of the things you loved still draw children in today.  Write for the child you were.


February 1, 2019

World Read Aloud Day: Making My Own Short Video

Wednesday my son helped me make my video for World Read Aloud Day. You can see it above.  For a first video, it isn’t bad.

These are the things I did right.

Background. I picked a quiet place in the house.  I thought the window shade would make an okay background.  I don’t want people looking at my fridge or the laundry I need to fold.

Script. I didn’t write a formal script but I knew where I would start reading (the beginning of the book) and where I would stop (second page).  And I practiced which is important with formal taxonomic names for the various animals.

Camera.  We used a descent camera.  This is actually my son’s phone. I’m not sure why he decided it would be “best ” but it does have a really good camera.

This doesn’t mean that everything was perfect.  There are things I would do differently next time.

Closeup.  I think the camera angle is too wide.  A narrower angle would have used the shade as the background or the light blue dining room wall.  I’ll push for this next time.

Script. There will be an actual script so that the videographer knows when I’m done.

Cue!  He wants a silent way to signal me so that everyone doesn’t hear him at the very beginning saying “go.”

Video description.  I need to remember to tell people that they can click the link in the video description to go to the publisher’s page an order it.

Wrap up.  I want to come up with some clever little line to end with. Something that will encourage reading.

All in all, I think I did a pretty good job for a first effort.  I have a Youtube channel so I had to get that all prettied up. The photo now matches my author photo.  The background is the cover of my book.  And the description tells what kinds of videos I make.

What videos to make next?  My goal is to work up to one a week. If there is something book related you would like to see, let me know in the comments.


November 12, 2018

Cover Reveal

I love it when I find the cover for one of my upcoming books online.  This time, lucky writer that I am, I have two titles in the same series.  Abdo Publishing will release Animal Evolution early in January.

For whatever reason, the cover for The Evolution of Mammals was posted about two weeks ago but I wanted to wait until the cover for The Evolution of Reptiles was also posted. I’ve been checking Amazon daily waiting. . . waiting . . . writers are not always known for their patience.

These were two of the most challenging books I’ve written.  Imagine trying to distill the evolution of reptiles as a whole down to 9 chapters.  In truth, that was much easier than doing the same thing for mammals.

For example, I really wanted to include a chapter on elephants.  But I simply could not find enough solid information for an entire chapter.

That said, between the two books I worked in so many incredible animals including cheetah, horses, horned lizards, sea turtles, tuatara, and much more.  I got to write about DNA, fossils, chemical studies, and early theories including Darwin’s theory of evolution.

I can’t wait for these two titles to arrive.  I know it will be a while but certainly this time I’ll manage to be patient.


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