Friday, May 2, 2014


     Today we have the privilege of hearing from award-winning author Tanya Lee Stone who has written over 100 books for young readers. Her Courage Has No Color won an NAACP Award, and she was a finalist for the prestigious YALSA Award.

   Her writing mantra is to research until exhaustion sets in, find all the primary sources that she can, and then take all the pieces of the puzzle

to tell the most accurate story that she can.

SR: What are some of your "go-to" research resources?

Tanya: My research is always book specific, so my go-to approach is to basically find everything possible on the topic. I use both my local university library and online resources to uncover as many books, journal articles, newspaper articles, documentaries, photographs, diaries, etc., as humanly possible. I also search for people related to the story to interview, sometimes flying to where they are to conduct in-person interviews.

SR: What advice do you have for those entering this exciting world of nonfiction?

Tanya: My advice for anyone writing nonfiction is to take your responsibility extremely seriously. You are the only thing between a reader learning an accurate story vs. learning one that has half-truths or inconsistencies. Growing up, I used to love those old Childhood of Famous Americans biographies that read very much like novels. They were engaging and a great way to learn about a person. Except when I later found out they were fictionalized. That experience definitely influenced my desire to make sure that I did the best possible job to make sure I never led anyone astray with my writing on true topics.
     Be sure you can corroborate information, and not taking it as face value just because it's in someone else's book. Go to great lengths to make sure you can stand behind your sources. Don't try to make a piece of information fit if it doesn't. When that happens, something is out of place, so ask the hard questions and put the puzzle together for yourself and you will end up with something you can be really proud of.

SR: From the many possible projects you could be working on, how do you select which one to focus on, and what factors play into that decision?

Tanya: Honestly, deadlines are often deciding factors. I am always juggling projects in
different stages of the process, and I work on them in order of when they are due. I also tend to switch things up regardless of deadlines if I need a fresh perspective---for example, after I've been working on one thing for several hours, I might need a break, so I will change to another project that is in a different stage----perhaps I need to check illustrator sketches against the last pass manuscript, or do some fact checking. Keeps me fresh!

Thank you, Tanya, for you time and your expertise in the area of nonfiction. We wish you well on your future projects.


  1. I love her books. COURAGE HAS NO COLOR intrigues me. Thanks for sharing this story.

  2. Thank you for the interview, Sherri. Tanya, I love your reminder about taking the responsibility of writing nonfiction for kids very seriously. I, too, was one of those who read Childhoods of Famous Americans. How disappointing to know they were fictionalized!

  3. Great advice! I had ordered in a book on my nf person, and it was one of those Childhood of Famous American Biographies. I didn't know it was fictionalized until I started reading it. I, too, was disappointed! Tanya, I really like your nf pb biographies! Thanks, Sherri, for the interview.

  4. Outstanding interview with Tanya Lee Stone. Thank you, Sherri, for the post.

  5. Sheri, I am so glad you brought one of my favorite authors to us. I "met" (not really, but through her books" Tanya with her picture book on Alexander Calder. And then I fell in love with her research & writing with the story about the outstanding pilots who were flying female & therefore not eligible back in the day, due to discrimination, to become astronauts. If you have ever watched any footage of any space mission, you owe it to yourself & your family to crack open her book,
    The brave, accomplished & little-known, outside their circles. women she presents are exemplars for us all.
    Brava! to Tanya & to Sherri. Thank you.