Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Interview of Nancy I. Sanders on the new release of her Get to Know biographies for kids by Tina Cho

I'm excited to welcome my mentor over the years, Nancy I. Sanders, back to the blog. Nancy's "Get to Know" series of first biographies for kids was published by Zonderkidz in July 2014.

My kids and I were blessed to receive all four biographies to review. I'm using them in our homeschool. As I read them, I thought of questions to ask Nancy because I'm always learning from her writing strategies. You might pick up a few tricks as well.

T: Did you land the contract to write these books BEFORE you wrote them?

N: Yes, I landed the contracts to write these four books before I wrote them. I was contacted by this publisher out of the blue because of two factors: 1)The publisher had seen my nonfiction book, Frederick Douglass for Kidsand liked it so thought I might be a potential author to write these books. 2)The senior editor also recommended my name for the project because I used to work with her as my editor when she was at a smaller publisher.

T: Were these biographies your idea or an in-house idea?

N: These were the idea of the publisher, but they gave me freedom to develop the concept based on the design they wanted to produce. It was very exciting!

T: What kinds of research did you have to do?

N: First, I conducted research to develop/flesh out the concept of the book. I walked through the children's nonfiction section in my local library and grabbed several tote bags full of nonfiction children's books. Then I came home and spread all these books out on my dining room table. I scanned through all of them over the next couple of days and picked out features in each one that I liked the best such as a word bank with definitions at the bottom of most pages, icons for young readers to identify key components in the book, and an illustrated timeline.

Next, I researched what type of research books I needed to use to complete this project. I went on Amazon and also the publisher's website and made a wish-list of reference books I'd need such as encyclopedias of Bible history and biographies of Bible characters both for adult references and children's books. From this I made a list of must-haves and a list of wanna-haves. I talked with my publisher and they were able to provide me with a number of these titles free of charge. (I always ask my publishers for their own titles when I start on a new project and many have been very helpful to send me references to help me on my journey.) Then I decided on a budget that I wanted to invest and bought quite a number of research books (mostly used books on Amazon) as well.

Finally, I developed a rhythm of research, write, edit, research, write, edit that I worked on as I actually wrote the books.

T: Did you have to choose all the photographs, maps, and paintings? If so, how did that work?

N: No, I didn't have to choose all the photographs, maps, and paintings. However, I did recommend potential ones throughout the manuscript, but then the publisher had a team who actually looked for and acquired these. Basically, if I found an image I recommended, I gave the credit line as well as a thumbnail of the image so the publisher could find something similar to what I recommended.

T: How long did it take to write one of these books? How long did you have to write the series?

N: The publisher was on a tight deadline so I had just one month to write each book with a total of four months for all four. This was quite a challenge, and I had to work late into the night and on weekends as well, but all-in-all, it was such an exciting adventure!

T: Will there be more books in this series?

Not sure yet, but I hope so! I'm eager to write more.

Thanks so much, Nancy, for being our guest! Just from the interview, I've picked up great advice, and I hope you have too! 

Nancy & I --4 yrs ago before I moved to Korea

Nancy I. Sanders
Author of nearly 100 books including the ground-breaking how-to book for children's writers: 
Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children's Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career

Author of Jesus, Mary, Apostle Paul, King David, four books in the Get to Know Series of first biographies for kids

Book's site:


  1. Oh, what a great interview, Tina. I adore how generous Nancy is w/ her process and the Blogzone. Love that she asked her publishers for the research books. I also liked her process of picking gout what nf fears she liked & wanted to include in her books.

  2. Exciting interview, Tina! It's so nice seeing good things happen to generous people like Nancy. I've learned bunches through Nancy's terrific workshops, and know the publisher made a great decision when they chose her to write their series. :0)

  3. Great interview and always a pleasure to learn from a great writer. :)

  4. I love to read about other writers and how they get their ideas and work through to the finished product. Thank you for a great interview.

  5. Thanks for the delightful opportunity to be here with you on your fantastic group blog, Tina! It's a joy to connect with you! And thanks for all the kudos, dear writing friends.

  6. A wonderful interview, Nancy and Tina!! I'm so glad I've had a chance to read these 4 books of Nancy's--they're excellent! You did such a good job with them, Nancy, and the fact that I'm familiar with the books made this interview even more interesting and helpful. Thank you both.

  7. Thanks, everyone, for stopping by! It's wonderful learning from Nancy again, isn't it?!

  8. Tina: Such an outstanding interview with Nancy I. Sanders. How amazing that she has written almost 100 books! Thank you for the many suggestions and tips of how to research for a nonfiction book. ~Suzy

  9. Tina,
    Thank you so much for this informative interview. I'm always intrigued by the process that authors use to create their books. It's also encouraging that Nancy was sought out based on her other work. That speaks strongly to her work and is a great reminder to all of us to do our best work and enjoy it in the process. I look forward to exploring these new books!

  10. I so enjoyed that peek in the writing life of Nancy. Loved the idea of spreading the books out and picking features she liked that she could incorporate in her own books.

  11. Tina thank you for the great interview and Nancy thank you for the amazing books. I am proud to say I got to read and review them. Tina, I didn't know Nancy only had a month to write each book. She did an amazing job. So did you with the interview. Thanks

  12. So interesting to hear about Nancy's process with this series. Congratulations, Nancy! I can't believe you wrote them all in four months. That is amazing and admirable! Thanks for a great interview, Tina and Nancy!

  13. Sweet picture of you & your mentor Tina!

    Always a lift to hear about a successful author's writing process. It's kind of Nancy to share.

  14. Thanks so much for this, Nancy and Tina. Amazing that you could complete a book a month! What dedication. It was helpful to see the process used to move the manuscript to publication. So interesting!