What drew you to the science market?
Miranda: I've always loved science. In middle school I subscribed to NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, and watched marine biology documentaries all the time.(Just ask my mom about that) I had posters in my room of the many species of cetaceans. When I left for college, I started out as a Biology major. It's not a big surprise to me that when I began writing for kids, a lot of what I wrote about had to do with natural sciences. Writing for the science market is really just my way of exploring things I really wanted to explore.
What topics are librarians or teachers asking for, but not finding on the shelves?
Miranda:A few months ago, I was told by a librarian that they get a lot of requests for "mermaids."
But, they also get requests for "weird but true" kind of stories and anything out of the ordinary. So, if it's out of the ordinary, kids want to know about it! Asking teachers or librarians can be a great way to find ideas if you're not sure where to start. Sometimes, just finding a fresh angle on a subject that's already out there is also a big winner.
In order to write for the science market, what credentials does a writer need to have?
I don't think writers should stifle themselves by thinking they must have certain credentials to write a science-related book. Passion and enthusiasm are important--so try to choose subjects you are deeply interested in and/or have knowledge of. That said, learn how to do the research and always consult experts in the field. I do think that with today's standards, it's important to keep accurate records of your sources and/or list them in a bibliography or include them in an author's note that addresses any liberties taken or speculations made.
There are a lot of different genres of nonfiction writing. How would you differentiate between, say, social studies and science?
I think that there are several intersections between science and social studies-- in fact, if an author can find the similarities and focus on them, that author might be able to capture an angle of science that kids can relate to, and teachers can use in more than one way. I think there are a number of similar techniques a writer uses whether she is working on a science-related book or a biography. Biographies tend to be more narrative, while science books might be more concept-based, but I definitely wouldn't say that's a hard and fast rule.
Suppose some of our readers want to get into this market. What advice would you give them?
Read a lot and write a lot. Write poems, articles, nonfiction, and concept-based fiction. Also try to develop some good research habits, and/or connections. To "break in," I'd suggest looking into work-for-hire, magazine, and educational markets. Some bigger traditional houses don't publish as many educational or science-based books, whereas educational publishers and some book packagers are looking for new science titles or freelance writers all the time. Query often or widely to increase your chances, but always follow the guidelines and be professional. Being professional (meeting deadlines, being polite, etc.) can improve the chance that an editor will want to work with you again and again.
Can you name some titles that you feel are particularly outstanding?
This is impossible---there are so many outstanding books for young readers! I'll try to give you just a few outstanding ones as a start:
For concept-based books, she recommends:
A LEAF CAN BE series by Laura Purdie Salas,
FLIP, FLOAT, FLY: SEEDS ON THE MOVE by Jo Ann Early Macken
For narrative style books, she recommends:
ON A BEAM OF LIGHT by Jennifer Beme,
BARNUM'S BONES by Tracey Fern.
These are just a few of the wonderful titles out there. If you are interested in writing for this market, Miranda, along with an award winning line-up of authors and editors will be teaching " The Nuts and Bolts of Science Writing" at the HIGHLIGHTS FOUNDATION in Honesdale, PA, this July 5th-9th. Check with HIGHLIGHTS for more information.