Wait, Rest, Pause is a book worth waiting for. And today we get to find out more about it from the author -
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What do you do when you need a book – but there isn’t anything published yet? If you’re Marcie Flinchum Atkins, you write the one you need. While teaching fourth grade, she found herself searching for a book about dormancy. You know: that stage trees go through in winter, volcanoes go through when they aren’t blowing their tops, the stage some insects and amphibians overwinter in.
Then she put it away for a while. Tucked it into a safe spot where it could… go dormant. Wait. Rest. Nap. Then in March of 2018, Millbrook Press put out a call for manuscripts. Marcie nudged her manuscript awake, helped it shake the sleep out of its eyes, and sent it off to the editor.
How fitting that next week, her book Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature hits the shelves. It is a lyrical book – you can see immediately when you read the first page:
If you were dormant, you would pause—
The book is also filled with verbs. Not all that surprising, since Marcie focused on verbs in her fourth-grade classroom. As a teacher she told students to “Highlight your verbs!” Because verbs make our writing stronger, she says. A fan of word banks, Marcie often jots the verbs from a story-in-progress on a separate page, then eliminates the weak verbs.
“You want to look for specificity and readability,” she says. She’ll also list other categories of words, such as colors. “I use a lot of dictionaries and thesauruses to make sure I find the right words.” She’s posted some examples of this on her website, where she shares tips with other writers.
The process doesn’t end once the book is accepted by an editor, either. From book title to words on the page, Marcie said she found herself making plenty of tweaks to the language.
“Sometimes a slight change in order makes all the difference,” she says. Sometimes it’s finding a new way to say the same thing. For example, Marcie wanted to use the word “antifreeze” to describe how insects survive freezing temperatures. “But it’s not very lyrical, so I tried to figure out how else to say it, in a better way.”
Titles undergo scrutiny as well. Marcie’s original title was Pause: Dormancy in Nature. But when said aloud, some people heard “paws”… and that was confusing. So the editor asked if Marcie could come up with a title that would reflect the lyrical nature of the text. To help her think up titles, Marcie wrote keywords on index cards.
There was one little thing Marcie wouldn’t budge on. “I wasn't willing to give up the word dormancy in the subtitle. As a teacher and now librarian, I knew having a subtitle that really shows what the book is about was important.” Fortunately, the editors agreed.
Luscious language is just one of the things I love about Wait, Rest, Pause. I like that Marcie has back matter for curious kids, older siblings, parents, teachers – anyone who wants to learn more about sleeping through the cold season. This makes it a great resource for older elementary school children who are looking for an understanding of what happens in the natural world when it’s too cold for sap to flow or ladybugs to fly.
“I hope my book makes kids curious enough to want to learn more,” Marcie said. “I see it as a springboard for inquiry.”
Thank you, Marcie, for talking shop with us today on GROG. Wait, Rest, Pause officially releases on Sept. 3 - just six short days from now.
Find out more about Marcie over at her website. Check out my review of Wait, Rest, Pause here, and Jenna Grodzicki's interview with Marcie from July over at the Lerner blog.