(updated Feb 12)
Author Sue Heavenrich with "fly catcher" and her newest book!
When I look at this image of Sue Heavenrich and her picture book 13 WAYS TO EAT A FLY, I know I'll experience an engaging read mixed with scientific facts. Sue delivers with a great story replete with lyrical language, poetry, and layered text. Young readers will delight in the "ick" factor of how flies can be eaten ( a wood frog swallows and use its eyeballs to push flies down the throat), while educators will eat up the back matter and layered text that expands the grade levels for read alouds and study. David Clark's fun illustrations lend added engagement to this STEM picture book for children PreK to third grade. Science, rhyme, humor, and math are all packed into this delightful book published by Charlesbridge.
Craft Chat with Sue and Kathy
Sue and I have known each other since 2015 when we met at a nonfiction writing retreat along with other members of our GROG blog team. We've shared stories and supported each other for years. Our conversation reveals what it truly takes to get a book published - the time, the revisions, the persistence.
Kathy: 13 Ways to Eat a Fly had a long gestation period. Tell us how this book came to be.
Sue: Back in either 2012 or 2013, I began with the idea of an informational book while at the Falling Leaves Retreat. It was so informational, it was boring. At the 2015 retreat, agent Kendra Marcus (Bookstop Literary) helped me see it really wasn't a book yet. It lacked a narrative thread, she said. I couldn't figure out how to revise it... but since I had a "revise and resubmit" with Charlesbridge Senior Editor Alassya Pusey, I got back to work.
I read, researched, and channeled the classic One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. I added humor and streamlined the manuscript. Eventually my critique partner Lisa Amstutz suggested I send it to her agent, Vicki Selvaggio (now at Storm Literary). Although she did not take me on as a client, Vicki offered encouragement and helpful comments. The book came full circle with Charlesbridge set to publish it February 16, 2021. My advice? Aim for rejections with feedback. Revise, resend, and see what happens!
Kathy: Like you, I love the research stage of writing nonfiction along with finding the right structure. Explain your research process and how you added the counting element and other hooks to the manuscript. (I define a "hook," as added layers that make a story unique.)
Sue: I began with a list of animals that eat flies but wanted to know what type they ate. This led me to introducing different families of flies. I wanted to write about the diversity of flies. I also created a spreadsheet of plants that eat flies and fungus that eats insects that turns them into zombies.
Kathy: Yes, such fun to hook kids with an idea like"zombifying" a fly! Take a look.
Sue: For the structure, I played with the "how-to" concept adding another layer to my original idea of a counting book, but then did a reverse structure so each spread has fewer flies. The ending arrived when I thought of flies as someone's "fast food." Chris Mihaly and I investigated field guides to eating flies when we wrote Diet for a Changing Climate, our middle grade book.
Kathy: I also enjoyed all the creative ways you employed back matter created for 2 audiences, adults and children.
Sue: I say, "It isn't a book if it doesn't have back matter!" I researched the USDA website to design a nutritional analysis label for flies: how many flies make up a gram, how many calories, vitamin content, etc. Illustrator David Clark and I also added a "jokey" poster of the edible parts of a fly, too.
Kathy: Thanks Sue for the chat about craft, critique, commitment needed for the publishing journey. We'll end with sharing "Entomology Barbie" who suggests that you order an autographed copy of 13 Ways to Eat a Fly through Riverow Bookshop's website link: https://riverow.com/
Sue Heavenrich is an educator and trained biologist turned children's author. Her recent books include Diet of A Changing Climate, with GROGger Chrisy Mihlay, Sky Spies and Are Ants Like Plants? and 13 Ways to Eat a Fly. (Feb. 16, 2021)You can find her exploring cool stuff right outside her back door, blogging for the GROG, and on her personal blog, Archimedes Notebook. Click here for Sue's author Facebook page.