The author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is author of “Sea Otter Heroes”, Patricia Newman. She provided great advice to writers, surprising animal info, and teaching resources! Patricia has our Challenge this month, she wants to know what nature and science topic she should explore next!
The Challenge: What’s Next?
What nature topic should Patricia dive in next?
Visit Patricia’s website at http://patriciamnewman.com and send her an email if you have ideas!
(Patricia center. Photo Credit: Elise Newman)
“Sea Otter Heros” author and conservationist Patricia Newman!
Author, Patricia uses her love of science and nature to make entertaining & educational works. This Inksplat highlights her thoughts on the writing process and her newest book about Sea Otters!
An Interview with Author Patricia Newman
When did you call yourself a writer? What about an author?
I started to call myself a writer as a young mother when I began to jot down story ideas and turn them into manuscripts. Admittedly, they were messy and imperfect, but I was digging deep into my imagination and creating something new. And I had some success publishing stories and articles in children’s magazines. I only dared call myself an author after my first book, Jingle the Brass, was published.
Writing about something that you research is a lengthy process. How do you stay inspired in the long revision and writing process? Any tips?
I go through two-step revision process with my writing. The first involves a lot of head-scratching, reading, rewording, and rethinking. I usually ask my husband or trusted writing friends to read a draft of my manuscript and offer feedback. Sometimes I work on their feedback right away, but frequently, I let the manuscript sit for a while before making changes. I need this vacation from my project because revision is about reimagining and rethinking, and it’s nearly impossible to find something new in a project when you’ve been laboring on it for many weeks. When I’m ready to begin work on the project again, I come to it with a fresh perspective. Many more days, weeks, or even months pass. Perhaps I ask my trusted readers for help again.
Eventually I’m satisfied enough with my manuscript to send it to my editor. I look forward to this part of the revision process because by the time my manuscript deadline draws near, I’ve been laboring on the same book for months and I’m quite tired of it! I need a break, and I know that my editor won’t return it to me with her comments for a few months because she’s so busy. My publisher’s revision timeline gives me needed distance.
My editor and I work very well together. She has a long history of producing award-winning titles, so I trust her judgment. I’m always anxious for her comments (and a little nervous, too, because I want to live up to her high standards). She generally appreciates my writing style—which I’m very happy about—but she almost always has organizational comments that require a new way of reimagining how I tell my story. My books rely on vast amounts of research, so sometimes it’s hard to see the “whole” because I get mired in the details. When I reorganize or reimagine with my editor’s comments in mind, I move great gobs of text from one place in the manuscript to another. This process helps me focus my story to say what I want to say.
For student writers, I suggest four things:
- Work on a computer if you can. It’s easier to revise if you don’t have to worry about recopying your story in long-hand. (Learning to type is an excellent skill for a writer!)
- Edit your story the best you can.
- Ask a friend or an adult for honest feedback. You’re not looking for “It’s wonderful, honey!” You need to know is your reader ever confused? Does your reader care about your characters? Is your plot exciting? Is your ending satisfying?
- Put your story in a drawer for a week or so. When you come back to it, you will read it with new enthusiasm and more easily spot the places you can reorganize and reimagine.
In your new book Sea Otter Heroes, you focus on how otters help the ecosystem. What inspired you to learn and write about this phenomenon?
Chelsea Rochman, one of the scientists featured in Plastic, Ahoy!, invited me to a retreat sponsored by a fellowship of newly minted scientists who had just earned their PhDs. These scientists study a variety of conservation topics, such as native bees, forest fires and coral reefs. Chelsea asked me to talk about writing books about science for children, in the hopes that some of her colleagues’ work might make good reading for kids.
Marine biologist Brent Hughes approached me after my speech to discuss his research. Brent studies seagrass in an estuary off Monterey Bay—an inlet where fresh water and salt water mix. Seagrass is an underwater plant that lives in tidal areas and is definitely worth saving because it dampens waves to protect the coastline, it protects baby fish while they grow, and it captures carbon to reduce global warming. The estuary that Brent studies is bordered by farms. A lot of the fertilizers used on the farms run off into the estuary. The fertilizer usually makes choking algae grow, which eventually kills the seagrass. But the seagrass in the estuary was lush and green and healthy. Brent wanted to know why. Sea Otter Heroes shows how Brent solved the mystery and how the adorable, fuzzy-faced sea otters help.
Would You Rather: Would you rather have to write stories where you could never revise them OR Would you rather write stories you have to keep revising every month forever?
Wow, this seems like an impossible choice. I would never submit the first draft of anything I wrote (not even the responses to these questions). Revision is critical, but who wants to revise forever? Forever is a long time and my patience has limits!
Rather than choose one ghastly choice over another, I’d like to approach this question from a different angle. When I visit schools and read aloud to kids, most of the time I read the words that were published, but sometimes I revise my published work on the fly! I know this sounds crazy, but I look at every book as a learning experience. When it is published, it is as perfect as I can make it at the time and I’m proud to call myself the author. But with each title, I learn and grow as a writer so I look back on previous work to see if I would have done it differently as the author I am now. I think this is the fun part of writing. It’s always challenging us to be the best we can be.
What subjects or topics would you like to write about in future books?
My next book, coming out in the fall of 2017, is called Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. In this book, I follow three zoo scientists who save endangered orangutans, black-footed ferrets, and black rhinos. Expect a lot of fun photos and cool science that will make you want to be a zoo scientist, too!
Beyond that, I’m not sure what my next topic will be. I enjoy connecting my love of nature with science, so I expect I’ll tackle some aspect of conservation or endangered species. Visit my website at http://patriciamnewman.com and send me an email if you have ideas!
Awesome Teaching Resources for “Sea Otter Heros”!
Downloadable study guides, bookmarks and more HERE!