“There’s a common, crushing misconception that fiction is creative writing drawn from the depths of a writer’s soul, while nonfiction is simply a recitation of facts that any basic robot could spit out.
The reality is very different. I think my personality, my beliefs, and my experiences are deeply embedded in the books I end up writing ” —Laura Purdie Salas
Melissa turns the spotlight on 33 other authors of nonfiction for kids in this ongoing series "Nonfiction Authors Dig Deep." It's packed insights into their process, tips, and inspiration, and is well-worth checking out!
As Melissa explains in this launch post,
“Again and again, what you’ll hear is that crafting nonfiction involves much more than just cobbling together a bunch of facts. The books we choose to write and the perspectives we choose to explore are often closely linked to who we are as people and our experiences in the world. Nonfiction writers—all writers—have to dig deep. If we don’t, our writing will fall flat, and no one will want to read it.
Our passion for a project, our author purpose, is what drives us to dedicate years of our lives to a single manuscript. It spurs us on despite the obstacles and setbacks, and of course, through the inevitable criticism and rejections.” —Melissa Stewart
Some highlights from the series so far:
“Writers are often told to write what they know. As far as I’m concerned, we should write what we’re passionate about. We can always research (and who doesn’t like research?) a topic, but if we’re not interested in it—boring!
Which brings me to why I write about women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). Doing so lets me combine two of my passions—STEM and equal opportunity for all.” —Laurie Wallmark
And Laurie Ann Thompson, who shared about the long process behind writing Emmanuel’s Dream,
“At one point, my well-meaning and incredibly supportive husband said something along the lines of, “Why are you [an able-bodied white woman from Wisconsin] writing this story anyway? Maybe it’s time to move on to something you know more about.” I had to wonder if maybe he was right. What did I have in common with Emmanuel? Why was I writing this story in the first place?
It turns out these were just the questions I needed to ask to come up with an approach that finally worked. You see, I’d had all the facts lined up in a satisfying order, but what was missing was… me. I’d been so focused on writing the facts that I’d carefully removed all of my own feelings about it. But isn’t authentic human emotion just another kind of truth? And isn’t it, perhaps, the most important kind of truth we can share with one another?
When I finally sat down and got clear about my “why” for telling that story, the “how” to best tell it revealed itself almost immediately. For me, it isn’t really a story about having a disability or even Emmanuel himself. It’s about being left out and overlooked, feeling frustrated by injustice and inequality, and wanting to make the world a better place.
Those are all things I felt deeply as a child, and things I can still relate to as an adult. The book reveals as much about me, I think, as it does about Emmanuel.” —Laurie Ann Thompson
And Steve Swinburne, who shares,
“I wrote Safe in a Storm (Scholastic, 2017) shortly after the 9/11 attack on the United States. I felt like we’d been struck by a storm that day. As I thought about what I could write after the initial shock and grief subsided, I began, as I often do, to view writing ideas through the lens of nature.It's a wonderful series. Check it out here.
How do animals survive storms? For instance, how do a whale and her calf ride out an ocean squall?
And, yes, it took 15 years to find a publishing home for Safe in a Storm, but I never gave up. I kept on believing in this story about how animals find cozy places to keep them safe and warm, no matter how loud the storm rumbles or how dark the night gets. Bear cubs huddled together in a den, mom and baby owl nestled in a sturdy tree, and a bobcat family sheltering on a ledge, all while the winds and rain bluster and blow. I kept on believing in the protective, healing power of home and family.” —Steve Swinburn
Illustrate and Write On,