Interview with nonfiction writer Melissa Stewart
Award winning author Melissa Stewart shares the intrigue, fascination, and beauty of the natural world in her over 100 nonfiction books for young readers. Her books teach us why animals are blue, red, or purple; why birds fly, plants breathe, or chameleons change color. Each one is an exciting adventure into nature.
We coaxed Melissa in from the great outdoors to answer a few questions:
Q-What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of writing nonfiction?
"When I'm writing a creative nonfiction manuscript, I always struggle with the structure. How can I bring the topic vividly to life in a way that is fresh and dynamic? My goal is always to delight as well as inform young readers. Sometimes I spend months thinking about it until one day, out of the blue, the solution just pops into my head.
For my book, Under the Snow (Peachtree, 2009), I had the "aha" moment while driving home from a Foundation of Children's Books program at Boston College that featured author-illustrator Timothy Basil Ering. Tim's presentation was so exciting, so inspiring that it put my mind in a whole different place, and finally, all the puzzle pieces I'd been wrestling with for months just fell into place.
I started a new draft of the manuscript as soon as I got home, and I didn't stop until 3:00 a.m. when I had a solid draft that I knew would work. After that, it was just a matter of revising lightly here and there."
Q-What were some of your favorite books when you were in elementary school?
"I was a reluctant reader as a child. But then a very smart librarian, Mrs. Freeborn, gave me a copy of Mr. Mysterious & Company by Sid Fleischman. The book's combination of intriguing setting and quirky characters fascinated me. After I read the last page, I turned right back to page 1 and started reading it again. I checked that book out of the library so many times that Mrs. Freeborn finally gave it to me, and I still have it today.
In 2006, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Fleischman and telling him that his book turned me into a reader. It was a magical moment for both of us."
Q-What are you working on now? Do you have a new book coming out this year?
"My newest book, A Place for Frogs, came out April 1. The first book signing was in Chicago at the International Reading Association conference. It was very special because the book's illustrator, Higgins Bond, was there too. I live in Massachusetts, and Higgins live in Tennessee so we don't see each other very often.
A Place for Frogs is our third book together. Right now, she's illustrating our fourth book and I'm writing our fifth. It's been a great partnership."
Be sure to check out Melissa's books at your library or local bookstore.
For more information on Melissa and her books, visit her website.