Welcome back, Patricia Newman! Thank you for returning to the KidLit Oasis as my guest—which means you liked my hospitality the first time ☺, but it also means you have a new book coming out that you'll be sharing with our readers! Congratulations!
So, first, let me ask you this: I know that every book is special to its author in a particular way—how is this book special to you? Dear to your heart in a different way? What was the experience like, compared to previous ones?
A: Hi, Rosie. Thanks for that warm welcome. Like most of my books, A RIVER’S GIFTS happened by accident. In the fall of 2018, my husband was chatting with a colleague about what her college-aged triplets did over the summer. She mentioned that Theo, one of the triplets, worked on the Elwha River Restoration in Washington. Engineers had just breached two dams to drain Lake Aldwell above the one-hundred-year-old Elwha Dam and Lake Mills above the eighty-five-year-old Glines Canyon Dam. Theo helped replant the barren lakebed with native seeds and seedlings, one member of a small army of botanists and volunteers who would go on to plant 400,000 plants on 800 acres of lakebed over seven years.
After hearing about this amazing effort, my husband came home and said here’s your next book. His instincts are good after living with me for thirty-eight years, so, I started digging. Every fascinating piece of information I found led to more questions, which led to more digging.
I gravitate toward these complex environmental stories with several stakeholders. For A RIVER’S GIFTS, I worked with a scientist at the Olympic National Park and several different members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, aka The Strong People. I loved that the Elwha’s story focuses on environmental justice and our connection to nature. The river’s restoration was a community effort characterized by hope and renewal. One reviewer called A RIVER’S GIFTS an example of rewilding, and I completely agree.
Is there an interesting behind-the-scenes about the idea for the story, its creation, an unusual journey to publication perhaps? What stands out?
A: One particularly thorny question we had was: Did The Strong People build weirs across the Elwha to trap fish? Sources at the National Park said probably not because the Elwha is a fast-moving river, but tribal sources said the weirs were likely. A tribal librarian found the proof for me, but to complicate matters, that proof was not scheduled to be publicly released until after A RIVER’S GIFTS was published. I had a decision to make. I went with the tribe’s traditional knowledge, knowing that someday verifiable documents would also be available to support the tribal wisdom.
Q: And to piggyback on the questions above, did anything surprise you with this book or the publisher's approach (whether it was the same publisher or a new one)? Did you learn anything new? Was it harder or easier to bring the book into the world?
A: I always learn a ton of new stuff when writing a book. I LOVE research and I think that’s the main reason I write nonfiction. As I mentioned, nature is a particular interest of mine because most of us don’t understand our connections to nature and how it supports us. Whenever I find a story that highlights CONNECTION, I need to know more.
If you are familiar with Planet Ocean, Sea Otter Heroes, Eavesdropping on Elephants, Zoo Scientists to the Rescue or Plastic, Ahoy!, you know those books are for middle-grade readers and illustrated with photos. With A RIVER’S GIFTS, I proposed something brand new to my editor, Carol Hinz at Millbrook Press/Lerner. I knew this book needed to be illustrated because the story begins thousands of years ago when the Elwha River first formed. I also proposed a 48-page picture book format, which is much longer than the standard 32-page picture book. Add to those changes, a completely new, lyrical writing style to mimic the river’s flow that Carol had never seen from me before. I admit I took a calculated risk, but I wrote my proposal to show why the book needed these elements, which I hoped justified the extra production expense.
Q: When did you find out who the illustrator was for the project and were you asked for an input? What was it like working with the illustrator for this book? When did you first see the art and what was your reaction?
A: Yes, definitely. Carol proposed Natasha Donovan as the illustrator right from the start. I immediately knew she was right for the project. Natasha is Métis and lives near the Elwha River, so the Pacific Northwest flora and fauna are in her blood. The cover image of her website shows young salmon in a river habitat!
I first saw sketches from Natasha. Sketches with bold dark lines but no color. Even in her sketches Natasha recreated the rough and tumble of the river. I was hooked, but when she added color, I fell in love with the spreads. They perfectly capture the movement and beauty of the Elwha River and its importance to The Strong People’s culture, livelihood, and spirituality.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish within the next 2-3 years? Any specific goals or aspirations—personal or writing related—that you could share with us?
A: I want to keep showing up for nature, finding hidden connections to help readers appreciate and understand why the environment is worth saving.
Q: What's coming up for you next? Please tell us about any other exciting news, upcoming events or anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
A: I have proposals written for two other amazing nature stories, so cross your fingers that editors like them!
In my immediate future I will be presenting a one-hour webinar for Writing Blueprints on creating a nonfiction children’s book proposal. After that I am traveling to Georgia to speak to preservice teachers about the wonders of nonfiction: the components of today’s nonfiction and how to use it in the classroom to teach writing and to support content area instruction.
Critically acclaimed author of nonfiction books for children and recipient of a Sibert Honor, Patricia Newman empowers her readers to seek connections to the real world and to use their imaginations to act on behalf of their communities. Using social and environmental injustice as inspiration for books, Patricia frequently speaks to adults and children share how we can affect change.
Hello amazing readers! KidLit Oasis is back with a new author interview and a giveaway! I can't wait to dive in and hear my guest's words of wisdom, learn about her publication journey, and get the scoop on her past, present, and future projects. I hope you're curious to learn more, too, and you're cozy, comfy, and ready!
So, without further ado, welcome, Patricia! Thank you for joining us on the blog. Please briefly describe your journey to publication.
A: I met my first agent at a conference sponsored by SCBWI, and she sold my first book. After she retired, I attended another SCBWI conference where I met my second agent Deborah Warren at East West Literary, during a face-to-face critique. She said, “If you are ever looking for an agent, please consider me.” I was and I did, and we’re still together after sixteen years! After our first book sale, we had a looong dry spell. One day I opened my calendar to Dec. 31, 2012 and wrote, “Quit if no sales.” But in August of that year, Carol Hinz at Millbrook Press purchased Plastic, Ahoy!, which went on to win several awards. Carol and I have published six books together, including Sea Otter Heroes, which received a Sibert Honor from ALA, and this month’s Planet Ocean. So, it pays to persevere. You never know what’s around the next corner.
Q: What do you find most challenging in this business, either on the creative or publishing side of things? What do you find most rewarding? What helps you stay motivated?
A: The waiting and proposal writing. The waiting induces stress and stress induces self-doubt. But the cure for waiting is to immerse myself in a new writing project—and I seem to have a limitless supply of ideas. Remember, your books might not be published in the order you write them.
Because most of my work is middle-grade nonfiction, I create a proposal to sell the idea to an editor—an overview of the idea, a chapter outline, and marketing information. (Writers, see this article I wrote on proposals.) Proposals are difficult because I create them before I’ve completed my research. I do a lot of reading and searching for sources. Then I have a brief conversation with the scientists. I don’t yet have a sale and don’t want to take up a lot of their time. I have to strike a balance between gathering enough research to find the narrative thread and the hook for a young reader and overdoing it before I have a sale. I’ve managed to survive the proposal process several times, so I know I can do it!
I compare proposals to the Fire Swamp in The Princess Bride. Before I enter the metaphorical swamp, I remind myself that I’ve been here before and know the secrets and have emerged relatively unscathed.
Q: Could you share any craft tools or techniques that you find most helpful to you when working on a project? What does your revision process look like?
A: Mentor texts are wonderful tools. I find a book I admire – maybe for the language, maybe for the format – and study it to see why it works. I usually type in the text – the complete text for picture books and a selection for longer works – without the images to get a feel for how the words were put together.
As a NF author, I have to think about the format of my book. Will it have sidebars? If so, how long should they be? What should be included in the back matter? Should the text be accompanied by photos or illustrations? Do I have enough photos for a MG title? How much do the photos cost and will the copyright holders extend permission to use them?
I’m much better at revision than rough drafts. I have a sense of where the book is going when I finally begin to revise. I write tighter and I organize my thoughts on a whole different level. Even though I often work from a proposal, I try not to let that outline tie me down. I want the creative process to take over.
Q: What's coming up for you next? Please tell us about any new releases, exciting news, upcoming events or anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
A: Planet Ocean just released on March 2. Annie Crawley and I teamed up for our third book together. We focused on how we have an unbreakable connection with the sea and how to empower readers to become the voice of the ocean through storytelling. Watch this video to find out why your (home, school, classroom) library needs Planet Ocean.
In fall 2022, I have a new nonfiction title coming out. Instead of photographs, it will be illustrated by the talented Natasha Donovan. I wish I could tell you the title, but we’re still working on that. I can tell you it’s a happy conservation story.
Thank you, Patricia -- it was great chatting with you! Thanks again for being on KidLit Oasis, and all the best on your journey! I look forward to all of your future books and projects!
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I hope you enjoyed this post — shares are appreciated. Thank you! Check out the giveaway below!
Connect with Patricia Newman:
Click on the book cover to order a copy of Planet Ocean
Patricia Newman’s books show young readers how their actions can ripple around the world. Using social and environmental injustice as inspiration, she empowers young readers to seek connections to the real world and to use their imaginations to act on behalf of their communities. A Robert F. Sibert Honor recipient, Patricia’s books have received starred reviews, ALA Notable recognition, Green Earth Book Awards, an Outstanding Science Trade Book Award, a Parents’ Choice Award; been honored as Junior Library Guild selections; and been included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists.
One Texas librarian recently wrote, “Patricia is one of THE BEST nonfiction authors writing for our students in today's market, and one of our MUST HAVE AUTHORS for every collection.”
Patricia frequently speaks at schools and conferences to share how children of any age can affect change. Her presentations are described as “phenomenal,” “fantastic,” “mesmerizing,” “passionate,” and “inspirational.”
G I V E A W A Y !
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If you're enjoying my posts and would like to support my work, please consider requesting my new book, Sunday Rain, from your local library or purchasing a copy. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are
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About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a multi-published, award-winning children's author and kid lit Writing Coach. She's the creator of Picture Book Mastery System™ that is proven to help emerging children's writers advance their career and get closer to their publishing goals.
Rosie's latest picture book, Sunday Rain, was featured in The New York Times and recommended by Parents magazine. Her upcoming picture book, The School of Failure: A Story About Success will be released in the spring of 2022 in both China and the USA.
Rosie also loves to visit schools and her interactive workshops empower students to unleash their creativity and grow in confidence through reading, writing, and creating. Teachers and librarians love Rosie for her bubbly, upbeat personality which captures students' attention, encourages them to think creatively, and motivates them to pursue big dreams.
She has been featured on TV, radio, podcasts, and print media, and also speaks on women's and moms’ topics, sharing her journey from a Bulgarian immigrant to a published author.
Find out more about Rosie's online courses, mentorships, and her work by visiting her website: RosieJPova.com
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jennifer Herrington of Harvey Klinger Literary.