Monday, June 23, 2014


Well, here we are--and welcome.  I'm so glad to have been summoned by award-winning, chapter book writer  Anne Ylvisaker to be part of "My Writing Process" Blog Tour--a tour that's covered many writers and many genres.

Whenever we are not writing it seems like we are thinking about writing, so it's good to have a place to put down some of those thoughts.  I'll answer the questions posed for the tour and then tag two authors to share later.

1. What am I working on?

Right now I'm very happy to be planning for the release of my picture book biography of Alice Waters--Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious in September (Readers to Eaters)
Alice Waters and her "family" at Chez Panisse changed the way we in America think about food. She was determined to serve only the freshest, tastiest food at Chez Panisse and scoured the countryside around the restaurant finding such food. Chez Panisse became famous for its wonderful meals. Now we all  look for tasty food grown in our own areas. Alice Waters also started the Edible Schoolyard program, which involves students in growing food and uses schoolyard gardens as opportunities for instruction. She believes the way we eat can change the world. I agree, so it was a great treat to write about her life.

Watch for news about a book party during the ALSC conference in California in September.

I'm also researching for a new non-fiction project that I'll be talking about later.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Honestly, I'm  not sure what to do with this question. There is so much wonderful non-fiction for young readers right now, that I am just happy to be a part of this genre. I'll let readers observe the differences.

I get excited by doing research, learning enough to walk around inside a story, discovering the quotes that capture the core of a life or an event. I often find myself living in the story. Once when I was researching a story I was so into my work, even while grocery shopping, that I walked up to a total stranger and tried to plan dinner with him!

I also love the sounds of words. I cannot not be aware of the way words sound, and that is part of in my writing.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I love writing about people who have a passion and follow it, not because it leads to fame or fortune, but because that passion defines a life. That was certainly true of Wilson Bentley, subject of my first picture book biograpy--Snowflake Bentley Houghton Mifflin, 1998). His snow crystal photographs always cost more to make than he was paid for them, but he spent his life photographing snow and eventually made 5000 photographs.

Farmer Will Allen's goal was to grow good food for people who had no access to good food, not to become famous. He learned how to do what he wanted to do and has shared that knowledge around the world. [I'm happy to report that this book has been selected by two states--the Wisconsin Center of the Book and the Iowa Center for the Book-- to represent them at the National Book Festival in Washington D.C.  Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table (Readers to Eaters) will be listed in the Festival brochure "Discover Great Places Through Reading" on the Wisconsin and the Iowa pages. This brochure will be given to all who attend the festival.]

Alice Waters wanted to share the pleasure of delicious food. She knew early in her life that good food makes good times and she wanted to give others the happy experience of a delicious peach or a just picked berry.

4. How does your writing process work?

I often have to write a story wrong before I get to the heart of it, kind of circle around the subject, go down a blind alley and return to the center. I wrote Snowflake Bentley with three different formats. The Alice Waters story started out as a story of Alice Waters cooking a shoe--which she actually did!

What helps me to find the story is to ask myself why I wanted to write the story. What about this person or event did I want to share? If I keep asking that and go deeper and deeper into my love for a certain story I eventually find the way to tell the story.

I'm excited to tag these writers who will be sharing their writing process in the next weeks:

Claudia Mcgehee is an author/illustrator of three awarding winning non-fiction picture books A Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet, A Woodland Counting Book, and Where Do Birds Live?, (University of Iowa Press). Her distinctive scratchboard style can also be found nationally in museum exhibits, packaging, and magazines. Part of her mission is to create art and writings that inspire and connect children of all ages with their natural world. She lives in Iowa City, where she writes about pictures and draws about words at

Jane Kurtz  was born in Portland, Oregon, but when she was two years old, her parents moved to Ethiopia. Jane grew up in Maji, a small town in the southwest corner of the country.
Since there were no televisions, radios, or movies, her memories are of climbing mountains, wading in rivers by the waterfalls, listening to stories, and making up her own stories, which she and her sisters acted out for days at a time.  By the time Jane came back to the United States for college, she felt there was no way to talk about her childhood home to people here. Eventually she found a way--through her children's books. But Jane doesn't only write about Ethiopia. She's written non-fiction,  "It's been a healing and inspiring experience," she says, "to re-connect with my childhood and also be able to help people know just a little of the beautiful country where I grew up." She is also a co-founder and member of the board of Ethiopia Reads that works to bring books and literacy to the children in Ethiopia. Learn more about Jane at this site.