Author Spotlight: Jennifer Swanson



April 24, 2015

Tell us about yourself how you came to write for children, and specifically, nonfiction.

Ever since I was a kid, I  have always loved science. I started out thinking that I was going to write fiction picture books. At the SCBWI Miami conference I met the amazing Elaine Landau. She has written many, many nonfiction books for kids. I had a critique with her and she said my fiction pb was good, but when we started talking and she learned about my science background she said you HAVE to write science books for kids. 

We met later and she told me exactly how to get into the educational publishers and how to approach trade publishers with my idea. I sent my resume to Capstone Press and two months later had landed a 2-book deal. That was 2009. I've been writing nonfiction science books ever since. I love it!  I do still write fiction -- mostly middle grade, but bits of my love for science end up in those books, too. 

Where do you find your ideas for your books?
  
Everywhere. I like to tell my students  to "notice the science all around you." It is my mantra. Science IS all around you. I find ideas for my books by walking outside, reading the newspaper, watching television, reading books, and searching the internet. I love to learn how things work so something that grabs my attention usually makes me delve deeper to find out! 

What are the one or two strangest things you’ve learned recently while researching/writing your books?

Every day you have over 70,000 thoughts.

There is a new robot called an iCub which look like small humans and they have been given the ability to learn and be curious.

Jupiter has had a massive hurricane storm that has been going on for over 300 years. 




What is your general approach to researching a topic for a book?

When I first get an assignment or come up with an idea, I head to the library. I check out every children's book about that topic I can find. I want to see what's already out there, how the idea was presented, and I also look up reviews to see how widely the book was held by the public. Then I try to come up with a completely unique take on the subject, if possible. Or at least a different slant. I'm looking for an idea that will stand out among these other books. 

What books have you recently published?

My newest release is THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEARABLE DEVICES by Rosen Publishing.  It explores the fun and exciting technology of hand-held devices from Bluetooth to fitnees monitors to Google Glass. Pretty cool stuff here! 




I have two books coming out later in the year. In August 2015 I have HOW HAVE ANIMALS EVOLVED AND ADAPTED?  by Britannica Kids. This talks about adaptation and evolution as a process and uses kid-friendly terms and explanations to draw in the young reader. 

In September 2015, BRAIN GAMES, my first book with National Geographic Kids is released. Based on the wildly popular NatGeo show of the same name, this book takes the reader on a rockin trip through the most amazing computer in the world -- your Brain! The book is filled with interactive games, puzzles, and challenges that the reader will enjoy doing, all while they learn about how their brain works. 




What projects are you working on now?

At the moment, I am finishing up a book on Robots for the  National Geographic Kids Everything series. Talk about out of this world, fun. I got to learn about the Robonaut - the astronaut robot that "lives" on the international space station. 

I'm also working on a second book with NGKids on about a scientist who works in space. . It's going to have a graphic novel-type feel to it, while of course teaching kids about space. 


What advice would you give to someone who wants to write nonfiction?

Go for it! Writing nonfiction is FUN! You get to learn some really cool facts and also get kids excited about your topic. Today's nonfiction books are exciting, interactive, and ask the reader to think about what they are reading.  



I would suggest reading a lot of books of the subject you want to write. You need to get the feel for tone, language, and age range of your readers. Take a class on it, too. The one thing I have learned in over 8 years in this business is that authors never stop learning and honing their craft. You can always take another class and it will only make you a better writer. 

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I don't like heights. While I loved visiting the Grand Canyon, I did not come anywhere near the edge. 


Where can we find you on the internet?

I'm doing a lot of teaching these days -- both on the internet and off. 

Classes & Workshops:

I'm teaching a class with the talented Mira Reisberg for the Children's Book Academy, Writing for Love and Money. It's for writers of all levels who want to learn more about the industry, getting work for hire work, writing assessments, pretty much anything that will help you earn a living in this business. 


  • KidLit411 Exclusive!  Mira and I will offer an exclusive to the first 20 people to sign up here http://bit.ly/1yEKuOR Not only will the first 20 KidLit411 folks receive a $100 saving on the course but they will also receive a Social Media Mastery Course AND a course on the brilliant writing and career tracking software Scrivener! Wahoo!

I'm also conducting a workshop at the SCBWI FL Orlando conference in conjunction with Workman Publishing's editor Daniel Nayeri, Novelty, Nonfiction, and Work-For-Hire.  It's at Disney World! 

If you are interested in learning how to write science books for kids, check out my Highlights Foundation workshop with the amazing Miranda Paul and my Nat Geo Kids editor Shelby Alinsky. We will show writers of all levels: Nuts and Bolts of Science Writing

Other Links

My website:  http://jenniferswansonbooks.com/

Twitter: @JenSwanBooks 





Jennifer Swanson is an award winning author of over 20 nonfiction and fiction books for children. Her books in the HOW THINGS WORK series by The Child’s World were named to the 2012 Booklist’s Top 10 Books for Youth: Series Nonfiction. She has received awards from the Pennsylvania TriState Young Adult Review Committee, The Moms Choice Awards, and The Dove Foundation. Top reviews include a starred review in Booklist, and recommended reviews from School Librarians Workshop, Library Media Connection, and the National Science Teacher Association.


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