Author Spotlight: Lindsay H. Metcalf

© Anna Jackson

Sept. 4, 2020

We are excited to feature author Lindsay Metcalf and her THREE forthcoming picture books:

  •  BEATRIX POTTER, SCIENTIST, illustrated by Junyi Wu (Albert Whitman 2020)  
  • NO VOICE TOO SMALL: FOURTEEN YOUNG AMERICANS MAKING HISTORY, edited by Lindsay Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Jeanette Bradley (Charlesbridge, Sept. 22, 2020)
  • FARMERS UNITE!  PLANTING A PROTEST FOR FAIR PRICES (Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills & Kane, Nov. 10, 2020)

Be sure to enter to win a copy of two of her books, BEATRICE POTTER, SCIENTIST and NO VOICE TOO SMALL!




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

I am a journalist by trade and children’s author by grit. As someone who studied reporting in college and had been paid to write for years, I hadn’t thought much about picture books until my oldest son’s second birthday, when he received several new picture books. I thought, wow, kids’ books are this good? I enjoyed them as an adult and didn’t mind repeated read-alouds. The morning my second son started preschool three years later, I sank into my favorite armchair and started plunking out my first picture book manuscript.

Congrats on having THREE forthcoming picture books, BEATRIX POTTER, NO VOICE TOO SMALL, and FARMERS UNITE!  PLANTING A PROTEST FOR FAIR PRICES.

Tell us about each of these projects and what inspired you. 

© 2020 Albert Whitman & Co.
Thank you! I got the idea for BEATRIX POTTER, SCIENTIST, illustrated by Junyi Wu (Albert Whitman, September 1) reading a Brain Pickings article about Beatrix Potter’s background in mycology. I found a treasure-trove of primary sources to immerse myself in, including Beatrix’s journal and letters. Did you know that she wrote her journal in code over a sixteen-year period? The translated version gave essential details about her explorations with scientific illustration, spore germination, and the process of submitting a paper to the Linnean Society of London, where women weren’t allowed to attend meetings. Her story had so many fascinating layers, I couldn’t stop researching.



NO VOICE TOO SMALL: FOURTEEN YOUNG AMERICANS MAKING HISTORY, my second book (Charlesbridge, September 22) is a poetry anthology co-edited by me, Keila V. Dawson and Jeanette Bradley, and illustrated by Jeanette. That one came about when the three of us met in a private Facebook group related to the March 2018 KitLitWomen initiative founded by authors Grace Lin and Karen Blumenthal. I had been collecting names of inspiring young activists in my idea file before Jeanette posted about the need for a book about activism. We really wanted the book to speak to young readers and show them that they have this power within themselves, if only they harness it. We were so fortunate when established and award-winning poets like Nikki Grimes, Carole Boston Weatherford, Joseph Bruchac, Traci Sorell, and Hena Khan agreed to take a chance on us and write for the project.



FARMERS UNITE! PLANTING A PROTEST FOR FAIR PRICES (Calkins Creek, November 2020) is a book of my heart. I grew up on a Kansas wheat, corn, and soybean farm during the 1980s farm crisis, but somehow I had not heard the story of the thousands of farmers who drove their tractors cross-country to Washington, DC, in 1979. They camped on the National Mall in protest of low crop prices and demanded action from Congress. This is a longer picture book for a middle-grade audience, illustrated with archival photographs that I had a blast hunting down and securing permissions for. I’m excited to be the first to tell the story of the American Agriculture Movement for young people. What’s even more special is that my parents and brothers, who both farm, are excited to share the story, too.

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

Perhaps something in between. If you start counting in 2001, when I got my first paid writing gig as a newspaper reporting intern at a small-town daily, the answer would be long and winding. I went on to work as a reporter and editor at The Kansas City Star and still freelance for other news outlets occasionally.

If you start counting in 2015, when I wrote my first picture book manuscript, then the answer leans toward short and sweet. I had “the call” with my agent, Emily Mitchell at Wernick & Pratt Agency, in spring 2017, the same day I won a mentorship with author Megan E. Bryant through the Writing with the Stars competition with the manuscript that would become FARMERS UNITE! (That was a great day!) NO VOICE TOO SMALL was the first of my books to sell, on proposal in summer 2018.

How was the process of being an editor on an anthology different from being an author? 

I spent most of my time coordinating. First, it was writing pitch emails to ask for permission to include each young activist in the book. We took great care to work with the young people and their families, because we wanted to make sure we had their blessing. Then, when we had those names secured, we began reaching out to poets. We wrote dozens of pitch letters and then a proposal to publishers, so it was like selling the book before it was written! 

The other difference was working on a book as a team. It’s so much more fun collaborating on a project than writing alone. Keila Dawson, Jeanette Bradley, and I have our own Slack channel and ping each other all day almost every day. With the three anthologists, fourteen activists, thirteen poets in addition to myself, the editorial team at Charlesbridge and our agent, that’s a lot of love behind one book. It will be super fun to see everyone come together and celebrate during the virtual launch September 22, hosted by An Unlikely Story. Plus, one of the young activists, DJ Annie Red, is going to perform!

What projects are you working on now?

I am putting finishing touches on a young rhyming nonfiction book about agriculture that hasn’t been announced. And I’m working on a super-secret poetry project that’s not been acquired, but I’ve got every finger and toe crossed.

What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same advice you'd give to aspiring authors?

You don’t have to be the best at something if you enjoy doing it. Have fun and keep going even if you don’t win a prize or get picked or praised. 

I’d give similar advice to aspiring authors: Don’t beat yourself up if the work doesn’t fall out of your brain looking exactly as you envisioned it. Writing is revising, so trust the process, cultivate a learning mindset, and enjoy.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I can play a ridiculous rendition of “Old MacDonald” on a lilac leaf. Fold it in half, pull the edges taut or loosen them to play different notes, and blow. The leaf makes a tinny, silly sound that’s always out of tune. My dad and I play a duet for my kids every spring and everyone dissolves into giggles.

Where can people find you online?


They can visit my website, lindsayhmetcalf.com, or reach out to me on Twitter and Instagram @lindsayhmetcalf.




Lindsay H. Metcalf is a journalist and author of nonfiction picture books: Beatrix Potter, Scientist, illustrated by Junyi Wu (Albert Whitman & Company, 2020); Farmers Unite! Planting a Protest for Fair Prices (Calkins Creek, 2020); and No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History, a poetry anthology co-edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Bradley (Charlesbridge, 2020). Lindsay lives in north-central Kansas, not far from the farm where she grew up, with her husband, two sons, and a variety of pets. You can reach her at lindsayhmetcalf.com.



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34 comments:

  1. Excited to read all of her books! They look awesome!

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  2. Lindsay, Congratulations on launching 3 picture books this year!

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  3. Both of these would be fabulous mentor texts for me...and my kids will love, too!

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  4. This book would be great for my twins!

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  5. These sound really interesting, and we love Beatrix Potter!

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  6. What fantastic topics to use for picture books! I look forward to reading all three of them.

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  7. Congratulations! I am really enjoying all the nonfiction picture books lately. I look forward to reading yours.

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  8. Thank you for sharing! I'm a former journalist as well and was told NOT to write for children -- it was too hard! Then when I taught creative writing for children, my director asked me one day, Have you ever thought of writing for children? I gave it some thought and never looked back! Love it!

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    1. It IS hard. And it's hard to be patient after filing so many stories and seeing them published right away. But I've never looked back, either. :)

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  9. I'm so excited to read your books--the topics are new to me and I know I will learn so much. Congratulations on your writing success!

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  10. These both look like excellent books. I'd be thrilled to have copies of my own. Thanks!

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  11. These look like wonderful books to show our little girls everything they can do in life.

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  12. Both of these books have been on my "to read" list for quite some time. I am especially anxious to share Beatrix Potter, Scientist with my students. My class is about to take part in a project called #backyardbio. The goal of the project is to get students to take the time to observe the plants and animals that are all around them which often go unnoticed. Their task will be to take pictures of the wildlife species they discover with the goal being to find as many species as possible. I went on a hike in the woods behind my home and took photos of mushrooms to use as an example. This book is going to be perfect!

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    1. Jennifer, thank you for saying that! You'll have to check out the discussion and activity guide, which includes a "Recipe for Nature" activity that sounds a lot like what you have planned. (https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a7c74abf6576e62422edab1/t/5f3ffadf11a2f47d822ccfc1/1598028522911/Metcalf%2C_Lindsay_BEATRIX_POTTER+_Press_Release_v3.pdf)

      I also added a few more activities for exploring lichens and mushrooms on Patricia Newman's LitLinks blog, which you can access here: https://www.patriciamnewman.com/litlinks-how-the-weird-world-of-fungi-improves-writing/

      You'll have to take pics and tag me on Twitter! @lindsayhmetcalf

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  13. Such wonderful books! So happy for your many successes. Keep those #kidlit books coming!

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  14. Congratulations, Lindsay, on your three picture books coming out! I had no idea Beatrix Potter was a scientist. I always associate her with Peter Rabbit. I also visited the Lake District in England where she had lived, but only long enough for some tea and a tour of Dove Cottage. Wishing you tons of success!

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    1. Oh, I'll bet that was an amazing visit. Someday I'll get there myself. Thanks for reading and commenting, Debra!

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  15. I loved my set of Beatrix Potter books as a kid. I know this will be a great read!

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