Author Spotlight: Elizabeth Pagel Hogan
Dec. 10, 2021
We are excited to feature Elizabeth Pagel Hogan and her middle grade nonfiction book, THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY OF LEONARDO DA VINCI, illustrated by Micah Rauch (Nomad Press, 2021). Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I’m an avid reader and was a creative writer from a young age. In seventh grade, I convinced my teacher to help me start a school literary journal. Luckily it was a small school so only a few people ever read my bad poetry. In college, I was a reporter then the editor of the sports section of my college newspaper. I loved recapping exciting games! I explored nonprofit careers for several years while trying to fit in my writing on the side. But I always dreamed of writing the kind of books that I loved as a kind - biographies of Helen Keller and Marie Curie; inspiring science fiction like A Wrinkle in Time; and of course contemporary fiction by Paula Danzinger and Judy Blume. So at a point that was good for our family, I made the decision to leave the nonprofit world and became a full time writer. It’s not an easy industry, though, so I also work as an freelance editor and a writing teacher.
Congrats on your middle grade nonfiction book, The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci! Please tell us about the book and what inspired you.
Thank you, I’m so proud of this book. This book gave me the chance to combine two of my favorite things: science and biographies. For many years, I was an instructor at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA. I worked in the Science on the Road department and I traveled all over the eastern United States. I went into schools and performed science shows on stages and conducted hands-on experiments in the classroom. This book includes over two dozen hands-on activities. I had so much fun picking out some really creative challenges for readers.
One of the most inspiring things about Leonardo da Vinci is that he was constantly curious. I think that we think of him as a genius who knew everything. But really, he was a person who wanted to know everything. He asked a lot of questions about the world around him. He was very persistent and creative in how he tackled those questions. We could all develop our skills in those areas. But the other thing I love about Leonardo is that he made a lot of mistakes. He didn’t get everything right. (Some things he got really right, 400 years before other scientists would be able to prove he was right!!) He made plenty of mistakes but that didn’t stop him from learning and trying new things!
Was your initial road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
As a runner, I do love a long and winding road. But I think my path to publication was “just the right length.” I remember the first time an editor selected my nonfiction essay for a parenting magazine. It really did feel like a dream come true! But then when I finally sold a story to Highlights for Children, a magazine I have loved (and still love) for over 30 years - it felt like fireworks were exploding around me. Then I started getting work-for-hire contracts, and eventually, signed with wonderful agent Miranda Paul at Erin Murphy Literary Agency. To get to each landmark, I had to try new things, make mistakes, learn and grow as a writer. And I celebrated every opportunity and experience. I don’t think of “publication” as the final stop on my journey. I still have so much more to try, mess up, and learn.
What projects are you working on now?
Like many authors, I have several projects going on at once. Most recently, I finished the corrections on the manuscript for my book Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research. That book comes out in May 2022. I’ve just gone on submission with an informational picture book about birds. I’m revising a middle grade contemporary fiction about baking. And I’ve just finished drafting a historical fiction graphic novel about birds and the history of conservation.
What are some of your best research tips for aspiring nonfiction authors for children?
Research can be a time-consuming process, but it’s incredibly important. It can also feel overwhelming. So my biggest tips are to stay organized and be thorough. I use Scrivener when I work on a manuscript. It allows me to keep all of my research and writing in the same place. I like to take notes as I read. I think it helps me retain the information better. I also keep a running checklist of the questions I want to answer as I do my research. Most of those questions start with the word “Why?” Take the time to follow the leads and looks for answers to your big questions.
Where can people find you online?
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan is an author and teacher from Pittsburgh, PA. She loves exploring history and science and has been a science educator on stage and a historical re-enactor at museums. Now, she gets to continue being curious as an author! She’s written a dozen fiction and nonfiction books and graphic novels. She’s written for textbooks and online educational content. She writes fiction, nonfiction, crafts, and recipes for magazines, including her favorite: Highlights for Children. She is the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Pennsylvania: West and represented by Miranda Paul. Elizabeth lives with her family and pet schnoodle. She loves board games, birding, and baking. She’s a lifelong runner, avid community scientist, and can usually deliver the punchline.
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