Author Spotlight: Ann Magee
Oct. 29, 2021
We are excited to feature author Ann Magee and her debut picture book, BRANCHES OF HOPE: THE 9/11 SURVIVOR TREE, illustrated by Nicole Wong (Charlesbridge, 2021). Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I’m an elementary school teacher and my favorite subjects to teach have always been reading and writing. Meeting children’s authors and hearing the backstory of books I love have always been fascinating to me. As a lifelong learner, whenever I come across an interesting piece of history that I had never learned about, I’m compelled to share it with children. So, taking the first steps on the publishing path seemed the natural next journey for me!
Congrats on your debut picture book, Branches of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree! Tell us about the book and what inspired you.
The book released this year in honor of the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The text tells the true story of the Callery pear tree that was recovered at Ground Zero after the Twin Towers collapsed in 2001. The tree was rehabilitated and replanted at the memorial site ten years later. Nicole Wong’s lovely illustrations show a secondary story of a little girl growing up alongside the tree, hoping to follow in her firefighter uncle’s footsteps.
I was inspired to write this book in 2016 after visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum where I first learned about the tree. I couldn’t believe I didn’t know this story—it was the uplifting story I wish I had had when my children were growing up and learning about the 9/11 tragedy.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
I’d say my road to publication was something in between. I’d been a member of SCBWI and learning my craft (taking classes, attending conferences) for 5 years. I subbed Branches of Hope to only a few places for a year before Charlesbridge offered to publish it—so I feel lucky about that 😊
I also feel incredibly lucky that our book has received a starred review from Kirkus! “This deeply touching book equates the tree’s extraordinary renaissance with New Yorkers’ reawakened strength, spirit, and hope in the aftermath of the tragedy.”
What are you working on now?
I consider myself a poet and a narrative nonfiction writer, so, naturally, I’m working on two nonfiction verse projects! One is a MG verse biography about a 21st century artist and one is a MG history-in-verse about the women’s suffrage movement. I have several other completed PB biographies that I need to get out on submission, and I’d like to find a compatible agent soon. It’s a challenge keeping everything moving with a full-time job and a family!
What research tips do you have for picture book writers who want to write nonfiction?
You need to be very invested in your topic and passionate about sharing it with kids because you’ll be spending many months and possibly years reading, writing, and talking about it. Read widely but search out sources other than books to broaden your understanding of your topic. I love getting lost in the research for a little while before deciding on how to craft or structure the story, which I find is the hardest part.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
One surprising skill I possess is the ability to plan and execute top-notch children’s birthday parties—I even painted orange stripes on my legs when I dressed as Big Bird for my son’s Sesame Street-themed birthday party!
Where can people find you online?
My website: www.annmagee.net.
Ann Magee is an elementary school educator, children’s writer, and lifelong learner. She lives in New Jersey and is married with three grown children—her favorite people in the world. She’s more of an ‘inside-girl’ and enjoys cooking, baking, watching British TV, reading mysteries, and doing anything creative. One fun fact about her is that she has an identical twin sister named Donna, and her husband has an identical twin brother named Don.
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