Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and seventy-third, is of children’s author and blogger Edith Fine. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Edith’s books include the award-winning Under the Lemon Moon (Lee & Low Books), Cricket at the Manger (Boyds Mills Press), Water, Weed, and Wait (Tricycle Press, Random House), and Cryptomania! Teleporting into Greek and Latin with the CryptoKids, a zany teleporting adventure for young readers that covers 200 basic Greek and Latin roots.
Not one to stick with a single genre, Edith has written four biographies for young readers (geneticist Barbara McClintock, author Gary Paulsen, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks). Two user-friendly grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar (Ten Speed Press, Random House), highlight common bloopers and feature popular syndicated comics that will lower the anxiety of grammarphobes; co-authored with Judith Josephson. They blog monthly as the Grammar Patrol at http://eFrogPress.com.
Fine and Josephson also collaborated on Armando and the Blue Tarp School (Lee & Low Books), a picture book based on the work of David Lynch who went to volunteer at the Tijuana dump in 1980. Finding no school, he spread a tarp on the ground and began to teach. He’s now in his thirty-fourth year of working with students who live by the dump and has extended his work to the dump near Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Armando was nominated for a California Young Readers Medal and named a Children’s Choice by One Book, One San Diego.
Edith is active in the San Diego Chapter of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) where she heads the published members’ group. Her four grandkids live nearby. She swims daily, enjoys cooking and baking, reads voraciously, and has fun with friends and her invaluable critique groups.
Sleepytime Me, her seventeenth book, came out this May 2014 (today, in fact!) from Random House with illustrations by Christopher Denise. It starts, “Splashy sunset paints the sky. Shy moon tiptoes, climbs up high . . .”
And now from the author herself:
For writers, it’s a long road from that initial brainstorm—“Whoa! This could be a book!”—to that great day when a box of books arrives on your doorstep, as happened recently with my Sleepytime Me.
What an honor to have the award-winning artist Christopher Denise illustrate this book for sleepyheads. His take on my picture book manuscript was wise and his illustrations are luminous. (Think Providence, Rhode Island when you view the buildings and shops in his double-page spread of the town. And take a look at that barn scene—so many great details from the shadows of the window mullions on the piglets to the burly farmer and his small son.)
As is usual in my writing life, I have my fingers in many pies. Several more picture books are percolating. Two big projects are reaching completion this year.
My dad studied French, Latin, and Greek and had a big influence on me. I’ve been fascinated by words and their roots since I can remember. Because of this, I wrote Cryptomania! Teleporting into Greek and Latin with the CryptoKids. Now I’ve written a student workbook featuring 300 cool basic roots for kids from eight to twelve to accompany the book. As you fellow word lovers can imagine, I’ve had my nose buried in dictionaries and my lovely Barnhart etymology for many moons. Kim Doner, the clever Cryptomania! illustrator, is creating spot art for the workbook. I expect to have it out by fall (autumn) 2014.
Also in the works is Jump, Froggies! 89 Beginner’s Tips on Writing Books for Children,an ebook for folks brand new to children’s writing. Because I run the published members’ group of our San Diego SCBWI, newbies ask me many questions. I can clarify in two paragraphs something that took me two years to figure out. It’s been fun getting lively quotes from published authors to include in the ebook. This beginners’ guide will be available through eFrogPress by the big SCBWI conference in Los Angeles in August. (I’ll be there. Will you?)
Since curiosity rules the day with me, I’ve never worked in just one genre. I’ve done science, grammar, biographies, and now six picture books ranging from funny to inspiring to poetic. Before getting books published, I wrote for magazines and newspapers including a 13-year stint as a weekly columnist for a local paper. Believe me, there’s no luxury of writer’s block with deadlines like that. My writing files bulge with works-in-progress from picture books to middle grade and higher. I never know what’s going to work when starting on a new project but, like all writers, I look for a unique take that will intrigue readers and work hard on that great opening line that will pull them in.
Part of the fun of writing for kids is the school visits. I’ve done more than 250 over the years. The most rewarding are the ones where a teacher or librarian has really prepped the kids—they know my books, have their best manners in tow, and come prepared with great (and sometimes hilarious) questions. I share lots of things related to my books, such as my phototropic shoebox experiment for Water, Weed, and Wait; the Tumbling Tetrahedron that goes with Cryptomania! (tetra = four, hedron = side); and my loom for making caps for preemie babies to emphasize the theme of Armando and the Blue Tarp School: One person can make a difference in our world. Inspired by David, our San Diego group has sent more than 19,000 preemie caps to countries worldwide and local middle school students have been part of our team.
For all writers, there’s the reality of books going out of print. I’ve turned my biographies of Nobel Prize geneticist Barbara McClintock and popular children’s writers Gary Paulsen biographies into ebooks. That’s been fun because I could add color photos, links, websites, and more that kids can get to with a single click. We also had new covers designed. Young readers can now watch a video of Barbara McClintock walking toward the king of Sweden to receive her Nobel at eighty-one, her long decades of ground-breaking discoveries recognized at last. Readers can also see an interview with Gary Paulsen talking about his adventures in the wild, including twice running the Iditerod, and his many books, including the popular Hatchet.
Thanks for this opportunity to chat with my fellow writers, Morgen. Gotta go water my tomatoes and squash.
I post at Facebook and Pinterest and hope you’ll visit me at my websites:
Morgen: You’re very welcome, Edith. It’s been great meeting you. I love squash… let me know when they’re ready. 🙂
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