Just half a year from now, Simon & Schuster will publish my young readers edition of the most important scientific book ever written.
I was twenty-three, an earnest grad student in English, when I first read Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. In the years that followed, as my nonfiction writing career took me deeper into writing science books for kids, I reread the Origin several times, alongside many more recent works on natural history and evolutionary biology. So once I’d published YA adaptations of books by Howard Zinn, Jared Diamond, and others, it was perhaps inevitable that I’d think, “What about Darwin?” And here we are.
A reviewer once called me “the redoubtable Stefoff.” I hope it was redoubtable, not rash, of me to interpret Darwin’s thoughts and words for today’s young readers. (Bonus: Not just for kids. It’s for anyone who’d like to read a shortened, streamlined, illustrated version of the Origin.)
From School Library Journal‘s review of The Third Chimpanzee for Young People, my YA adaptation of Jared Diamond’s book The Third Chimpanzee:
“Adapted for younger audiences by the redoubtable Stefoff . . . this wide-ranging study of what makes us human offers provocative views of evolution, adaptation, cultural diffusion, sexuality, genocide, race, mass extinctions of the past and present, the roots of drug abuse and language, and even the search for extraterrestrial intelligence . . . . Thoughtful readers interested in any fields related to evolutionary science, anthropology, psychology, human history, and culture will find plenty to ponder.”
It would have been nice to have been described as “the famous Stefoff” or “the indecently wealthy Stefoff,” but neither, alas, is true. Being redoubtable–or at least being called redoubtable–is nonetheless awesome. Never doubt it. The OED defines “redoubtable” as “to be feared or dreaded; formidable” and “to be reverenced or revered; commanding respect.” Fear me or revere me, it’s all good!
I’m happy to announce that several of my recent books have gone into new foreign editions. Here are a few of them: from left to right, the Chinese edition of The Young People’s History of the United States, my YA adaptation of Howard Zinn’s Young People’s History; the Azerbaijan edition of the Young People’s History; and the British edition of The Third Chimpanzee for Young People, my YA adaptation of Jared Diamond’s first book, The Third Chimpanzee. More to follow as I get hold of copies.
You may have heard me grumble from time to time about “the tyranny of facts.” That’s because most of the books I’ve published have been nonfiction, often stuffed to the Plimsoll line with facts. (The Plimsoll line is the reference mark on a ship’s side that indicates the waterline at maximum allowable load. Thank Samuel Plimsoll, who pushed a law mandating such marks through Parliament in 1876. Fact.) Novelists, too, use facts to buttress their fictional constructions. Whether traditionally or independently published, every writer is sometimes responsible for researching and checking facts.
I’ll share what I’ve learned from several decades of fact-wrangling in a presentation on “Being Your Own Fact-Checker: Tips and Methodologies for Research” at 9:45 on Saturday morning, February 1, as part of the first ever annual symposium organized by the Northwest Independent Writers Association. The symposium is a two-day event filled with sessions on writing, publishing, and marketing, as well as chances to network with other writers, both traditionally and independently published. I’m excited to be taking part in it, and I hope to see you there.
This weekend I’ll be traveling to New York–barring a hurricane-caused disruption–for the launch of Triangle Square Books, a new children’s and YA nonfiction imprint from Seven Stories Press.
Seven Stories is the publisher of my YA adaptation of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States, as well as my new YA adaptation of Ronald Takaki’s history of multicultural America, A Different Mirror. Seven Stories has long been committed to publishing progressive books on politics, history, and social and environmental justice. I believe Triangle Square will fill an important need, and I can’t wait to see what books they will be offering to young readers.