Tag Archives: Writing

How to make a writer happy

Today I got an email from a total stranger. She had contacted me through this website to share her appreciation of a book I wrote called Women of the World: Women Travelers and Explorers. It was published in 1994 as part of a trilogy on explorers for Oxford University Press. This book was a labor of love and is one of my favorites among my own books, so I was doubly touched that my correspondent had taken the time and trouble to write.

She’d come across a reference to my book while researching a project of her own–she is, as I learned from her website, a writer and editor–and had gotten hold of the book, and had liked it. You can be sure I’ll get hold of some of her writing now.

So that’s one thing that will make a writer very happy: someone popping up out of the blue to say, “Thanks, job well done.” If you haven’t done that lately, drop an author a note or a tweet or a post about something you’ve read recently and liked. They’ll be glad you did.

Lies for kids

Lies My Teacher Told Me is a terrific book–informative, engaging and sometimes enraging, and frequently entertaining. In it, sociologist James W. Loewen takes a clear-eyed look at American history and a critical look at the way most textbooks teach it. I’m very happy to say that my next book will be a YA adaptation of Lies, to be published next year by The New Press. It was just the project I needed at this time of polarized viewpoints, truthiness, and “fake news”: a level-headed history of our country that gives young people tools that will help them become informed citizens. I can’t wait until the YA version of Lies My Teacher Told Me hits the streets.

Great news about my YA Origin of Species

The Junior Library Guild has named Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition as one of its selections. The book, soon to be published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, a Simon & Schuster imprint, will be shipped to some 1,400 school and public librarians who subscribe to JLG. This is a big boost for the book, as being chosen by the JLG generally results in improved visibility and sales. I couldn’t be happier–or more eager for the book to come out.

Collaborating with Charles Darwin

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.)

Fall news

Portland is finally getting autumnal weather, not a moment too soon for me. Fall has always been my favorite season. It also feels like the real beginning of the year–a legacy, perhaps, of the long summers when I waited impatiently for school to start.

It’s a good time to assess what the year has brought so far, and to look at what’s ahead.

Solar Eclipse: A month ago my partner Zachary and I saw our first total solar eclipse. We viewed it in a gorgeous garden just 40 miles from home, with good friends and perfect viewing conditions. Totality (1 minute, 57 seconds) was magical and went by in a flash. I am extremely happy to have had that experience.

Domestic Affairs:  Zachary retired last month. He’s thrilled about it. I’m happy for him, and glad we’ll be able to travel more. Still, it is an ongoing challenge for me to adapt to working–or just doing what I do on any given day–now that he’s home instead of at work. I’m grateful that we have a big house. We are out of each other’s way a lot of the time.

Writing: Not long ago I turned in the revised ms. and 115 images for my YA adaptation of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The ms. is  being copyedited, so I haven’t yet seen the last of it–but almost. Atheneum, a Simon & Schuster imprint, will publish it next October. [Note: Photo research and permissions is a big  job. Just imagine how tedious it was before everything was digital.] Meanwhile, I’m working on another YA adaptation, this one of Jill Jonnes’s terrific book Eiffel’s Tower. And I’ve written a book for young people about the history of the environmental movement from the 1960s to the present.

Travel: Chile in November! We had such a great time in Argentina and Uruguay last year that we’re going back to South America for a couple of weeks, this time with our friends Fred and Ron. We’ll fly in and out of Puerto Montt, gateway to southern Chile’s volcano-fjord-and-lake country, and we’ll drive around visiting national parks and seeing penguins and other cool things. Also, I expect, sampling some of Chile’s excellent wines. I’ve been studying Spanish on Duolingo and will have a chance to put it to the test. (Fortunately, the Chileans are a kind and generous people.) I’ve also got trips scheduled to visit friends in South Dakota and Toronto, and I’m starting to look at prospects for next year.

And now, those leaves won’t rake themselves . . . .