December 1, 2011

A student named Nequira wrote last night with a good question that I often hear when I speak in schools. 

Nequira asked: How do you come up with what you want to write, what pictures you are going to use, and what title you’re going to put on the cover?

          I have loved nature since I was a young child. Although I grew up in the Bronx – a very crowded part of New York City – the natural world was all around me. There is weather in the city, just as there is in the country. You can see the sun, moon and stars from a rooftop in the city. And I explored a vacant lot on my street, which wasn’t exactly a park, but still had birds, earthworms, small plants, and trees. When I grew up I became a science teacher, so it was natural that when I started to write books, I was writing about science and nature topics that interest me.

Then, the hard part starts! Whenever I want to write about a subject, I need to study. I start by looking at research that other people have done. What experiments have they run? What animals have they observed? By studying all the work that others have already done, I learn about the subjects that I write about in my books. 

Readers often ask about how I get the photographs for my books. Sometimes I travel to places myself and take the photographs. I have photographed glaciers in Alaska, volcanoes in Hawaii and wildfires in California. Other times, I arrange to use other people’s photographs. Often these are specialists - like a scientist who has been living in Antarctica and observing penguin behaviors. Someone like that has photographs that I could never get in a single, short trip.

 

In the case of my newest book, BUTTERFLIES, we searched long and hard for the perfect photograph for the cover. We finally found this one from photographer Kha Dang, who also raises butterflies for the Butterfly Magic Exhibit at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.

When it is time to decide on the title, I talk with my editor, who works at the company that publishes and sells the book. The editor gives me notes, suggestions and corrections on my writing (much as your teacher would), and also makes the final decision about the title.

Sometimes it is easy to pick a title (like BUTTERFLIES), but sometimes there is a lot more discussion before we finally settle on the right title. 

 

 

For example, my eBook FUN FACTS ABOUT PETS was originally going to be called DOGS’ FEET SWEAT. Which do you think was the better choice?

 

 

 

 

 


**Teachers and Librarians: I’m so pleased to report that BUTTERFLIES has been chosen by the NSTA (National Science Teachers’ Association) as one of the Top Science Trade Books of 2010. We’ve created many free support materials for this book, which you can download from the "Educators and Families" section of the website.

Also, I wanted you to know that FUN FACTS ABOUT PETS is a free book that I created for Barnes & Noble when they launched the Nook Color last year. If you have a Nook Color or an iPad (with the "Nook Kids for iPad" app loaded) in your classroom or library, this book will automatically download to the device. 

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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