Label: Becoming A Writer

May 17, 2013

Yesterday I visited a terrific bunch of kids at Lower Gwynedd Elementary School in Ambler Pennsylvania. Afterward, I received a lovely thank you note from Rachel N. Rachel wrote:

You have visited my school, Lower Gwynedd. I enjoyed your visiting and all of your books. I really hope that you will visit us next time again. Have a nice day!

 

Thank you, Rachel, for this lovely note. Then, I started to receive letters like these two:


Hi, it’s Margaret.

I have a question to ask you.

What is your passion about writing?

your fan,

Margaret

 

Hi. I’m Shawn from Lower Gwynedd Elementary.  I was really fascinated by your presentation today!!  I wanted to tell you a few questions.  One is what inspired you to be an author.  Two is how do you get the ideas for all of your books?  And three is what is your favorite subject to write about?   Thanks for reading this BYE!!                 

From: Shawn


Both Margaret and Shawn are asking about my life as a writer - how I got started, how I decide what to write about, and why I continue to want to write (my "passion" for writing).

No one in particular encouraged me to be an author. I don’t think it ever occurred to anyone in my family that you could actually make a living as a writer. I have always loved writing, and started doing it when I was in second grade. Mostly, in those early days, I was writing because I wanted to get my friends excited about the things I was interested in, like planets and space.

When I got a little older, I read a book called THE SEA AROUND US, by Rachel Carson. She is a wonderful writer, I absolutely loved the book, and by the time I finished it, I had realized that I wanted to write about the natural world. I started writing for children because that is where my area of expertise was - I was a middle school science teacher for many years.

I get the ideas for my books from observing and reading about the world around me. 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. In fact, when I grew up one of the first books I wrote was called SCIENCE IN A VACANT LOT.

I don’t think I can say that I have a favorite subject to write about. I simply write books about things that I find interesting and exciting. And of course, 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. As the great scientist Sir Isaac Newton once wrote, "If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."

And that brings me to Margaret’s question about my passion for writing. I suppose I love to write because I love to learn, and I get excited about sharing what I am learning with others. Although being an author is my job, it has never felt like "work." As long as kids like you guys enjoy reading my books, I’m going to keep writing them!

 

Editor’s Note: Seymour Simon cannot respond personally to every letter that he receives (or he would never have time to write books!). However, he has created a section on his website called FAQs, which stands for "Frequently Asked Questions." Readers can find the answers to virtually all their questions by looking at the FAQ section on SeymourSimon.com

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Becoming a writer, School Visits, Kids Write   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 13, 2013

I received a lovely letter from a second grader named Maya this weekend. She asked very good questions, so I thought I would answer it here for everyone to read. Here is what she wrote:


My name is Maya. I am in second grade. I am 8 years old. My birthday is May 22nd. I love writing books. That is my favorite thing to do in school. I have 2 brothers. My school is Maugham Elementary School. I am writing to you because you are my favorite Author.

It was interesting to learn that you have been writing for more than 40 years. Why did you write for more than 40 years? I love writing books! It was surprising to learn that you have written more than 250 books.  Have you written any Dolphin books? I have written an "All About" book about school.  I learned that the first book that you wrote was Space Monsters.  Was it hard to come up with that idea?  It was hard when I wrote my first book.  I love that you read "The Sea Around Us" to come up with the idea.  Did you have to think a lot? I had to think a lot when I written my first book. Can you please write back to me?

Your fan,

Maya B.


Dear Maya,        

Thank you so much for writing! It is always a pleasure to talk about my work as an author with a fellow writer.

I suppose it does seem as though 40 years is a long time to write. However, writing is my job, so just like other grownups you know, I have done my writing job for most of my adult life.

Of course, I am very lucky to have such an enjoyable profession. Even if it were not my job, I think I would write just because I love to do it. Writing books gives me the opportunity to explore new topics and think about how and why things fit together in the natural world. When I am writing, I am always learning.

 

In answer to your second question, I have indeed written a book called DOLPHINS. They are magnificent creatures of great intelligence.

It is also true that the first book I wrote was called SPACE MONSTERS, when I was in second grade. I loved reading science fiction when I was in elementary school, and I was making up my own stories like the ones that I loved to read in the science fiction magazines of that time. I wish I had a copy of that little handwritten book, but unfortunately it was lost many years ago.

I wrote it again when I was first being published as an adult. This time it was called SPACE MONSTERS FROM MOVIES, TV and BOOKS, and it described all my favorite fictional aliens.

Then last year I wrote a third version, called SILLY SPACE MONSTER JOKES AND RIDDLES. Are you getting the idea that I really, really like space monsters?!

Your last question is probably the most critical one from a fellow writer, as you wonder whether I had to think a lot to write my first book. Of course I did, and in fact, I do a lot of thinking when I write every book. Writing involves a lot of thinking before you start - that helps me get to an outline, which I always do before I start writing.

Then I write a first draft and set it aside for a while....

read more

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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January 27, 2012

Thank you, Center Moriches students, for all your thank you notes and great comments after my visit this week. I loved meeting you all, too.

Makayla, Claire K., Richie and the kids in Room 30 all wrote to ask the same question, so I thought I would answer it here. The question is: WHAT IS MY FAVORITE OF ALL THE BOOKS THAT I HAVE WRITTEN?

I have written so many books that I am not sure of the exact count….but I know it is getting close to 300! I can never say which is my favorite book - it is like a parent picking his favorite child. If I say which one is my favorite, all the other books will be mad at me!

Actually, whatever book I am working on at the moment is my "favorite," because I get caught up in how fascinating each topic is. I’ve just finished a book on CORAL REEFS, and I learned so much about these busy "cities under the sea" - you would be amazed at the diversity of life that thrives in a coral reef. So at the moment, that is my "favorite book."

If you click on "play" in this photograph, you can see a little bit of video of all the living creatures in a coral reef. Isn’t it magnificent?

Makayla added a few other questions which I will answer for you here, too.

1. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COLOR?  Since I was a kid I have had two favorite colors, and they are both the colors of nature. One is almost indescribable - the warm, pumpkin-like, mix of orange colors that you see in autumn. My other favorite color is the deep purple that you sometimes see in sunset clouds.

2. DO YOU HAVE ANY CHILDREN?  My two sons are both grown - one is a television director, and one is a college professor, in Computer Sciences. My stepdaughter is still in college, studying Literature and History. And I have four grandchildren whom I try to visit as often as I can.

3. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BE AN AUTHOR?  I read a book called THE SEA AROUND US, by Rachel Carson. She is a wonderful writer, I absolutely loved the book, and by the time I finished it, I had realized that I wanted to write about the natural world. I started writing for children because that is where my area of expertise was - I was a middle school science teacher for many years.

Thank you to all the book lovers at Clayton Huey Elementary School for your very warm welcome. I loved your caution to "Drive Safely!" when I left. What a warm, caring group of students and teachers. Keep reading, and please click on "Comments" and write to me any time to tell me what you are reading and thinking about.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Becoming a writer, New Books, Coral Reefs, School Visits, Seymour Simon   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 18, 2011

Calling all NCTE Attendees! The 2011 convention of the National Council of Teachers of English opens today in Chicago, and I’m in the Windy City for the event. I have three items on my agenda today:

A book signing at Andersons Bookstore (booth 1301) at noon.

A book signing at the HarperCollins booth at 2:30 pm.

And, I’m featured in a panel moderated by extraordinary  Literacy Instruction expert Linda Hoyt at 4pm (Chicago Hilton, Conference Room 4M, 4th Floor). Here’s the description of the panel: Seymour Simon, acclaimed author of 250 nonfiction titles, will offer insights on how he infuses nonfiction craft elements to make complex content accessible for readers. Then, panelists will show how K-8 writers can learn from the master by focusing on reader understanding-integrating sophisticated craft elements as they construct nonfiction writing. 

Please come by and say hello. I’m so excited to meet teachers who are using this website with their students!

And, if you’re not able to attend, you can download the handout that I have prepared for the session from my website. It is chock full of guidelines for writing exciting non-fiction, accompanied by numerous examples from my books.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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November 16, 2011

Today’s Cool Photo of the Week is a wonderful shot of a "volcano cake," which a parent made when I visited a school several years ago. Isn’t it wonderful?!

The photograph reminds me that I recently received a letter about volcanoes from Andrea G., a fifth grade student at Witch Hazel Elementary School in Oregon. "I love how you wrote the Volcano story.  I love how you added all those different kinds of volcanoes.  I wish you will come to my house and write a story, have an adventure, or go to a restaurant.  It’s very cool that you wrote two hundred books in thirty years.  Do you know a lot about the moon?  How do you know a lot about volcanoes? Thank you for your time."

One of the things that I love about Andrea’s letter is that she called the book my "Volcano story." 

That is exactly how I think about writing my books. Even though they are about real (nonfiction) subjects, I always try to write a story that is fun and exciting to read. It makes me very happy that Andrea sees it that way.

Over the years, both while teaching Science and writing my books, I have indeed come to know a lot about both the moon and about volcanoes. Of course, I studied science in school, both at New York’s Bronx High School of Science and continuing on into college. But it takes more than that. Being interested in science means that you are always learning. There are new discoveries being made all the time, and scientists are constantly testing theories to keep increasing our knowledge and understanding of our planet and the universe in which we live.

So, when I write a book, I have to do research and find out as much as I can, just as you would if you were writing a report for school. For VOLCANOES, I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Hawaii, where I talked to vulcanologists (scientists who specialize in volcanoes), as well as observing and photographing active volcanoes. 

In fact, the subject is so interesting to me that I’ve written TWO different books about volcanoes! I think they are one of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful sights in our natural world, don’t you?

                         

 

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Volcanoes, Becoming a writer, School Visits, Cool Photo, Kids Write, Writing, Earth Science Books   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 14, 2011

I was so pleased to receive a letter recently from Cam P, who just started second grade in New Jersey. Cam’s favorite book is one of mine - TORNADOES. So, he decided to write his own book on the subject, called TWISTERS. Nice job, Cam, and thank you for your letter!

What Cam did - writing a book inspired by one of his favorite authors - is something that writers often do. One of my favorite authors is named Rachel Carson, and when I read her book THE SEA AROUND US, I realized for the first time that I could be a writer.

So, Cam (and other students who love to read and write about nature) - keep writing! You, too, might turn out to be a published author one day.


 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Becoming a writer, Kids Write, Tornadoes, Earth Science Books   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 25, 2011

I very much enjoyed my Skype session this morning with some of the students at Cavallini Middle School in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. They have been studying non-fiction writing, and 20 students were well-prepared with good questions. Nice job, and a great way to start my day!

I thought I’d share one of the answers with you. A student asked me: if I had not become a writer, what would I have done?

 

Thinking back to my studies, I always loved science. I fell in love with space first, and then animals. In college, I studied Behavioral Psychology, which is really the study of animal behaviors. If I had it to do all over again, I think I would have become a marine biologist. This is probably why I have written so many books about whales, sharks, dolphins, and even keeping saltwater aquariums!

 

I like doing Skype sessions because they allow me to connect with more students. I get many more requests for school visits than I can accept, as I need to spend at least some time at my desk, researching and writing books! If you are interested in booking me for a Skype session with your school, click on this link on my website to put in your request.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Becoming a writer, Sharks, School Visits, Dolphins, Oceans, Kids comments   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 8, 2011

       

When I speak in schools, I usually tell the story of writing my first book, called SPACE MONSTERS, when I was in second grade. Since I have been in a lot of schools recently, I have been hearing from students who love writing, and are asking for advice on how to become authors.

A dog-lover named Natalie wrote:

Ever since I was in 1st grade, I have wanted to be a writer to express my deep imagination. I have written fantasy books like you wrote Space Monsters. Every time I start a book I want to start a new one with a complete new idea. How do you stick to one book topic at a time?

Or this note, from Marissa:

I want to become an author when I grow up. I write every day. I just wrote a few stories in my writer’s notebook at school! I tried to write a chapter book, it has a few chapters.

Dina, whose school I visited this winter, asked:

What do you think I should do to be a good writer like you? You already told us to start writing while you are a kid but I want to know more. I’m very interested about you and writing! 

I’m so glad to receive letters like these from fellow writers! I think that writers begin their life as a writer when they are young, just as you are. It’s important to keep writing as much as you can. I’ve written many books and usually work on several books at the same time. I do research on a number of topics and write about one of them. I think you might like to do the same.

While you are working on a book or story, keep the ideas for future books coming. Keep a notebook or journal where you jot down your story ideas, and any details that seem important to you. That way, you can stick with the one story that you’re working on until you are finished, but you are still keeping track of ideas that you might want to write about later. Sometimes I go back and write a book from a scrap of an idea that I jotted down years before. So don’t be shy about writing down your thoughts. You never know when they might come in handy!

Finishing a book is always much harder than starting a new book. But like everything else that you want to learn to do well, writing takes practice. The more you write, the better you get at it, and the easier it becomes.

I wish you well with all your writing projects!

Your fellow writer,

Seymour

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Becoming a writer, Kids Write, Space Monsters   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 5, 2011

       

I met such smart, respectful, curious students in the four Corpus Christi elementary schools that I visited this week. Don’t you love this shot of my conversation with kindergartner Alex Hernandez, with his classmates Elizabeth Garcia, Alizae Herrera and Noah Cardona looking on?

This photograph is by Michael Zamora, a photographer for the Caller-Times newspaper. Thanks so much for posting this great online story with lots of pictures of the kids, the schools, and all the great posters and billboards they made for my visit.

 

 

Look at this group of 3rd graders with their VOLCANOES poster. All the classes did lots of preparation for my visit, reading, writing, and creating artwork. There were huge murals on OCEANS and THE MOON that were just great.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s one of the fourth grade classes who read my book EYES AND EARS and wrote about it themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

The school also had a writing contest, and I was proud to be photographed with the winners, my fellow authors!

  Thank you to all the librarians, teachers, principals and instructional technology specialists who helped to make this a great week! Librarian Alissa Gonzalez gave me a seed packet along with the paper bouquet, so that we can grow Texas bluebonnets in our garden this summer. I’ll think of Corpus Christi every time I see those blue heads nodding in the breeze!        

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(13) Comments  •   Labels: Becoming a writer, School Visits   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 8, 2010

I read a lot of science fiction when I was a kid. It was reading science fiction that made me so interested in science. In fact, I began writing because of science fiction. I wrote my first book when I was in 2nd grade. It was a book called SPACE MONSTERS. It was about taking a trip to a distant planet, far out in space, and having adventures with the living things on that imaginary planet. I even drew the pictures for my book. Most of the pictures were of what we science fiction fans called BEM’s. Bug Eyed Monsters. I remember that my teacher stapled the pages of my hand-written and illustrated book together and made me read it to the class. That was my first book. Ball players don’t pick up a ball or kick up for the first time in their lives when they’re adults. They begin playing ball when they’re young. The same thing is true of artists, musicians and writers. They begin when they’re young.

Many years after I wrote SPACE MONSTERS in 2nd grade, I wrote it again (a bit differently) and it was published. It’s a kind of history of my reading Science Fiction stories in books and magazines and also watching SciFi on television and in films. Are you becoming an author? What are you writing about? Write a note to me on my site and tell me. Best story I get from an elementary school student by the end of the summer gets a free copy of a book of mine (your choice) and gets his/her story published on my blog! 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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