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STEM Tuesday — Women Who Changed Science — Writing Tips & Resources

 

I’ve always been fascinated by the way the minds of scientists and engineers work. Maybe that’s why I write about them so often, especially women in these fields. One thing that always amazes me is that artists’ minds often work in the same ways, which is our topic for this month.

Arts and Sciences: Not Mutually Exclusive

Of course, many scientists and engineers are artists in their own right. For example, Einstein was an accomplished musician As his second wife said, “Music helps him when he is thinking about his theories. …He goes to his study, comes back, strikes a few chords on the piano, jots something down, returns to his study.” Einstein also was know to carry his violin, Lina, with him practically everywhere.

Book cover for Temple Grandin

Inventor Temple Grandin also felt an early connection to the arts. As she writes in the preface to Sy Montgomery’s TEMPLE GRANDIN: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World (from this month’s book list), “Before I started my career with animals, I was one of those kids who did not fit in with the rest of the crowd. … What saved me and enabled me to succeed were my love of making things and creating art.”

Common Characteristics

NO BOUNDARIES coverSo what are some common traits that make scientists and artists, including writers, successful? Another book on this month’s list, NO BOUNDARIES: 25 Women Explorers and Scientists Share Adventures, Inspiration, and Advice by Clare Fieseler and Gabby Salazar, is rich with examples. Here are a few.

  • Curiosity – For most scientists and writers, it all starts with curiosity. As Dr. Danielle N. Lee, an American mammologist and outreach scientist writes, “The questions I asked as a child were kind of the same questions I’m asking now. … I was always very curious.”

 

  • Training – Wasfia Nazreen, a mountaineer and activist from Bangladesh, would never attempt to summit a mountain without training physically. Likewise, writers must train too. They study the craft of writing in workshops, ready and study books by authors they admire, and most of all, practice writing as much as possible.
  • Courage to take risks– Ecologist Dominique Goncalves of Mozambique emailed a brand-new science lab out of the blue to ask if they offered internships. She was told no. But eventually the director emailed her back to find out why she was so interested. That email changed her life and led to her career. Goncalves’ advice? “If you see an opportunity, take it. But even if there is no opportunity – make one.” Authors take risks every day, trying new formats and approaches, for example. A fiction writer may try out nonfiction writing. Or an author who normally writes with a lyrical (poetic) voice, may try out a humorous voice. Such risks can lead to new writing opportunities. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
  • Perseverance – Egyptian archaeologist Nora Shawki notes the importance of perseverance when working toward a career in science. She says, “Even if you get rejected, be persistent, become resilient, and stay focused. Rejection will mold you and push you and make you grow.” Guess what? Authors experience different types of rejection all the time. Perhaps they get unfavorable feedback on a manuscript. Or an editor decided not to publish their next book. Yet that rejection could lead to a better book or opportunities with a new publishers.

Challenge

What other traits to you think successful writers and artists need and why? Do scientists share that trait? Why or why not?

headshot of Kirsten W. LarsonKirsten W. Larson used to work with rocket scientists at NASA and now writes about women in science and much more. Her books include the WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane, illus. Tracy Subisak and A TRUE WONDER: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything, illus. Katy Wu. Learn more at kirsten-w-larson.com.

Diversity in MG Lit #36 May 2022

Here’s the roundup of some of the many diverse MG books on sale in May. Diverse titles have increased dramatically. I will be concentrating more attention on debut authors, beginnings of new series, and underrepresented elements within diverse books. As always if I’ve missed a May title, please drop a mention in the comments on this page.
cover Because of you John LewisI love a MG appropriate picture book like Because of You, John Lewis: the true story of a remarkable friendship by Andera Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Keith Henry Brown. John Lewis was a lifelong champion of justice. Unlike his companion Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who was struck down in his prime, John Lewis went from the Civil Rights movement of his youth to a very long life of service and witness. Pinkney has chosen to highlight the friendship between King and Lewis in light of a connection Lewis made late in his life with a young activist Tybre Faw. Emphasizing the role of mentorship is a powerful choice for readers at an age to seek mentors. Back matter includes historic photographs, a timeline, additional resources, and the text of the poem “Invictus” which Tybre Faw read at Lewis’s funeral.
book cover The Wonders We SeekIslam is a much larger and more diverse faith than is often represented on the page. The collected biography– The Wonders We Seek: Thirty Incredible Muslims who helped shape the world by Saadi Faruqi & Aneesa Mumtaz, illustrated Saffa Khan –is a collection of well known Muslims who may be less known in mainstream America. The book contains a good mix of scientists, activists, artists, athletes and even a spy! It offers a useful perspective on world events. They are arranged chronologically from the scientist Al-Ma’mun of Baghdad born in the 700s to education advocate Malala Yusufzai who was born in 1997 in Pakistan.
book cover HummingbirdDepictions of disability are the least common representation in diverse books for kids. I was delighted to find
Hummingbird by Natalie Lloyd. It’s about Olive Martin, a wheelchair using middle schooler, who has brittle bone disease. This makes her highly vulnerable to fractures and limits her physical growth. Her emotional and social growth knows no such bounds as Olive navigates public school for the first time. The author Natalie Lloyd has brittle bone disease herself and based the story on some of her own experiences.
Future Hero: race to fire mountain by Remi Blackwood is the first in a series of chapter books featuring an African American boy who finds a portal to a fantastical world in his cousin’s barbershop. Regular illustrations and an inviting layout make it a good choice for readers of the Ranger In Time series and fans of the Black Panther.
Book cover Lia ParkAnd finally Jenna Yoon has a debut MG novel, Lia Park & the Missing Jewel. This twist on the child-goes-to-wizard-school story is about a girl who just wants to go to normal school and attend normal parties like any other 12 year old. But in sneaking out to the party of the year, Lia is kidnapped by evil forces. Now she has to dust off her under-appreciated wizard skills to find the jewel of power. A journey which takes her to Korea and to an undersea dragon kingdom. Delicious!
Going on sale this month are graphic novels
Swim Team: small waves big changes by Johnnie Christmas and Lowriders to the Rescue by Cathy Camper illustrated by Raúl the Third
New MG novels include
Must Love Pets: friends fur-ever by Saadia Faruqi
Shine On Luz Véliz by Rebecca Balcarcel
Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia & Prince JoelMakonnen
Moonflower by Kacen Callender
Small Town Pride by Phil Stamper
The Secret Battle of Evan Pao by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Getting Antsy for The Natural Genius of Ants

Welcome to The Natural Genius of Ants Blog Tour!

Five Writing Tips
by Betty Culley

1. Don’t worry about following trends. Instead, write about what interests you, what you are passionate about. I held onto an article about meteorites for years because there was something about it that captured my imagination. It was the spark that turned into my first middle-grade novel DOWN TO EARTH.

2. Find your writer friends. I wrote alone for years and didn’t share my writing with anyone, out of shyness and fear of being judged. It’s hard when your heart is on the page. But when I joined a writing group of kind and sympathetic people, my writing world expanded. Having other eyes read my words made all the difference. For instance, it was one of my critique group writer friends who suggested changing my manuscript THREE THINGS I KNOW ARE TRUE from prose to verse. It ended up being my debut verse novel. There are things in your writing you just won’t see, no matter how many times you look at it. That’s where the magic of other writers comes in! Also, it helps to have people there who understand when you’re struggling with a difficult revision or discouraging publishing news. My writing group met virtually during the pandemic and it helped us all keep going.

3. Read! It doesn’t have to be what you think you should read. Read what interests you and what gets you inspired, whether it’s a beautiful picture book, a poem, or a magazine article. Also, read the latest books coming out in your genre. There are so many wonderful books recently published and more coming out that you can’t read them all, of course, but choose some that speak to you.

4. Don’t get discouraged. Writing can be a beautiful and joyful thing.  I write partly to figure out what I think and feel, and to see those thoughts and emotions expressed on paper is what keeps me going. There can also be discouraging times, when a writer is tempted to give up. If I could go back and give myself advice, I would say Don’t give up. Try to focus on what you love about writing and keep going.

5. Only you can tell your stories. You have stories that only you can tell. Somewhere, there is someone waiting to hear those stories, someone who needs to hear them. So, tell them!


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On Shelves May 10, 2022!

“Culley gives readers characters that are natural, fallible individuals, which add credibility and tenderness to the story. Endearingly executed, this gentle tale will see readers applauding as they reach the end.”
—Booklist (Starred Review)

“Quietly and emotionally intelligent, this tale satisfies.”
—Kirkus

A summer ant farm grows into a learning experience for the entire family in this lyrical coming-of-age story from the award-winning author of Down to Earth.

Harvard is used to his father coming home from the hospital and telling him about all the babies he helped. But since the mistake at work, Dad has been quieter than usual. And now he is taking Harvard and his little brother, Roger, to Kettle Hole, Maine, for the summer. Harvard hopes this trip isn’t another mistake.

In the small town where he grew up, Dad seems more himself. Especially once the family decides to start an ant farm—just like Dad had as a kid! But when the mail-order ants are D.O.A., Harvard doesn’t want Dad to experience any more sadness. Luckily, his new friend Nevaeh has the brilliant idea to use the ants crawling around in the kitchen instead. But these insects don’t come with directions. So the kids have a lot to learn—about the ants, each other, and how to forgive ourselves when things go wrong.

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Betty Culley’s debut novel in verse Three Things I Know Are True, was a Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten Pick, an ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee, and the 2021 Maine Literary Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature. Her first middle-grade novel Down to Earth was inspired by her fascination with meteorites, voyagers from another place and time. She’s an RN who worked as an obstetrics nurse and as a pediatric home hospice nurse. She lives in central Maine, where the rivers run through the small towns.


GIVEAWAY

  • One (1) winner will receive a finished copy of The Natural Genius of Ants,as well as a copy of Betty’s first middle grade novel Down to Earth and a bookmark!
  • US/Can only
  • Ends 5/22 at 11:59pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter below
  • Visit the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!

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“A captivating middle-grade novel.” —Booklist (Starred Review)

“Heartwarming and absorbing, this is a solid choice for middle grade collections. Perfect for readers who want a great small-town story mixed with STEM.” —School Library Journal

 

Counting by 7s meets See You in the Cosmos in this heartwarming coming-of-age story perfect for the budding geologists and those fascinated by the mysteries of the universe.

 

Henry has always been fascinated by rocks. As a homeschooler, he pours through the R volume of the encyclopedia to help him identify the rocks he finds. So, when a meteorite falls in his family’s field, who better to investigate than this rock enthusiast—with his best friend, James, and his little sister, Birdie, in tow, of course.

But soon after the meteorite’s arrival, the water in Henry’s small Maine town starts drying up. It’s not long before news spreads that the space rock and Henry’s family might be to blame. Henry is determined to defend his newest discovery, but his knowledge of geology could not have prepared him for how much this stone from the sky would change his community, his family, and even himself.

Science and wonder abound in this middle-grade debut about an inquisitive boy and the massive rock that came down to Earth to reshape his life.


Blog Tour Schedule:

May 9th — YA Book Nerd
May 10th — Mrs. Book Dragon
May 11th — Pragmatic Mom
May 12th — Feed Your Fiction Addiction
May 13th — From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors