Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!
Today we’re interviewing Lisa Amstutz, author of Invasive Species. The book is part of the “engaging and informative” Ecological Disasters series, according to School Library Journal.
Mary Kay Carson: How did you come to write Invasive Species?
Lisa Amstutz: This book was an assignment from an educational publisher as part of their Ecological Disasters series. Because of my background in ecology, this one felt like a great fit, and I was excited to dig in! For those who aren’t familiar with this market, some educational publishers hire writers to produce series for them instead of reviewing projects submitted by authors/agents, as most trade publishers do. These series are designed in-house and are highly targeted to the school curriculum. Authors are given a set of guidelines that includes things like word count, reading level, a general outline, number of sidebars, etc.
MKC: The book is so well researched! Did you discover anything especially surprising?
Lisa: The thing that surprised me most was how many invasive species were imported on purpose. For example, the nutria was brought to the United States between 1899 and 1930 by fur farmers. When the market collapsed, farmers released the animals into the wild. Kudzu, aka ‘the vine that ate the South’, was imported in 1876 as an ornamental plant and even promoted by the Soil Conservation Service to prevent soil erosion from the 1930s to 1950s. Today, both are damaging ecosystems. Hopefully we’ve learned our lesson when it comes to moving species out of their natural habitats.
MKC: Do you have a least-liked invasive species?
Lisa: The brown marmorated stinkbug (at left) is my current nemesis, as it has an annoying habit of moving into my house in the winter!
MKC: For whom is the book written? How does the writing style reflect that?
Lisa: Because it is targeted to schools and libraries, this book provides a broad and straightforward overview for kids exploring this topic on their own or for a research project. Photos and sidebars add interest. As always, I tried to use engaging language, concepts kids can relate to, and fun facts to hook the reader and draw them into the topic.
MKC: Do you choose to write about STEM books? Is STEM your background?
Lisa: I have a B.A. in Biology and an M.S. in Environmental Science/Ecology. After working in my field for a few years, I realized I liked writing about science even better, and as a bonus I could work from home. I love exploring new topics and sharing that excitement with kids. I’m also passionate about helping readers connect with the natural world and learn to care for it.
MKC: Could you give us a peek into your process by sharing where you are right now on a current project and how you’re tackling it?
Lisa: I’m at the very beginning stages of a new project at the moment. After choosing a topic from my long and very random list of ideas, I’m currently gathering information and resources online and through my local library. For a longer project like this one, I use Scrivener or OneNote to easily record and categorize information. I always footnote as I go, so it’s easy to go back and double check facts. For me, this part is the most fun—I love learning new things!
Win a FREE critique by author and agent Lisa Amstutz!
The lucky winner receives one critique (query letter, picture book manuscript, or first 10 pages of a longer manuscript or project). Enter by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email.
Your host is Mary Kay Carson, author of Wildlife Ranger Action Guide, The Tornado Scientist, Alexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson
I look forward to reading your book, Lisa. It seems like the nursery business is still perpetuating the problem, selling plants like Callery Pear that have gotten out of hand. I am glad that you are educating kids on this problem.
What an interesting topic for a NF book! Congratulations, Lisa – it looks like another great book!
Wow, you’ve written a lot of books! I love Applesauce Day.
Thank you for the insights!
What a great topic for a children’s book — invasives! I wonder if you mentioned Japanese knotweed, a beautiful but thuggish plant brought here as an ornamental, it is nearly impossible to get rid of.
Fascinating topic! Cane toads were a fav when I was teaching!
Thanks for this interesting post and congratulations Lisa on your book. We have a long way to go to undo the damage invasive species are causing but educating our young people is an excellent step in the right direction!
Congrats on your book, Lisa! I always enjoy reading about an author’s process. Thank you!
Congratulations, Lisa! Young, curious readers will be fascinated by this topic and how moving species out of their natural habitats can destroy a new ecosystem.
Congratulations on Invasive Species, Lisa. Great topic for kids to explore. Japanese Barberry is one we have around here. Imported as an ornamental. So odd to see it growing in the woods… And ew, marmorated stink bugs! Occasionally and mysteriously, one will fall to the floor from a curtain or window frame.
Congratulations on your book on an important topic! My current nemesis is garlic mustard!
Thanks for sharing! Good advice about footnoting. I really need to get in the habit of footnoting as I go. Oriental bittersweet seems to be the invasive that I see most often around here, choking the life out of everything it touches. 🤺
I always enjoy learning about authors’ research and writing processes. Thanks for the glimpse!
I enjoyed reading about Lisa’s process and her love of helping kids connect with nature! Thanks for sharing all these insights.
Congratulations on your book Lisa! I would love to write for an educational publisher one day.
Thank you for the very generous critique giveaway :o)