Posts Tagged book clubs

STEM Tuesday– SHARKS! — Writing Tips & Resources

Write Like a Shark

It’s Summer 2020.  Sorry, just a plain and simple statement that it is indeed the summer of 2020. None of the traditional exclamation points to celebrate this time of the year. The COVID-19 pandemic, the problem of ingrained and institutional racism, and lives that have been completely turned on edge are just a few of the problems we deal with every day. Besides community involvement, raising our voices, and giving of our time, talent, and treasure, another good way to navigate good or bad times is through writing. 

Writing provides an outlet. Whether you are a middle-grade student on summer break trying to make sense of the world or a seasoned adult trying to make sense of the world, writing can help navigate life. Writing can be personal and kept under lock and key or it can be shared. Writing is yours. Every word is yours. As the words are placed on paper or screen one after the other, your thoughts and ideas become more real and tangible.

The two things at the core of the From the Mixed-Files…of Middle-Grade Authors blog are reading and writing. For the STEM Tuesday group, those two core activities also hold true except we adjust the focus to STEM nonfiction. Today, I suggest a STEM nonfiction slant to assist you as you embark on your 2020 writing adventures?

Want to write but don’t exactly know how to take the first steps? First and foremost, just write. Begin the physical process with one word and keep adding another word until you give the thoughts in your head a life. Next, take a few pointers from the star of STEM Tuesday, June 2020, the magnificent shark!!! (Now there’s a sentence deserving of exclamation points.)

Writing advice from a shark?


I know a shark can’t actually write. A shark can’t hold a pencil. A shark’s journal would merely become a soggy mess in the ocean. A shark may have plenty of bite, but none of that bite leans toward the literary. Allow me to explain how the fabulous members of the Selachii superorder can get you circling the waters to write like a shark.

Blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) by I, Luc Viatour / CC BY-SA (

1. Design

The basic biological design of a shark has been relatively unchanged since it originally appeared 350-400 million years ago during the Devonian Period. When something works in nature, it usually sticks around and is passed on to the next generation. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  In simpler terms, the structure and basic plan of a shark work well. In writer terms, we could learn a lot from the shark’s basic evolutionary outline. 

The shark has a plan. A built-in plan that has withstood the test of time and shifting conditions. As a writer, follow the shark’s example and develop a design plan that works for you. Find structures and experiment with them. A few basics to think about are: 

  • Time dedicated to writing. 
  • Materials (journals, notebooks, pens, pencils, or electronics.) 
  • Space (both physical space and headspace.) to work in. 
  • Ideas and capturing them. 

Design your physical writing life and hone it until you are as effective as our favorite ocean predator has been for millennia. Piece together a plan in your head and use either a simple or a complex—or something in-between—outline to give your writing good bones (maybe that should be cartilage?) to build upon. 

Erik Zachte at the English language Wikipedia / CC BY-SA (

2. The Blank Page

Unfortunately, one of the biggest mountains to climb with writing lies at the very beginning of the process. The blank page. The idea. The “AAARRGGHHHH I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO WRITE DOWN WITH THIS TWENTY DOLLAR PEN I JUST BOUGHT MY WRITER-SELF” problem. Every writer ever has felt the dread of the blank page at one time or another. 

Ideas. Are. Hard.

When the blank page spreads fear down your spine, remember how a shark hunts. It’s always on the lookout for a meal and when it finds one, it attacks. Value story ideas and attack them with the same frenzy as the shark attacks its prey. Be prepared to circle the waters to sustain the enthusiasm while being willing to keep working hard after enthusiasm wanes. 

There’s no such thing as a bad idea if that idea gets the writing process started. How selective is a shark come feeding time? If it’s food, it’s good enough. This is where I’m a firm believer in the power of nonfiction, especially STEM nonfiction, to help the writer juices flow. The curiosity about how the world works is always a great tool for writing. How do the things that surround us work, why they work, and how they affect us or make us feel?

No matter what life throws at you, write your way through it. Whether with difficulties, joys, failures, and/or accomplishments, use writing to help make sense of your world. Now, arm yourself with your favorite pen and notebook and then write. Remember to design a writing plan that works for you and always be on the hunt for ideas, just like a shark.

Best of luck in Summer 2020.

Stay safe.

Be healthy.

Be kind.

Write like a shark.

File:Hammerhead Shark (PSF).png

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101,  are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.


The O.O.L.F Files

This month on the Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files we’re talking sharks. Everyone’s favorite marine predator. The world of sharks is fascinating. Enjoy the links below, hopefully, learn a thing or two, and have a great STEM Tuesday Shark Month!

Sea World All About Sharks & Rays

Shark Cam at The Monterey Bay Aquarium

Shark Week @ The Discovery Channel

Sharkfest 2020 from The National Geographic Channel


  • The single greatest movie about marine predators ever made. It even scared the bejeezus out of a kid from Kansas when he first saw it at the theatre back in the 1970s.
  • As we all know too well from the first half of 2020…nobody EVER listens to the scientists & the experts!


  • Giant dino-sharks! Count me in!

Sharknado! The end of an era?

No shark list is complete with a mention of this SYFY network gem. Complete ridiculousness that somehow becomes entertaining by taking an unapologetic stab at the nature-apocalyptic film genre. Where does one even begin?





Books to Inspire You to Explore the Outdoors (safely)

Hopefully this blog post finds you all well and safe. I’m imaging it also finds you perhaps a bit anxious to get outside. After all, it is summer, and while I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, here in Florida, it’s glorious! A perfect time to get out and about and explore.

But what if where you live it’s not the right time to get out much yet. What can you do to keep your kids — and yourselves — occupied for the next few weeks while things open up? What can you do?  Why not bring the outdoors inside or at the very least get creative with your own little outdoor spot. I’m talking about getting creative with SCIENCE outside. (come on, if you know me, you knew this was going to be a science post) 😁

Are you ready to get your outdoor science on? GREAT!  —>  Head to your bookshelf!

That’s right, inspiration for how to imagine, invent and discover great outdoor science is right there among the books.

What are you interested in?  Bugs? Moths? Birds? Cool!

Check out a few of these books.



Or perhaps you have more of a technology bent and want to understand how animals and technology go together.

For that check out my new book BEASTLY BIONICS                             


And who says that animals are the only bits of science you can see outside or around your house? What about cars? or buildings?



Finally, what if you are just inspired to invent something? Try out these fun new books



For MORE great ideas of how to use STEM/STEAM books to create fun at home,

check out our STEM Tuesday Blog, which has three years worth of activities for kids/parents/teachers —   

and also STEAMTEAM2020 website which highlights new books coming out in 2020!


Now that your interest has been piqued, it’s time to DO something with your new knowledge.

Your challenge is to observe, design, draw, build and create something new.

  • Come up with a new type of animal– one that doesn’t exist but you think it should
  • Design a new type of bionic robot that mimics the way an animal moves or reacts that would be helpful to humans
  • Draw a picture of a car or building that would be awesome to drive or live in
  • Write a story about your creation and share it with your friends and family
  • Make a game or puzzle for others to try to guess what you drew
  • Turn your living room into a new type of ecosystem (be sure to ask your parent’s permission) and take everyone on a safari


Science really IS all around you. It starts with your imagination. Time to let that imagination and inspiration SOAR!

I’d love to see what you come up with. Leave a comment/picture below and you’ll be entered to win a copy of my new Beastly Bionics book!

Happy inventing!




STEM Tuesday– SHARKS! — Book List

Sharks fascinate us and scare us at the same time. They can seem scary with their sleek primitive bodies and sharp teeth, but mostly they’re misunderstood. Dive into these books for an up-close look at the science of sharks and why we need to keep them in our oceans.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Smart About Sharks by Owen Davey

Davey’s detailed illustrations give this book teeth! He gives readers a deep dive in deadly and not-so-deadly shark species. This survey look at sharks provides readers with everything they want to know about sharks and more. Did you know that shark teeth aren’t all the same?



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit The Great White Shark Scientist by Sy Montgomery, photographys by Keith Ellengoben

Join Montgomery on another scientific adventure with great white shark scientist, Greg Skomal. He wonders if Cape Cod might be a breeding ground for great whites. This Scientists in the Field title demonstrates how humans sometimes have to embrace their fears to save the world’s valuable creatures.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit The Great Shark Rescue: Saving the Whale Sharks by Sandra Markle

Whale sharks are the largest fish on the planet, but unfortunately face threats from commercial fishing and climate change. Markle follows scientists working to protect these gentle giants of our ocean. Readers will learn how these sharks differ from their perceptions of the dangerous creatures they are taught to fear.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgWe Need Sharks (The Animal Files) by Lisa Bullard

Every living thing has a place in the food web, sharks included. Bullard’s book explores the roles sharks play in ocean ecosystems and the various threats sharks face because of human habits. Hurrah for sharks!



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Sharks Are Awesome by Patricia Hutchison

Loaded with cool shark facts and colorful photos, this book is sure to please a young shark enthusiast.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit World’s Weirdest Sharks by Paul Mason 

When you think SHARK, the great white or maybe even the hammerhead pop into your mind, but there are more than 500 species of sharks in our ocean. Mason highlights the weirdest and most bizarre. Cool photos throughout this title.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Amazing Sharks (Animals Are Wild!) by Steve Parker 

Why are sharks such efficient predators? Parker examines their teeth, fins, body shape, hunting practices, and other adaptations that make sharks so successful in their ocean habitat.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgPocket Genius: Sharks: Facts at Your Fingertips by DK Publishing

A compact book for on-the-go young readers. Facts about more than 150 sharks and rays.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit The Truth About Great White Sharks by Mary M. Cerullo and Jeffrey L. Rotman

Great white sharks are probably the most well-known, and most feared,  species of shark. Their photos grace the cover of nearly every shark book on the market, but what’s fact and what’s fiction about these ancient predators? Find out in this colorful book with a huge gatefold image that will wow young readers.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit The Ultimate Book of Sharks by Brian Skerry 

For true shark lovers! This book by National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry features every species of shark on Earth. Young readers will line up for the real-life encounters, cutting edge science, and insider shark behavior information.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Mission Shark Rescue by Ruth Musgrave 

We like this title because of the hands-on activities and the ideas young readers can implement to save endangered sharks. It doesn’t matter where you live – everyone can make a difference in helping our ocean creatures.




Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgI Escaped The World’s Deadliest Shark Attack: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis, WWII by Scott Peters and Ellie Crowe 

A riveting piece of historical fiction that explores the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. The ship sank in 12 minutes an the survivors spent four days fighting off the deadliest shark attack in history. The authors use a 16-year-old protagonist to tell the story of these brave men.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit I Survived: The Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis


In the summer of 1916, the Jersey shore was terrorized by a great white shark. Tarshis’ historical fiction title, uses the events of 1916 to frame her story.


STEM Tuesday book lists prepared by

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including, THE STORY OF SEEDS, which earned the Green Earth Book Award, Junior Library Guild Selection, and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia.  She strives to inform, inspire, and empower her readers. Nancy also serves as the Regional Advisor of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2018 multi-starred title is BACK FROM THE BRINK: Saving Animals from Extinction. Visit her at 

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that empowers young readers to act on behalf of the environment and their communities. The Sibert Honor author of Sea Otter Heroes, Newman has also received an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book Award for Eavesdropping on Elephants, a Green Earth Book Award for Plastic, Ahoy!, and a Eureka! Gold Medal from the California Reading Association for Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. Her books have received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how young readers can use writing to be the voice of change. Visit her at Stay tuned for her upcoming Planet Ocean – fall 2020.