Friday, June 13, 2008

The Lucky Thing about Friday the 13th...

I got the Friday the 13th slot. By definition nonfiction authors should be nonsuperstitious, but it seems unlucky to ignore this occasion. So I decided to write about the luck factor (or lack thereof) in writing nonfiction for kids.

The lucky thing is that you don’t have to make anything up. You can find facts and subjects so amazing and surreal they defy imagination.

The unlucky thing is you can’t make anything up. There’s no fudging an unknown area; you’ve got to find the facts that fit.

The lucky thing is that schools and libraries can always use a well-written book to update their collection on a particular subject.

The unlucky thing is that they can’t afford to buy them.

The lucky thing is that you can create books on subjects kids will love.

The unlucky thing is that many publishers can’t imagine marketing nonfiction to the trade market, so the kids don’t find them.

The lucky thing is that with new printing techniques and fabulous illustrators, nonfiction pictures books portray our world in gorgeous detail.

The unlucky thing is that the big chains limit their nonfiction stock and won’t display it face out with the other new picture books on the back wall.

The lucky thing is that you always have something new to talk about at social gatherings.

The unlucky thing is that sometimes people don’t share your enthusiasm for the question of how NASA is going to do an emergency appendectomy in space, what with gravity not keeping organs in their normal places—or even blood inside the body for that matter. And why isn’t that dinner conversation?

The lucky thing about being a nonfiction writer is that you are learning your whole life.

The unlucky thing…hmmm…no downside to that!


Linda Salzman said...

Lucky for us I asked you to post on the 13th.

Anna M. Lewis said...

Lucky, my black cat, is happy you named a post after him.

Fantastic post... funny thing, I didn't realize the date until I read your post.

I concur with Linda!

Jennifer Armstrong said...

Luck played a role in my biggest nonfiction success --when I proposed writing a book about Ernest Shackleton's Endurance adventure, he wasn't a buzzword. I had no idea that movies, new biographies and a huge traveling exhibit were in the works. My book hit the ground running (so to speak). Readers and critics were well able to compare and contrast my book (Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World) with all the other offerings. Nearly ten years later it's still going strong. It was an incredible piece of lucky timing on my part -- I just wanted to write an exciting true story; it never occurred to me it would be such a hit!