SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Monthly Meeting – January 2022: Authors Carol Kim, Evan Griffith and Gloria Amescua

An inspiring panel of writers kicked off the new year by discussing the topic of writing non-fiction at the January Monthly Meeting.

Carol Kim

Evan Griffith

Gloria Amescua

 

Moderator Carol Kim, author of King Sejong Invents an Alphabet (Whitman, Albert & Company, 2021) plus 20 educational market books, was joined by Evan Griffith, author of Secrets of the Sea: The Story of Jeanne Power, Revolutionary Marine Scientist (Clarion, 2021) and Manatee Summer, a middle-grade novel forthcoming from Quill Tree/Harper in 2022. Completing the panel was Gloria Amescua, author of Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams, 2021).

Here are some highlights from the Zoom presentation:

1. Why did you approach your subject the way that you did?

Evan:

– because most kids have never heard of this female scientist, who was an important historical figure and inventor

– to make the biographical information approachable and accessible to kids

– after growing up wanting to be a marine scientist and living near the ocean, this book idea was a point of personal connection and a love letter to the ocean

Gloria:

– seeing a brochure at The Harry Ransom Center about a Mexican artist’s model led to the book idea, with the goal of honoring Latino history and heritage

– writing a poem about the subject helped narrow down the scope and zero in on the most important, emotional parts of the story

Carol:

– to connect with and impact kids and readers

– what began as a personal pipe dream became an evolution regarding this question: what if you were illiterate, plus the choice to learn to read was not even available to you, and no one around you could read either? (These were the conditions in Korea prior to the Hangul alphabet)

2. How do you make non-fiction engaging for children?

Evan:

– apply the same tools used in fiction, such as strong main characters, evocative settings, illustrations that bring the story to life, and scenes that immerse the reader

– let the heart of the story dictate the final draft

Gloria:

– appeal to kids by creating an emotional connection through artwork and metaphors

– show kids how simply by just being themselves they can be proud of who they are and of their culture

– show kids they can overcome many difficulties

Carol:

– focus on the actions of your character and the stories of the character’s life within the story as a whole

– ask yourself the questions kids might ask themselves regarding your topic

– decide what to keep and what to cut

3. What are your tips for researching a project?

Gloria:

– remember we are all learning as we go

– learn what not to do

– be brave and step outside your comfort zone

– connect with/meet people who can help you

– it’s best to like your story a lot and fall in love with it, since you will spend so much time writing it

Evan:

– stay organized

– create a system to track links, interviews, etc.

– remember that research and connection go in tandem

Carol:

– visit the places associated with the book topic if possible, but if you cannot visit, do not let that derail you from the project

– even if you are not an expert about a topic, you can still write about that topic

– utilize resources right under your nose, such as local libraries

– through research and exploration, the book will reveal itself to you

Cover of 'King Sejong Invents an Alphabet,' featuring a bearded man in a red robe standing and holding a pen and book against a backdrop of a large building in Korean architectural style. The sky in the background is the colors of sunset or sunrise.

Cover of 'Secrets of the Sea,' with a woman in a purple suit and tie drawing sea creatures on a desk at the beach, surrounded by floating fish, a turtle, and other sea creatures