On Friday, Andrew Karre from Lerner/Carolrhoda gifted a group of our region’s nonfiction writers with over five hours of his undivided attention. And, wow, was it an afternoon to remember! He brainstormed with the group and helped us hone our ideas into something marketable. He gave feedback on our short proposals and/or first pages. And he gave insight into Lerner, the broader industry, and what makes for great nonfiction for kids. Here are a few of the gems from my notes:
- Ask yourself, would it still be a good book if it was fiction? It shouldn’t matter where it ends up getting shelved—a good story is a good story.
- “Be writers, not compilers of thinly-veiled lists.”
- Straight biographies aren’t really needed anymore dead due to Internet and online databases. They need to be MORE than just a biography to be published as books today.
- It’s harder for nonfiction authors to “brand” themselves, because there is so much less interaction with readers.
- As school librarians disappear, it gets harder for kids to get to great nonfiction and vice versa. Kids will still manage to find a copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, for example, but they might not discover The Many Faces of George Washington.
- Reviews are especially important for nonfiction.
- One important facet of a nonfiction author’s job is to decide what to exclude.
- Nonfiction proposal should first and foremost communicate your passion for the story, not follow a specific form.
- Above all, you must CONNECT to kids!
I feel so lucky to have spent this time with Andrew and some of our region’s nonfiction authors. I have a slew of exciting ideas and a boatload of new inspiration and enthusiasm and for the work that we do. And I can’t wait to see the drafts that come out of it (my own as well as everyone else’s!). Happy [nonfiction] writing!