Interview: Darcy Pattison on Writing WISDOM

Last week I posted this review of Darcy Pattison’s moving new picture book, WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS. Today, Darcy stops by to discuss it!

LT: Hi, Darcy! I’m so excited to have you visit. Can you tell me how you first become interested in writing about Wisdom?
DP: I have been interested in writing more nature/science related books, so a couple times a month, I read the Fish and Wildlife Service blog at, just trolling for topics. After the earthquake and tsunami last year, I saw information on the oldest wild bird in the world, who survived the tsunami and had to learn more.
LT: Although you’re traditionally published many times over, this book is published by your own independent publishing company. Congratulations on what must have been a huge effort to pull everything together! Can you talk about your decision to go that route with this book?
DP: I created the Mims House publisher to address timely stories like that of Wisdom. Traditional publishers work on a very long lead time, often taking two or three or four years to bring a picture book to the marketplace. With print-on-demand technology, I can do it much quicker. For marketing, I can shout very loud online, ‘Read all about it.’ Traditional publishers will always hold the lion’s share of the marketplace, but there’s also room for niche publishers, supported by new technologies.
LT: Can you tell us about Kitty Harvill’s illustration process? How did she capture Wisdom in her art?
DP: The Fish and Wildlife service makes photos available as public domain material at, so it was very easy to find images for Kitty to use as photo references as she did her watercolors.
LT: I think every book teaches us something new, about the world, about ourselves, or about the craft of writing. What have you learned as a result of writing this book? What surprised you the most during the process?
DP: I was totally surprised that birds could still be laying eggs at the age of 61. But Wisdom just laid a new egg in December, 2011.
LT: Are there any tips you would like to share with aspiring children’s book writers, especially those writing nonfiction for kids?
DP: Talk to the source. When I realized I wanted to write about Wisdom, I went directly to the biologist who lives and works on Midway Atoll, Pete Leary. He was invaluable in giving me information and vetting the manuscript. The other tip is to dig deeper. This story is exciting partly because of Wisdom’s longevity. I did a timeline of her life and times to understand what she has lived through. If I had only told the story of the tsunami, it wouldn’t have been as powerful as the story of over 60 years of survival.
LT: I’ve always said that I will know I’ve made it when I receive one letter from one child saying that something I wrote made a positive difference in his or her life. How do you define success? Do you feel
like you’ve achieved it? If not, what’s left on your to-do list?
DP: I have loved every part of Wisdom’s story and chronicling it for children. I take it one project at a time, and if I can say that I did the best job possible, then I am happy. On my to-do list? Finding more equally stirring tales about nature.
LT: What are you working on now?
DP: My new book, DESERT BATHS (Sylvan Dell) comes out in August 2012. It’s a story about how desert animals take a bath–lots of fun!
LT: What would you most like people to know about you?
DP: I love to write.
LT: And it shows! It’s always inspiring and helpful to get a “peak behind the curtain” of the writers I admire. Thanks again, Darcy!
And, if you’d like to read an interview with the illustrator of WISDOM, Kitty Harvill, please click on over to this post at Archimedes Notebook.

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