Thoughts on Writing Nonfiction for Children:

Telling the Truth to Children
A couple of years ago, I set out to write a book on writing nonfiction for children.  Together with my mother, award-winning author Margery Facklam, we explored why we write nonfiction and how we do it. 
Below are a few excerpts from  The Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children

Dissecting Nonfiction
No two writers work precisely the same way -- not even mother and daughter.  We share many of the same views on writing nonfiction, and our processes are similar, but our experiences in the publishing industry, which span almost 50 years, have been different.  In 1960, Margery typed her first book, Whistle For Danger on a Smith-Corona typewriter using a carbon paper and whiteout.  Thirty years later, I wrote my first book, Volcano! using one of the first state-of-the-art word processors -- a Kaypro that opened like a bread box, using 5-inch floppy disks.  But more has changed than the technology.  The business of children's publishing has changed, education has changed, and children have changed. 
Because we are both science majors we came to think of nonfiction writing as a body of knowledge, and hopefully we have diligently dissected its anatomy into its working parts.  Nonfiction is a simple beast.  In its most basic form it consists of a skeleton of accurate information, the flesh and blood of story, the heart of the writer, and the muscle of marketing.  Subspecies have been identified -- biography, how-tos and science writing -- but their survival and success depend on these basics.  

The Nonfiction Writer
When author Annie Dillard described herself in her book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek she said, "I am no scientist ... I am a wanderer with a penchant for quirky facts."  That pretty much sums up most nonfiction writers.  We are perpetual students of the world, soaking up the odd, unusual, bizarre and fascinating fact. 
We are also eager teachers, but we do not teach just facts.  Many people have the perception that children's nonfiction is unbiased or neutral, but it is not.  Good nonfiction does not list cold facts like a witness interrogated by Joe Friday on the old Dragnet television show when he'd say, "Just the facts, Ma'am."  What that dedraggled witness said was filtered through her eyes, her past experiences and personal beliefs.  So too is everything a nonfiction writer collects, reads and writes.  Nonfiction writers are biased.  We can't help it anymore than anyone else can. 
But our bias is to present the facts through a hopeful lens.  We portray a world where everything may not be perfect but with hope that someday it will be better.  As naturalists, we could not write about the deforestation of the rainforest without talking about the efforts of coffee companies learning to grow coffee beans in an environmentally sound manner.  We need to give hope to the next generation, and perhaps inspire them into action.

More to come....

The Highlights Foundation is offering a unique experience for writers of children's nonfiction called THE WHOLE NARRATIVE NONFICTION WORKSHOP, and I am excited to be a part of it.

This unique program offers the one-on-one attention found in degree programs, but without additional academic requirements, lengthy time commitments, or prohibitive financial investments. Our aim is to focus on a specific work in progress, moving a manuscript to the next level in preparation for submission to agents or publishers. Focused attention in an intimate setting makes this mentorship program one that guarantees significant progress.

Our novel mentorship program includes:

•Focused, one-on-one response to your entire manuscript-in-progress from an accomplished author and teacher
•Group discussion and feedback
•Seminars on technique, craft, query letters, and agent/editor submissions
•Ample time to write and revise
The Whole Novel Workshop offers writers the rare opportunity to have the entire draft of a manuscript read and critiqued prior to the workshop, followed by a week of intense, one-on-one mentoring.

I will be working with editor Carolyn P. Yoder, award-winning author Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and Elizabeth Partridge.

Applications will be accepted through February 3, 2012. You will be notified of acceptance status by February 17, 2012.

For Writers:
Telling Kids the Truth:  Writing Nonfiction for Children
A blog for writers, readers, and anyone interested in great books for kids. 
*** To contact me to speak at your conference or to lead a workshop, please email me at Pegtwrite AT aol DOT com.