Saturday, May 6, 2017

Children's authors reveal secrets

In one week, I listened to three different authors of children’s books and decided to share some of the information each presented.

The first two authors spoke as part of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Carroll County’s Battle of the Books, which is supported by the Learning Advantage partnership between the Carroll County Public Schools and the Carroll County Public Library. More than 300 people (primarily children) attended this event.
Kate Hannigan wrote The Detective’s Assistant, an historical novel about the first female detective. Pinkerton detective, which is a Black-Eyed Susan Award nominee.

Alan Pinkerton hired Kate Warne when he realized that she could worm secrets out of the wives and friends of those he was investigating. Her fictional niece, Cornelia, is the kid on the doorstep, who wants to belong somewhere. Eleven-year-old Nell Warne starts helping her aunt solve mysteries, one involving a plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

Hannigan spoke about the dark underbelly of children’s literature. – the parents have to be out of the picture, so the child can solve the problem. She handled the family problem all at once on page 6 of the book.

It took her two years to write this book that includes "history, mystery, fact and fiction.” She wanted to get it right for the real Kate Warne, who was buried near Pinkerton, along with other agents.

Hannigan ended her presentation dramatically, as volunteers from the audience helped unroll 65 feet of taped together rejection letters.

“That’s 65 feet of pain,” she said. You don’t give up if you want to succeed. Hannigan also is the author of the Cupcake Cousins series.
The next author to speak was Dave Roman, of the Astronaut Academy series. Drawing as he talked, he admitted he has always been a doodler. When thinking of writing a book, he thought about things he liked, such as outer space and a special school like Hogwarts. These led to his idea of the Astronaut Academy.

For him, the images and words come together at the same time. He enjoys puns, such as a sketch of the students “putting their heads together.”

He chose children to draw suggestions from the audience on a blank paper to demonstrate how he writes his books with graphics (or doodles).

Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity was the 2015 winner of the Black-Eyed Susan Award and Astronaut Academy: Re-Entry is a current nominee. Roman also is a writer of graphic novels Teen Boot! and Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery.

Moderator for the evening was Ted Zeleski, who asked questions of the authors. Later there were more questions from the audience.  lined up at the microphones. One child’s question led to Dave Roman revealing that he was already writing a third Astronaut Academy book.

This was an interesting and informative evening. I was impressed with the confidence and knowledge of the students who participate in the Battle of the Books program. I hope my young grandson is part of something like this when he is old enough.

The Carroll County Chapter of the Maryland Writers Association also hosted a children’s author that week. Sue Reifsnider, writes as Wendi Hartman. She talked about what she knew and how she used that knowledge in her books, such as in The Amish Impact from City to Farm, A New Season and The Letters.
“Start with what you know,” she said, but  additional research can add depth to your story. Whatever you do, pull your life into your books.

Raised in a rural area, she went to a small Christian college, worked on farms in Amish country, was a teacher, has a nursing background and strong ties with fire departments. She uses this information in her books.
During her talk, she used puppets and balloons. Kids are hurting, she said. It is important to get them to read and write.

I was impressed with her sense of humor and the knowledge she shared. You can find out more at Wendi’s Works & Writings.

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