Friday, July 12, 2013

Writing Non-fiction Books for Kids and Teens with Author Steve Sheinkin

Nonfiction. It's how we all learned about the world when we were children and teens. It's often how we still learn about the world now that we are adults.

While many writers focus on the art of fiction, there are others who take true stories and write them in such a way that they're equally and sometimes even more interesting than fiction.

Think of the stories you read as a child or teen,whether in school or just in your own personal reading. What did you learn from well-written interesting non-fiction stories for youth? How did they peak your interests in learning more about certain aspects of the world?

I personally read biographies that rocked my world as a child and taught me (sneakily) about the kind of person I wanted to grow up to be.  I read about Nellie Bly -- a journalist who went undercover in a mental hospital to bring to light abuses there and to promote change.  I read about Hans Christian Anderson who wrote stories for children, and about Martin Luther King Jr. who stood up for what was right.  I read about interesting people and places around the world and this spiked my interest in traveling.  I read books about head-hunters in the amazon, dog-sled races in Alaska, and Indians along the U.S. west coast who made their own cloth-dye out of berries.  I read about a kid named Louis Braille who became blind then went on to create the Braille Alphabet -- an alphabet that the Harry Potter books and other children's books are now printed in so that blind children can read the same stories as the rest of us!  As a child, after reading these non-fiction books, I decided to go learn Braille (which I did - somewhat successfully,) and to go out with my best friend and pick berries and make our own purple dye'd cloth - which we did and then made bags out of it; I decided I wanted to learn to fly an airplane so I could go see the head-hunters (I've taken a flying lesson but have not yet met the head-hunters,) and I decided I wanted to stand up for justice and what is right, and to sometimes use writing as a tool for that -- as did Nellie Bly and Martin Luther King Jr.  All of this from a couple of non-fiction stories I read as a child.

So, non-fiction books can grab hold of us. They open the world to us.  Many times the non-fiction books we read as children or teens help make us who we are both as young people, and later as adults.

I'd be interested to hear what specific non-fiction books or non-fiction book themes interested and impacted YOU as a child or teen!  Will you share your responses in the comments?

Next week we'll have an AWESOME AUTHOR INTERVIEW with Award-winning Nonfiction Author Steve Sheinkin who will share tips on how to write truly "interesting" non-fiction books for youth!

Steve started out as a text-book writer but soon found that it was the non-text-booky nonfiction stories that really peaked teen's interest!  Now he writes stories about grave-robbers, counter-fitters, spies and sceintists, and loose-cannon leaders who made history.

Between now and next week check out this audio first chapter of Steve's great new book "Lincoln's Grave Robbers" as a sample of high-interest non-fiction that makes teen readers keep turning page after page! It will be an example to begin our conversations of how to write our own non-fiction books for teens or kids.  (Click "LISTEN" below the audio book photo at this link:)

Also, if you like Spy novels, check out this great YA    
Non-fiction book that Steve got a Newberry Honor and a YALSA award for!  You know it's a great book when a 
main character's already in trouble and he's 
still in his pajamas! 

We'll see you next week for Steve's interview with tips on how 
we can write interesting non-fiction of our own!

Also, don't forget to enter the "comments contest" 
each week this summer!


Jenny said...

I'll be sure to tune in for next week's interview. BOMB is on my summer reading list!

Janelle said...

That's great, Jenny!

I'll bet it will be on many other people's reading lists soon too now that we've all gotten a taste of it by listening to the prologue!

Linda A. said...

Steve's books with little known historic facts are wrapped in mystery, theft,and adventure. This reading should appeal to all ages. Thanks for the interview!

When I was a child, I enjoyed reading biographies of famous Americans in history and science. I also had a subscription for a science magazine for kids.

Janelle said...

Thanks for sharing, Linda! Yes, Steve's books are great! I look forward to sharing his tips in next Saturday's interview!

I always loved biographies when I was a kid too!