Is #PitMad Worth It?

Is #PitMad worth it?

Did you have any luck at the most recent #PitMad? I think a lot of people think that unless they get a book contract sent via DM that day, they failed. But I say you need a broad definition of success.  Here’s how it worked for me, and why I think it’s worth it.

In June 2019 I tweeted this:

Then I tweeted it again in September 2019. An editor liked it. So I contacted the editor. She told me her publishing house didn’t do picture books. So she asked if I’d put together a middle grade proposal. I said YES!

So, I did. I sent in the proposal in January 2020!

But they said NO. Or at least, they said “not at this time.” Here’s the direct quote:

“While we aren’t ready to make an offer on this proposal right now, I’d be happy to follow up with you in a few months…”

So I took the proposal to SCBWI NY 2020. I pitched it at a pitch session there, and an agent asked to see it. In September 2020, she said “I don’t like it like this – would you rewrite it as a graphic novel?” The picture book that became a middle grade nonfiction is now a middle grade historical fiction graphic novel. After a lot of research and writing, I’m almost done the first full draft.

BUT. ALSO. The editor who first liked my tweet? I contacted her in August 2020 and asked if she had any projects that needed authors. She said YES. And after I sent in two proposals, then revised one, and revised it again…I got a contract for Animal Allies.

book contract announcement

And as you can see, I signed with my wonderful agent, Miranda Paul.

That’s how #PitMad worked for me. The next #PitMad is in December. Give it a shot. And keep your definition of success nice and broad.

Help for Writers who are Parents and Parents who are Writers

In 2016, I was picking my kids up from art camp when I received a phone call from a New York phone number. Since this was the summer of 2016 (and the election had not yet happened) I was just still a naive, optimistic person. I answered the phone.

It turns out I had won a fellowship from Pen Parentis. It was an incredible feeling.

Read more about the all the Pen Parentis fellows here! 

In 2021, Pen Parentis is once again giving me incredible feelings. I’m reading and speaking at their opening salon featuring middle grade writers on September 14, 2021!!! That’s my birthday!!!

I hope you join us!

Finding a Mentor or Inspiration – Alhazen and Leonardo da Vinci

When I wrote my book The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci, one of the things that really captivated me was how Leonardo learned a lot from an early scholar and scientist, Alhazen. I’d never heard of Alhazen before, but he did a lot of exciting work.

It turns out Alhazen is the Latinized version of his real name, Ḥasan Ibn al-Haytham. He’s was a polymath and studied optics. He was a leader during the Islamic Golden Age. There are some books about him, and he wrote books himself. But the world could always use more books and I hope someone writes a book for kids exploring how Hasan Ibn al-Haytham saw the world.

Take a look at this Wikipedia page about him and explore the primary and secondary sources at the bottom of the entry to find further reading!

How to Write Nonfiction for Kids

I’ve attended so many excellent Highlights Foundation courses over the past several years. Each one has helped me uncover big and small ways to develop my creativity and productivity.

Now I’m so thrilled to be announce I’m working with the Highlights Foundation! I’m so honored to be helping an incredible faculty at the online summer workshop on writing nonfiction for kids. Check out this workshop and all of their other offerings and sign up today!

Looking for excellent STEAM books?

Over the weekend, someone asked me what kind of books I write. I mentioned I write books that fit into the STEAM category.

“I thought it was STEM,” this person said.

“There is STEM and there is STEAM,” I explained. “The A is for arts, and it makes sense as so much of art and mathematics and science are related.”

I didn’t know this – but the original acronym for STEM was SMET. Not nearly as easy to remember. I learned a little of the history of STEM and STEAM from this interesting article by Lisa Catterall.

Now STEAM and STEM are common words for teachers, librarians, educators, and of course – writers. Looking for excellent STEAM books? Then check out SteamTeam Books!  

You’ll find my books there and over 50 other incredible STEAM books for readers of all ages!

Are Virtual Author Visits for Students Worth It?

I’m sure some people are wondering:  are virtual author visits for students worth it? The answer is YES.

I had a fantastic time visiting five classrooms last week over Zoom. I know it’s been hard not seeing people in person, but I was so grateful for this opportunity. The students, from first grade to fifth grade, were polite and funny and curious and wonderful. I shared some of my favorite Leonardo da Vinci stories and they shared their ideas and questions. If you’ve been wondering if virtual author visits are worth it, they are. 


Researching Nonfiction – Visiting the home of Margaret Morse Nice

I don’t know if I’ll ever write a book about Margaret Morse Nice, but now that I have visited the land where she lived and studied birds, I feel more connected to her.

I visited Columbus, Ohio in late April 2021 and made the effort to get to Tuttle Park, which was once the property she called Interpont. Tuttle Park basically covers the 60 acres where she and her family lived. Thanks to help from Sheila Fagan, Community Outreach Coordinator, from the Columbus Audubon for doing the research to discover this.

My son and only explored a tiny section of the park, but I was able to add a life list bird, a blue-grey gnatcatcher. We saw numerous other kinds of birds: swallows, robins, cardinals, a hawk launched itself from a branch above our heads, ducks, geese, cormorants, a Carolina wren, starlings, goldfinches, and more.


We had a delightful time exploring the woodsy banks of the Olentangy River.


When I write nonfiction, I love to visit the important places in the story whenever possible. It helps me hold the sights, sounds, smells and feel of the place in my mind as a I write. I love feeling connected to the place.

Margaret Morse Nice studied many kinds of birds. Her nonfiction book, The Watcher at the Nest, “almost single-handedly initiated a new era in American ornithology and the only effective counter movement against the list-chasing movement,” according to Ernst Mayr. We were watchers at a nest, too. We saw this robin building a nest.

The Watcher at the Nest focused on song sparrows. We only heard a brief song sparrow song in this visit. I had hoped to see some, and photograph them. I imagined I’d be seeing the descendants of Uno and 4M, the birds she studied. The tantalizing bit of song will do until I can visit again.

We did get to enjoy a lovely Carolina wren singing its heart out. And I know there’s more to discover in this lively park!