Next week we are excited to have Eastern PA author Annette Whipple presenting a webinar called “Skip the Slush: Work-for-Hire Writing Assignments” on September 20 at 7:00 p.m. You can find out more about the event and register here. In preparation for the webinar, our Eastern PA SCBWI Webinar Coordinator and Assistant Regional Advisor, Kristen Strocchia, recently chatted with Annette. Here’s what they had to say.
A Café Chat with Author Annette Whipple, by Kristen Strocchia
Kristen: Welcome to our Virtual Café in the Woods! Before we chat, pull up a stump and let’s order some grub. I could go for some chai tea and a pumpkin bar with cream cheese frosting. How about you?
Annette: Mmm. It smells good in here! I’m a tea drinker, too! How about some French vanilla? Those blueberry muffins look delicious!
Kristen: The photography in The Truth About animals series looks amazing! Picture book authors get told all the time to leave room for the illustrator. Does the same hold true for nonfiction authors and photographs?
Annette: Thanks so much! I love how Reycraft designs The Truth About series. I think photographs support the text in this series just as much as an art-illustrated picture book. Yet, it’s a bit different. Photographs help readers to better understand nonfiction details or visualize who or what the book is about. I love photographs (especially with captions) as a nonfiction text feature! (You can read more about nonfiction text features on my blog.)
Kristen: As a fellow NEPA native, I grew up romping through the woods and splashing in the creeks (read “cricks” . . . yes, we called them that, too!). There are so many amazing creatures and facets of nature to explore. How do you begin to choose what to write about next?
Annette: I remember I thought a creek was bigger than the “crick” in our backyard when I was a kid . . . I’m certain I was a teen when I learned they were the same! And, oh! Those small bodies of running water—no matter how you say it—are teaming with life!
I love when I’m between projects or assignments and get to dream about next topics. But often the deadlines prompt me to decide what to write next.
For The Truth About series, the books are so full of images that when Reycraft and I discussed possible animals to include after the first book Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls, we had to be selective. Though I love elephants and giraffes and think they’re beautiful, there just aren’t enough species to make the spreads in a book have enough variety. I really appreciate that Reycraft includes so many photographs, so I don’t mind having to choose other favorite animals to write about.
A year from now there will be five books in the series including
- Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls (2020)
- Woof! The Truth About Dogs (2021)
- Scurry! The Truth About Spiders (2021)
- Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs (2022)
- Meow! The Truth About Cats (2022)
Kristen: Besides writing, you also offer a wide variety of speaking presentations to both school children and adults. Any advice for how to balance these engagements with writing time?
Annette: This is such a great question, but someone else should probably be giving advice! I know I typically lose the day before an event to preparations and the day after to recovery. (I’m an introvert who loves people!) So, I plan accordingly. This past summer I knew I had two new workshops to prepare for a small conference. With that in mind, I gave myself nearly two weeks to prepare the details, slideshow, and several handouts. (I was also marketing my newest book Woof! and taking time to enjoy summer break with my kids.) It was worth it! The workshops felt like old friends by the time I presented. Though both topics were very familiar to me, I know I teach better when well prepared instead of “winging it.” I think the bottom line is to know yourself, your deadlines, and your events.
Kristen: I always hear that nonfiction authors need a platform. What has your experience been with this in publishing? What kind of platform did you have when you got your start?
Annette: One great thing about writing for the educational market (for schools and libraries) is that you don’t need a platform. However, you can use your writing experiences with the educational market to help you build a platform. I used my ed market experiences to build up a social media following and author newsletter/blog. Even though I didn’t have a ton of followers, it helped me to build good habits of connecting with others and providing meaningful content instead of just self-promotion. I’ve heard from a few editors they just want to know you have at least one way you can promote a new book. Others don’t care as long as it’s the right story.
So though my platform existed, it wasn’t large. It still isn’t. But I’m pleased with what I do and how I do it. (Feel free to follow me on IG and FB @AnnetteWhippleBooks and Twitter @AnnetteWhipple. I follow back when it’s clear that you write kidlit!)
Kristen: It looks like a storm is moving in, so let’s wrap up with a lightning round (before a round of actual lightning starts in).
Would you rather . . .
. . . have a tongue like a dog or a frog? A sticky frog tongue!
. . . teach a group of one-room-schoolhouse students about our lives today or teach today’s students about life in the 1800s? Uh. Um. Today’s students!
. . . fly Wright brothers style or have owl wings? Owl wings for sure!
. . . have eight spider legs or eight octopus tentacles? At risk of getting squashed . . . eight spider legs! (Did you know they can self-amputate and re-grow a leg? You will once you read my book!)
. . . read and write in a tree or by a “crick”? How about in a tree by a “crick”?!
Annette: This was such fun! Thanks so much for having me here on the blog and soon in our webinar focusing on the educational market! See you soon!
Kristen: Thank YOU for being here! I had a lovely time and I’m very much looking forward to this Monday’s webinar.
Readers, don’t forget to check out the details of our webinar “Skip the Slush: Work-for-Hire Writing Assignments with Annette Whipple” at https://epa.scbwi.org/events/webinar-skip-the-slush/. The webinar is Monday, September 20 at 7:00 pm Eastern time. The webinar recording will be sent to all registered participants, but live attendees will have the opportunity to take part in our live drawing for book giveaways! We hope to see you there!
Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder while exciting readers about science and history. She’s the author of ten fact-filled children’s books including The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press) and The Truth About series (Reycraft Books) including Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls and Scurry! The Truth About Spiders. Get to know Annette and explore her resources for writers at www.AnnetteWhipple.com.