Hi all. It is an honor and pleasure to join you on Kirby’s blog.
Writing non-fiction is always fun when you love to do research and learn fascinating new things. The work comes in finding a voice that focuses details and communicates an emotional investment in the topic. How do writers go from knowing what they want to say to finding the best way to say it?
Sometimes a tough topic requires a new approach. I always wanted to write about dinosaurs but could never quite find a voice that wasn’t full of big words like therizinosaurus and leaellynasaura, and technical issues like shifting landmasses, Triassic versus Jurassic and which way the pubus was pointing. Still, every time I revisited dinosaurs, it clarified some new area of their complicated millions of years of survival. And pronunciation guides helped me with the long names that first graders seem to roll off their tongues without hesitation.
Finally I started a flow of words that eventually became my latest book, The Greatest Dinosaur Ever, illustrated by Gennady Spirin. My goal was to keep it simple- what made one classification of dinosaur different from the next and what was it about that uniqueness that made them incredible survivors? This one had the biggest teeth or the best armor, that one was a protective parent sitting on its eggs, that one lived at the bottom of the world and could hunt in the dark, etc.
The first draft was written (with revisions, of course) in third person. My editor liked it and after a discussion I rewrote it in first person. What fun! Now I had twelve dinosaurs speaking for themselves and this really upped the bragging possibilities.
“I was the greatest,” every dinosaur roars, each thinking it owns this title. Was it the tallest, the longest, the strongest, the smartest, the weirdest, the fastest, or the smallest (with feathers on both its arms and legs)? Or was it the oldest bird, the best parent, the one with the best night vision, the best armor, or the longest tail spikes? Who WAS the greatest of all? It is up to the reader to debate and perhaps look beyond the book for an answer. Every year many new dinosaurs are discovered, and they are all incredible, including the ones with feathers with colors that can be determined.
This first person voice is simple and fun and I have since written more books using this approach. One focuses on feathered dinosaurs and others let sea creatures, deadly creatures, and even a waterfall do some talking.
Is a book with bragging extinct creatures still considered non-fiction? It is. The pages are full of factual information, beautiful realistic illustrations and the book is shelved with a non-fiction number. To me any writing, fiction or non-fiction, needs a great deal of flexibility. It is always a refreshing moment to experiment with new ways to communicate content and point-of-view.
Brenda, thank you for caring so much about sharing information with kids that you'll try something new and different -- like channeling your inner T-Rex.