Tag Archives: nonfiction

Breezy Battles and Baseball Bloopers, Plus a HUGE Giveaway!

I left you (and Sly Stallone) hanging yesterday, but now I’m back to give you exactly what I promised and more!Cliffhanger 2

Yesterday, GOOGLE IT! author Anna Crowley Redding gamely answered questions about her past work as an investigative television reporter.  I saved an extra-special, best-for-last anecdote for today’s post.

Anna, what is your funniest memory from when you were on TV?

There are a lot, but one comes to mind. I was asked to throw the first pitch out for Charlotte, NC’s minor league team. I did not grow up playing sports, so I was secretly VERY nervous about this whole proposition. I practiced and practiced and practiced. I really just wanted the ball to make it to the plate.Anna Baseball 1

I get to the ballpark, they call my name, and I head out there to get ready. But I was in big trouble immediately. What I did not prepare for… was the catcher. He was so handsome! I mean, he looked like he had just walked off a soap opera set . . . and he smiled at me just as I started to throw the ball. Anna Baseball 2I don’t even know where the ball went, but certainly nowhere near the plate. To say it was embarrassing is an understatement.

Even worse, I had to anchor the news the next morning for three hours. My co-anchor had video of the whole thing and played it over and over again, and every time, I turned from serious journalist into this puddle of giggles. Oh, Lawdy! That was a doozie.

As we wrap up this interview, Anna, I have to ask you the question that’s on everyone’s mind. What is the weirdest, wackiest, most way-out topic you’ve ever…Googled?

Most of my random Google searches come from my boys (ages 6 and 9), and it goes like this “Hey, Google! Tornado vs. Hurricane. What happens?” And luckily, we always get a solid answer!

 

That’s one big-time battle of the breezes!

Anna’s Google search highlight is way more exciting than mine, but I happen to know that if you Google “Squirrel Expert,” Squirrel gradyou’ll find one. I did!

Many thanks, Anna, and congratulations on your debut book, GOOGLE IT! IMG_8310

GIVEAWAY ALERT! To celebrate the launch of Google It: A History of Google,  Teachers and Librarians have a chance to win a classroom set of 25 copies! The lucky winner will also receive a classroom set of Google It! bookmarks plus a free Skype visit. A winner will be picked on September 4, 2018. Click here to enter.

 


About Hayley BarrettHayley's Author Photo-2 MB-JPEG

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in fall 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka. GIRL VS. SQUIRREL, a funny STEM-based picture book illustrated by Renée Andriani, is coming from Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House in spring 2020. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Interviews, Launch, middle grade, nonfiction, Uncategorized

Don’t Know Who Anna Crowley Redding is? GOOGLE IT!

She’s smart. She’s curious. She’s dig-down-deep determined to get her story. Meet today’s dazzling debut, the one and only Anna Crowley Redding!Google It!

Anna, I’m excited your first book—GOOGLE IT! A History of Google—is on bookshelves at last. Young readers will love learning about how Google—the idea, the software, the company, the verb, the proprietary eponym—began and how it became what it is today.

How did you decide to write this book?

Holly West, my brilliant editor at MacMillan’s Feiwel & Friends, first approached my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette. Then Holly called me to talk about her idea… a book about Google! I jumped at the chance! It’s a fascinating company and the people and very human experience behind the company is compelling, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant.

Before you began writing for children, you were a real-life investigative reporter, and I have a picture to prove it!AnnaCR 1

How did you decide to become a journalist?

Becoming a journalist was a path I began walking as a child. I have always loved writing, loved to find stuff out (and tell everybody)! I also have a deep sense of justice and advocacy, a respect for the truth and for fighting for people. That’s a fundamental part of journalism, caring about people and telling their stories in a way that gets others to connect with them.

What education and training did you need to start off in television reporting? 

I earned my journalism degree from Northeastern, and they require students to work in their chosen field as part of the curriculum.

I remember walking into New England Cable News (NECN) for the first time. News was breaking. There was a mad rush to the set, and people were barking information and directions. It was chaos, but it was a special chaos. It made sense to me. Then came the countdown, and on cue, massive professionalism and topnotch storytelling. I knew had to do this work.

Back in the olden days, we had radio, newspapers, and scheduled television news programs. That’s it. Today’s journalists-to-be can’t imagine our limited access to information. We couldn’t Google anything!

What’s exciting for young journalists today, those just learning their craft, is the opportunity to start reporting right now using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc.

Can you tell us about what the work was like? What did you enjoy? What was difficult?

There was a lot that I loved. The camaraderie of the entire team, the thrilling pace, those instances where storytelling or digging into an investigation really changed someone’s life were deeply satisfying. And newsrooms are rife with humor. It’s how we got through the raw, emotional intensity of the work. I loved the head-thrown-back belly laughing.

But the schedule is punishing. When you first get in to the news business, the intensity is super fun. Eventually, it can be tiring. The news cycle is insane, and I feel for reporters who sacrifice themselves (time with family, sleep, vacations, you name it) to cover it all. And then to face massive admonition? It’s tough. Balance is not a word often used in newsrooms.

How does your experience with journalism inform your new job? 

Writing nonfiction books is an extension of journalism in a longer format. The years of working on deadline, digging for details and facts, reaching out to people for information or interviews, and finally organizing everything into a cohesive story, all of it helps.

I’m fascinated, but we should get back to GOOGLE IT! *inserts giant picture*IMG_8310

What was it like to retell Google’s history in a kid-friendly, kid-interesting way?

Our middle schoolers and teens are so smart. I tried to approach the subject in a way that really honored that. For me, that meant having fun with it while also being cognizant of making sure I explained terms specific to business or technology.

One of the most important and interesting things I learned from researching Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page is how to take life’s problems, any problems, and look at them as a puzzle that needs to be solved and can solved.

A message we all need to hear and sure to resonate with many readers. Thanks for letting me pepper you with questions, Anna. I have just one more:

What is the weirdest, most random topic you’ve ever Googled, Anna?

Cliffhanger 2

(Cliffhanger! Tune in to Emu’s Debuts tomorrow for Anna Crowley Redding’s answer to this all-important question. There will also be a funny story involving Anna and a baseball.)

 

GIVEAWAY ALERT! To celebrate the launch of Google It: A History of Google,  Teachers and Librarians have a chance to win a classroom set of 25 copies! The lucky winner will also receive a classroom set of Google It! bookmarks plus a free Skype visit. A winner will be picked on September 4, 2018. Click here to enter.

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Hayley's Author Photo-2 MB-JPEGAbout Hayley Barrett

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka. GIRL VS. SQUIRREL, a funny STEM-based picture book illustrated by Renée Andriani, is coming from Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House in spring 2020. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Filed under Book Launch, Interviews, nonfiction, Uncategorized

My 3-day Blind Date with my Editor

“A writer’s relationship with an editor is a sacred one.”

True words spoken by Kadir Nelson at the Texas Book Festival, 2011

My debut book, WE’VE GOT A JOB: THE 1963 BIRMINGHAM CHILDREN’S MARCH, was fortunate enough to attract interest from three publishers. Naively, I assumed I’d choose the highest bidder. Wisely, my agent suggested I talk to the acquiring editor at each house to get a sense of how we’d relate to each other during the revision process. Oh, I suddenly realized, editing JOB won’t be just a mechanical process of deleting commas and making verbs and subjects agree. We’d communicate about the substance of the book, share ideas, maybe disagree, negotiate. Yeah, I’d need to get along with that person.

Ultimately, I chose not only by bid but also by person. The others were very hard to turn down but when Kathy at Peachtree Publishers told me she’d been looking for a writer to tell the story I was proposing, I knew she was as committed to it as I was. But, could we commit to each other? I would learn soon, as Kathy’s bid included a trip to Atlanta, where Peachtree lives, and then a two-day research trip to Birmingham—together.

I was honored by Kathy’s support for the book. But, I also felt like the boy in the Dr. Seuss story who meets up with the green pants in the woods. Was she as scared of meeting me as I was of her?

You don’t have to break the ice with your editor the way we did. But, getting to know each other over a bottle of wine on my son-in-law’s parents’ back porch sure helped. We hugged at the door. We learned that Kathy’s husband collects cartoons. Their five-year-old son adores zombies. This sounds like a real person!

At Peachtree the next day, I met everyone, including the publisher, the receptionist, the artists, the publicists and marketers, the woman who packs the boxes of books shipped from the warehouse, and both cats. And, the doughnuts were yummy. Kathy and I also started on our substantive work.

One of the four people who marched in Birmingham  when he was a teenager now lives in Atlanta. Although I had talked with James by phone many times, we had never met. He agreed to come to Peachtree and to bring artifacts of his involvement in the civil rights movement.

“I love that you still have the flag,” Kathy told James. I looked closer at the framed memorabilia he brought. Yes, there was a small American flag. James explained that he was given that flag at a mass meeting the evening he learned that the courts declared that marchers, who had defied city laws and been jailed and then expelled from school, would be allowed to return to school. What a lovely and important story her comment elicited! (And, you might notice Dr. King in the center of the photograph–with James’s uncle.)

That afternoon, the two of us went to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site for a moving program on the life of the man who inspired and led the events I was writing about. Then, we drove the three hours to Birmingham. Even though I was, again, nervous about how we’d pass the time, talking about Dr. King, other civil rights leaders, the other three marchers, the story we wanted to tell, even recollections of growing up all solidified our relationship.

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Today

Washington Booker III by his sign, 2010

Over the next two days, Kathy and I spent A LOT of time together. Dinner at a French bistro I had found on my two previous research trips to Birmingham. Breakfast at the hotel the next morning. A tour of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, which was the headquarters of the movement in May of ’63. An extensive walk along the Birmingham Civil Rights Trail, where I found a placard with a quotation from one of the other marchers, with whom we had dinner that night, along with his wife. An interview with another marcher. More interviews the next day, a tour of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and conversations with the archivist.

After assuring each interviewee that her or his story would be respected,Kathy’s comments, questions, and observations were insightful and elicited revealing responses.

  • She asked Arnetta, who is light-skinned if she had ever thought about “passing” as a white. “No,” Arnetta answered. “You are proud of what you are. You are made by God.”

    Arnetta Streeter Gary, 2010

  • “What did you do while you were in jail?” she asked Wash. “We raised hell!” he said.
  • She asked the sister of a deceased marcher about their parents. And we learned that they had realized only recently that their parents had courageously sued the city to be able to use the public parks.

In the end, Kathy pointed out “how exhausting” it must have been for Birmingham to sustain its severe degree of segregation.

At the end of that long day: another three-hour drive back to Atlanta where I expected to thank her effusively and collapse at a friend’s house.

Except, my friends suddenly had to leave town. So, I spent the night in the guest room at Kathy’s house where I got to see her husband’s cartoon collection and their son’s zombie collection.

By that time, either we’d wonder how on earth we’d be able to spend the next 15 months working together or we couldn’t wait. You can figure out which.

Newbery-Prize-winner Rebecca Stead said in her talk at the Texas Book Festival that a relationship with an editor entails “trusting and coping.” Because I knew I could trust Kathy, I was able to cope when she pushed me on several issues, such as the potential demise of Dr. King’s leadership of the civil rights movement. Her questions led me to investigate further, to retrench a bit, and to verify. Because I hope that she learned she could trust me, I also pushed back in at least one instance–the inclusion of Wash’s Sunday school experiences in a chapter on mass meetings. We both trusted; we both coped.

Our field trip to Atlanta and Birmingham and back again was intense, revealing, and reassuring. I had made not only the right decision but also a friend, a colleague, and a mentor.

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Filed under Colleagues, Editing and Revising, Publishers and Editors, Research, Writing and Life