Monday, May 9, 2011

PumpUp Your Books Author Spotlight: Nancy Stewart

The spotlight is on children's author Nancy Stewart. She is an award winning author who has written a timely book on saving the pelican during an oilspill. This book is a wonderful example for children on what can be done one child or adult at a time when a natural or man-made disaster hits home.

Here is an excerpt from the book titled One Pelican at a Time.




As days passed, the girls waited and watched while adults tried to fix the problem. That is, until they saw the old pelican leave his perch and plunge into a patch of sticky sea.


Britt gasped. “Will he come back up?”
“If he does, how can he live? Bella questioned.
But he did come to the surface, covered in heavy, tacky oil. He looked at them, and they looked at him. And the girls took action.
“Help! Help us help the pelican!” both girls screamed.
A young man who, on such a hot, summer day, would be renting colorful umbrellas to beachgoers, sat alone on the sand.
“What’s the trouble?” he shouted, running toward the girls.
“The old pelican! The old pelican! We have to save him!” Bella sobbed.
“Come on. No time to lose!” The young man sprinted down the beach to the clean-up crews.




1.           Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became a children's book author.
My childhood was a very happy one, and I know how fortunate I was.  Books were incredibly important, and reading, studying and doing good things with one’s life were gently expected.  After teaching elementary school awhile, I realized it was time to move on.  I attended graduate school in education at Washington University in St. Louis and began working as an educational consultant with a NYC firm.  I later did the same type of thing while living in London.  Upon returning to the US, I began teaching university where I taught, among other courses, Children’s and Young Adult Literature.  Those classes rekindled my love of picture books, something I thought I had long outgrown.  How wrong I was!  Finally, I came to a watershed, of sorts.  I found myself absorbed by both the literary and technical pieces of this book type.  So it was a natural thing to have a go at it. 

2. Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary, tell us about your publisher, and also how you got the idea for this book.
The book, One Pelican at a Time, is the story of two girls, Bella and Britt, who love living by the beach.  During an oil spill  they realize their old friend, the crooked beak pelican, is in grave danger. The girls, after having been told by adults that kids can do nothing to help, take matters into their own hands and try to save him from the oily gulf.  Pelican and the other two Bella and Britt books in the series, are published by Guardian Angel Publishers in St. Louis.  I first heard about the house in Florida from two different people.  They were saying such good things about it, so I decided to query them.  So glad I  did, because they took the whole series.  It is an amazing house to work for, and Lynda Burch, our publisher, is simply the best.  The other two books, Sea Turtle Summer and Bella and Britt Save the Beach were ready to go when the spill occurred.  Lynda and I both agreed a book had to be written, so I wrote it.  We saw the benefit in trying to be first with such a book.  I put myself on a schedule that I can’t believe even now, and we did it!  Very proud of that and of the book, of course, which has been six weeks on Amazon’s Bestseller List for Children.

3. What is a typical writing day like for you?
I’ve found dividing tasks into bundles of hours works best for me.  I start around 6 AM answering emails, etc. and then begin writing, either on the manuscript de jure, questions for interviews, guest blogging, to name a few.  After about three hours, I go straight into marketing the book.  It’s been my experience that if I have to make calls, I have more success around mid-day.  Later in the afternoon, I usually switch back to more writing and finish around 5 PM.  Have to admit, though, many evenings my computer is back on my lap!

4. What do you enjoy most about writing for children?
The use of words and the book’s rhythm are important to me.  I love fitting words into the jigsaw called a picture book.  Each word is equally important, whether it is a humble article or an energy driven verb.  I pay close attention to the rhythm of the words and, of course, to the page turn.  All crucial to making it work!

5. What is the most difficult part of writing for children?
Getting into the head of a child.  I try to keep that uppermost in my mind while writing.  We are so removed from our childhood days, so in some ways, we are writing on faith and intuition.  But the challenge of it is rewarding also.

6. Tell us about the marketing process for authors. What do you do to market and sell your books?
A myriad of things.  I contact newspapers, particularly coastal papers, regarding Pelican.  I do lots of guest blogging.  It’s important, if one is comfortable with it, to get into the schools and do a presentation and book signing, always remembering the presentation must be grade and curriculum appropriate.  I’ve been contacting museum stores recently and have had success.  Book signings in book stores are important as well.  And I try to get into larger venues, too.  For instance, in June I’ll be signing and reading Pelican at The Pier in St. Petersburg, Florida.  I market the book each day without fail.

7. Do you make school visits? If so, please describe a typical school presentation.
Yes, as I mentioned above, I find it important to do so.  After I’ve spoken with the teacher/s about their curricular needs, I do a tailor made power point featuring the book characters who give lots of green tips.  Since I usually speak to large groups of children, I am putting One Pelican at a Time onto power point slides so everyone can see the book as I read.  For younger children, we read the book, and the students will either make up a small story about one of the characters—usually Pelican, who seems to be everyone’s favorite!

8. What are you working on right now?
I am just finishing a biography of a young girl with a profound physical handicap who befriends a tailless dolphin in Florida.  It’s called, Katrina and Winter:  Partners in Courage.  Katrina grows from an introverted unhappy child into a powerhouse of activity and success.  She, at the tender age of eleven, is already speaking to large audiences about her life and about Winter’s, too.  It’s been an inspiration to write, and Katrina is an inspiration to me.

9. What is your best tip for aspiring children's book authors?
Read every children’s book available.  Take them (virtually) apart.  Study the rhythm and sequencing.  Figure out what makes the characters endearing or engaging to you.  In other words, learn your craft.  It’s an ongoing process, and I still do it!



About Nancy Stewart: 
After having been an elementary school teacher, a management consultant with New Options, Inc. in New York City and a university professor of education, Nancy Stewart now writes children’s books full time. She, her husband and three sons, lived in London for eight years, where she was a consultant to several universities, including Cambridge.

Nancy travels extensively throughout the world, most particularly Africa. She is the US chair of a charity in Lamu, Kenya, that places girls in intermediate schools to allow them to further their education.

Nancy is the author of One Pelican at a Time and two other Bella books: Bella Saves the Beach and Sea Turtle Summer. All three are published by Guardian Angel Publishers.

She and her family live in St. Louis and Clearwater Beach, Florida.

You can visit Nancy online at http://www.nancystewartbooks.com/ or at her blog http://www.nancystewartbooks.blogspot.com/

Join Nancy Stewart, author of the children’s picture book, One Pelican at a Time (Guardian Angel Publishing, January 2011)  as she virtually tours the blogosphere in April and May 2011 on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

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