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by Lydia Lukidis

I fell in love with writing at the age of six. I scribbled poems and stories everywhere I could. But when it came time to choose a field to pursue my studies in, I opted for practicality and studied Pure and Applied Science.

It was hard work and I earned my degree. YAY!

But then, OH NO! The sinking feeling in my heart was undeniable. I realized I didn’t want a career in science.

So it was back to the drawing board. Since writing was always my first love, I decided to study English Literature at McGill University. Cut to a few decades later, I’m a published children’s author and found a way to incorporate my science background into my writing. I finally had the opportunity to use my science degree in a fun way.

It came about unexpectedly, when I began to write for the educational market several years ago. I didn’t know I would love it until I tried it. Now I have over 40 educational books and eBooks under my belt, including two really exciting contracts I landed with Kane Publishing for their Science Solves It! series. I’m happy to announce both books are now officially released: A REAL LIVE PET! and THE SPACE ROCK MYSTERY.

  

You may be wondering if the educational market is right for you. Here’s a list of common questions:

  • Can I submit my own work to educational publishers?
    There may be exceptions, but most educational publishers offer work-for-hire (WFH) contracts. They develop their concepts and specific guidelines in-house. Then they hire freelance authors who will create an outline and write the book under the guidance of an editor.
  • Will I get an advance and royalties?
    In general, most educational publishers don’t offer an advance or royalties. Rather, they pay a one-time flat fee and retain all rights to the work. In some cases, you may not even get credit. On the plus side, WFH contracts typically pay fast, and the turn-around is quicker.
  • Can WFH contracts help open doors to trade publishing?
    Landing WFH contracts can help you break into the market and gain experience working with editors and publishers. It’s also an opportunity to develop your writing skills and gain writing credits. This may help you on your path to traditional publishing, but there’s no guarantee as the two markets are separate.
  • Do I need an agent for the educational market?
    Nope! You can apply and negotiate your contracts on your own. The contracts are typically fairly straight forward. Another bonus is that it’s slightly easier to break into this market in comparison to commercial publishing.
  • How can I get started?
    Start compiling a list of educational publishers that work with the age brackets you’re interested in. In the SCBWI book, there are many great listings. Check the guidelines for each publisher and send them a cover letter detailing your experience and qualifications, along with your CV and some writing samples.

But as all writers know, you’ll need plenty of patience and perseverance. I remember my first attempt several years ago. I painstakingly crafted my cover letter and beefed up my CV as much as I could. I sent off 100 cover letters but didn’t get a single reply. Not even one! I experienced a moment of despair but decided to keep going. A year later, my body of work had grown and my writing samples improved. I sent off another batch of cover letters to the same publishers and lo and behold, I got my first break! From there, it snowballed.

While the educational market is not for everyone, it works well for authors who have a passion for writing nonfiction and want to supplement their income. For those interested in giving it a shot, I wish you luck on your journey! If you have any other specific questions, feel free to post them in the comments below.

Plus, leave a comment to enter to win a copy of A REAL LIVE PET!

A winner will be selected in a few weeks.

Good luck! 


Lydia Lukidis is a children’s author with over forty books and eBooks published, along with numerous short stories, poems and plays. Her background is multi-disciplinary and spans the fields of literature, science and puppetry. Lydia writes fiction and nonfiction for children from K-6, and enjoys working with educational publishers such as Kane Publishing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Red Line Editorial. She is also passionate about spreading the love of literacy and has been facilitating writing workshops for children since 1999. Visit Lydia at lydialukidis.com or connect with her on Twitter @LydiaLukidis.

Today I invited author Laurie Wallmark to pontificate on a female computer science pioneer…and to introduce her new picture book biography, GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE, illustrated by Katy Wu.

Laurie and I first met ten years ago (!!!) when I joined her critique group. Who could imagine that a decade later, we would be celebrating each other’s books?

Laurie, this is your second PB biography about an important female computer scientist (the first being award-winning ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE). What drew you to your subjects?

People say, “write what you know,” but I disagree. If you’re not familiar with a topic or an idea, you can always research it. I’d rather say, “write what you’re passionate about.” After all, you and your story will be together for a very long time. From your initial idea to that first draft, from innumerable revisions to a published book, you will read your story over and over and over again. If you’re not passionate about the topic, this will turn from a joy to an agony.

I’m passionate about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Two of my four (so far!) careers have been in computer science, one as a programmer and the other as a professor. Therefore, it seemed logical that I write my first two picture book biographies about people who contributed so much to the field.

My other passion is wanting to make sure that all children—regardless of sex, race, religion, physical or mental challenges, etc.—realize that it’s possible for anyone to have a love for, and possibly a career in, STEM. Picture book biographies of strong women STEM show girls that they too can succeed in a traditionally male-dominated field.

What about Grace Hopper’s story inspired you to write it?

It bothered me that someone who was so instrumental in shaping today’s world of computers had been entirely overlooked in the children’s trade-book market. Grace is the person who made it possible for anyone (including kids) to be able to program a computer, not just engineers and mathematicians. By sharing her love and knowledge of computers and programming, she encouraged others to consider a career in software engineering.

Shouldn’t our children know about the accomplishments of someone who was so important to the birth of our modern technological society? Yes, there are a few school/library titles about her, but these are not books a child would pick up and read. They’re dry recitations of the events of Grace’s life. In addition, they contain factual inaccuracies.

Without Grace’s idea to use English words to program computers, probably fewer people would have chosen programming as a career. Without enough programmers, there would be fewer programs and apps written. Without programs and apps, our computers and phones would not be much less powerful.

So that’s why I wrote this book—to introduce children to one of the most important computer scientists who ever lived.

You write both fiction and biographies. Which do you prefer? (Am I pulling a Sophie’s Choice on you?)

I can’t believe you’re asking me to choose between my beloved children. And what about my third child, poetry? Luckily, as a writer, I don’t have to choose. In fact, my master’s thesis combined all three—fiction, biography, and verse. I wrote a novel in verse based on the life of Ada Byron Lovelace.

If I did have to choose, the answer would have to depend on my current project. I’m working on a biography of a woman mathematician right now, so biography is the favored child. Not to worry, fiction and poetry, you’ll soon have the chance to be number one in my heart.

What interesting facts about Grace Hopper did not make it into the book?

Because of the limited word count, one of the many challenges in writing a picture book biography is deciding what to include and what to leave out. For example, my book has a scene of Grace constructing a doll house. What’s not included in the book is she decorated that dollhouse by making her own tiny furniture, curtains, and rugs. She also sewed clothes for her dolls taking up residence.

Another incident, also from childhood, is when Grace’s canoe capsized. After her mother shouted for her to remember her great-grandfather, the admiral, Grace didn’t abandon ship. Instead she kicked her way back to the shore, dragging the canoe behind her.

These stories emphasize Grace’s self reliance and can-do attitude. But so do some of the stories that did make it into the book, so these two weren’t needed. Stories like how Grace convinced the Navy to let her enlist even though she was too old and too skinny. Or how she convinced her colleagues and the world how important it was for computer languages to use words instead of only numbers.

Laurie, thank you for decoding Grace Hopper’s life and presenting the world with another picture book biography about an important female computer scientist. Congratulations on all your work and success!

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark’s debut picture book, ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE (Creston Books, 2015), received four starred trade reviews (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal) and several national awards, including Outstanding Science Trade Book and the Eureka Award. It is a Cook Prize Honor Book. Her recently released picture book biography, GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE (Sterling Children’s Books, 2017), earned a Kirkus star and was well-reviewed in several trade journals. Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. When not writing, she teaches computer science at Raritan Valley Community College.

Click here to join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her picture book biography about Grace Hopper.

Sterling Children’s Books is giving away a copy of GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE. Please leave one comment below to enter. A winner will be randomly selected in about two weeks.

Good luck!

7ate9
Winner of the 2018 Irma S. Black Award and the SCBWI Crystal Kite!
black kite

As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Early 2019

YOUR FIRST DAY OF (CIRCUS) SCHOOL
illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
Summer 2019

THE UPPER CASE:
TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY
illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
Fall 2019

FOUR WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2020

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