Posted by: nancyisanders | January 22, 2008

Featured Book!

Featured book:
Charles Drew: Pioneer in Medicine
By Laura Purdie Salas
Capstone Press, 2006

Charles Drew was an African American physician who became famous for his research in blood transfusions. He developed new and improved methods of storing blood, applying his findings to develop blood banks in Britain and America during World War II. This informative and fact-filled book is part of the Fact Finders series for children–a great addition to your classroom or library!

Meet Author Laura Purdie Salas
Web site:

Bio: Laura Purdie Salas is the author of more than 40 books for children. Most of all, she loves to write poetry. Funny, serious, rhyming, free verse…she loves it all. Her first trade picture book poetry collection, STAMPEDE! POEMS TO CELEBRATE THE WILD SIDE OF SCHOOL, will be published by Clarion Books. She has 10 other poetry collections coming out from Capstone Press in 2008, along with a Write Your Own Poetry book coming out from Compass Point. Laura writes nonfiction on a variety of topics and for a wide range of ages. She is teaching an online class on nonfiction writing for the educational market in January 2008 (it’s full, but may be offered again in the future) and plans to teach online story and poetry courses, as well.

In the past, Laura has worked as an 8th-grade teacher and an instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature. She enjoys speaking to adults, kids, and teachers about all kinds of writing.

Most of the time, she’s either reading or writing. If she’s not, she’s probably playing board games or karaoke with her two daughters, Maddie and Annabelle, or losing a game of racquetball to her husband, Randy. Laura’s a Florida native who hates hot weather. She and her family live in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Featured book:
Charles Drew: Pioneer in Medicine
Q: Describe a highlight for you personally while you were writing this book.
A: I’m thinking of two things offhand. (Is that cheating?)

One highlight was learning about how bloodmobiles came to be. I’ve donated blood in them, but I never knew anything about their background. For me, they were just a matter of convenience. Learning about their development during WWII and how crucial they were to saving lives was fascinating.

A second highlight had to do with proving a story wrong. In my research, I found several sources that repeated a story that Drew died because, after his car accident, white doctors refused to treat him when he needed a blood transfusion. That was painful to think, and I
was relieved when further research from more reputable sources showed that Drew did indeed receive good care and a blood transfusion. But his blood loss was too severe.

That made me think about how the ironic and buzz-worthy stories are the ones to be repeated. Today, those stories are the ones that would go viral on YouTube (and I’m guilty of being a fan of ironic and twisted stories, too–as long as they’re true). But the really important stories, the ones of people acting with dignity and compassion, don’t often get spread around. We (and I) need to be sure to both seek those stories out and also share them with other people.

Q: Describe part of the research process it took to write this.
A: I had never even heard of Charles Drew when I got this assignment. I did a lot of my research through credible adult biographies of him as well as research through PBS’ website feature on blood. I ended up doing lots of other side research on things like the Red Cross, Howard University, and the Blood for Britain program. Those side forays were mostly to confirm facts or find more details. But because this is a short book (main text is about 1,500 words) written on a tight deadline, I pulled most of the main facts from a couple of biographies of him.

Q: As a child, what were your favorite books to read?
A: Oh my gosh. I have the world’s worst memory. I read everything! Books
were the world I lived in. My website has a couple of pix of me reading as a kid. I hardly have any childhood pix of me, and several are of me reading!

Here are just a few:
I loved all the Agatha Christie books (Children could be killers? What an idea! I loved her Marple books more than her Poirot ones)
Flowers for Algernon (which my mom tried to hide from me)
Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time (now I love virtually all of her books, but I didn’t know most of them as a kid)
Horror stories by Edgar Allan Poe
Works by Nathaniel Hawthorne
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott (and all the sequels)
The Hobbit (and the first couple of books of Lord of the Rings)
Little House books
Judy Blume books
I remember I repeatedly read Sunshine (by Norma Klein), a fairly maudlin book of a young mom dying of cancer.
I loved a series of books for young kids about a pair of twins, brother and sister, who lived in all different times and places…caveman times, ancient Egypt, etc. I’d love to find out what those were and see how they hold up to time!

I read constantly, and I can’t remember 99.9% of what I read. But every book I read helped form me.

Q. Share one tip you would like to give to a children’s author of nonfiction books.
A: It’s great to write about subjects you’re passionate about. Do it if you can! But if you can’t, if you write on assignment, as I usually do, be open. I have discovered some things I’m passionate about that I never would have known about if I hadn’t been contracted to write about them.


  1. Laura,how wonderful to know there are others out there like me. I read but forget most of it, I watch movies and can’t remember them a few months later. If you can remember enough to write forty books, there is hope for me!!

    Gloria McQueen Stockstill

  2. I just LOVE this quote:

    I read constantly, and I can’t remember 99.9% of what I read. But every book I read helped form me.

    How true, and it takes away the guilt about forgetting…

    Great interview, folks!!!

  3. Oh, Gloria, if you only knew. My memory is so bad that I’ve asked my doctor about it. When I had to do revisions on another bio a *year* or two after writing the book, I was frantic, because I had forgotten more than I ever knew about that subject.

    I will say that’s one thing I like about the educational market. The projects are quick, so there’s not much problem with the memory stuff.


  4. My mind has a deep freezer and lots of stuff gets piled in there, whether I want it to or not. But then I remember the oddest, most trivial things, over and over! Maybe you should write a book on memory, Laura. “Why do we Forget?” or something like that…

    Great interview. I marvel at all that Laura accomplishes. Loved learning about Charles Drew, too.

  5. Thanks, Liz and Sara.

    You know, I remember stupid stuff that I could look up, like my family’s social security numbers and medical insurance numbers and all that stuff. It’s so frustrating that books and other life necessities drain right through my head like it’s a sieve.

    Sara, maybe we need a book on memory just for writers!

  6. Yes, ladies, it’s nice to know we’re not alone! Twice this week I heard different people say, “I don’t have ALLzheimer’s, I have SOMEheimer’s.”

    Laura, I know you’re super busy right now working on nonfiction deadlines and teaching online classes on how to get published in the educational market. How do you balance all that info so that you keep your facts straight, especially when writing such research intensive books as this one about Charles Drew?

  7. Nancy, I don’t trust my memory for *any*thing. I take all my notes into Word documents, so I have lists of facts for each project (and I email myself a backup copy every day I work on something). My brain naturally compartmentalizes, I think.

    But for me, what makes it easier is the fact that I work on not just different projects, but different types of projects. For instance, right now, I’m juggling the science songs, a novel revision, and a trade poetry collection. Totally different types of writing muscles for each one, so I find it pretty easy to slip back and forth between them.

    But, on the science songs, for example, where I’m doing 4 different songs, I found myself today saying, “Oh, this rhyme pair would work well here…Wait a minute, did I use that rhyme pair in the one I worked on yesterday?” And then I’d have to open the file and check!

  8. I forgot to say…I find it much easier with shorter projects. I admire your writing for older kids with more in-depth books. I couldn’t juggle nearly as many different things if I were immersed in more intense projects like that!

  9. Nice interview! Laura, I like your story on how you were so happy to prove a story wrong. Thank goodness!

  10. Thanks, Vivian!

    And I never know the protocol…Should I call you HipWriterMama or Vivian? Half the time, it’s a moot point because I usually can’t remember people’s names if they’re different from their usernames!

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