Posted by: nancyisanders | June 6, 2019

Author Interview: Peggy Thomas

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Meet Author Peggy Thomas!
Website: Peggy Thomas Writes
Blog: Anatomy of Nonfiction
Email: PegTWrite@gmail.com

Bio:
Peggy Thomas is the author of 25 award-winning books for children and young adults, and co-author of Anatomy of Nonfiction, a guide to writing true stories for children. Her newest book is George Washington Carver for Kids. Check out her website for more information.

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Featured Book
George Washington Carver for Kids
by Peggy Thomas
Chicago Review Press, 2019

George Washington Carver was a scientist, educator, artist, inventor, and humanitarian. Born into slavery during the Civil War, he later pursued an education and would become the first black graduate from Iowa Agricultural College. Carver then took a teaching position at the Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington. There, Carver taught poor Southern farmers how to nourish the soil, conserve resources, and feed their families. He also developed hundreds of new products from the sweet potato, peanut, and other crops, and his discoveries gained him a place in the national spotlight.

George Washington Carver for Kids tells the inspiring story of this remarkable American. It includes a time line, resources for further research, and 21 hands-on activities to help better appreciate Carver’s genius. Kids will: •Turn a gourd into a decorative bowl• Construct a model of a sod house• Brew ginger tea• Create paints using items found in nature• Grow sweet potatoes• Build a compost bin for kitchen and yard waste• Learn how to pickle watermelon rinds• And more!

INTERVIEW:
Q: What drew you to George Washington Carver?

A: Honestly? Market research. I received a great tip from one of my favorite authors (Nancy) that Chicago Review Press For Kids series liked to cover the basics, even if there were dozens of other books on the topic. I’ve always admired the series, so I analyzed their list, and discovered that they did not have a book on Carver who is commonly featured in teachers’ units on inventors, agriculture, and for Black History Month.

Q: What was your research process like?

A: I began on the couch surfing the net, making lists of books I needed to read and places I wanted to visit. In Diamond, Missouri, on the site where Carver was born, is the GWC National Monument. I walked the woods he played in as a boy, and visited the one-room schoolhouse he attended. The park ranger Curtis Gregory pulled out interview transcripts of people who remembered Carver, and guided me to the most reliable sources.

My next stop was Tuskegee University Archives where I held a slice of the Carver meteorite, and saw what remained of Carver’s research notebooks after his lab burned down. Dana Chandler, the archivist, helped me keep Carver in the proper perspective. Carver was a product of his time, but after his death, he was portrayed as a scientific genius. Hopefully readers will find a balanced portrayal and learn a few new things about him.

Q: How is writing mid-grade different from writing picture books?

A: I forgot how much I missed writing mid-grade and YA nonfiction. My 48-page nonfiction picture books typically have 3000-4000 words. George Washington Carver for Kids has ten times that amount. It felt luxurious. I could explore tangents, flesh out characters, and even speculate. My favorite part in the book is a sidebar called “Rock City — Did he or Didn’t He?” I had found out that Carver, a serious rock-hound, once lived 3 miles from an amazing geological site called Rock City. In the middle of a flat prairie sit these massive spheres that look like giants just abandoned a game of marbles. There is no evidence that he visited Rock City, but as I say in the book, surely one of his many friends must have mentioned it. And how could he have resisted? I didn’t know if the editors would like it or not, but they did. I think it’s fun to do things like that, to peak a child’s sense of wonder.

Q: Is there a word of advice you’d like to share with other writers?

A: Find your tribe. When I was starting out, I was spoiled to be in a critique group with my mother, an accomplished author, and several of her amazing writer friends. I soaked up every word they uttered. After my mother died, I floundered on my own. I missed having that knowledgeable sounding board to bounce ideas off, learn from, and gripe to. Now, I feel twice blessed to have found another stellar group of writers (the Nonfiction Ninjas) who continue to help me grow. It’s hard to do this job alone. Find a critique group that works for you. There is strength in numbers.


Responses

  1. Interesting interview! Thank you, Peggy and Nancy, for sharing. Congrats, Peggy, on your book!

  2. I enjoyed hearing the back story for WASHINGTON CARVER. Thanks, Peggy and Nancy for an interesting interview and good luck with the new book!

  3. What a great interview Peggy and Nancy. I loved the info on your research and I totally agree – finding your tribe makes all the difference.

  4. Love this interview. Yay, Peggy! And, I love my NF Ninja tribe.


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