Saturday, August 4, 2012

Candace Fleming—Keep ‘Em Turning the Page: Writing Compelling Nonfiction for Kids

Candace Fleming is the author of more than 25 books for children, including Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!, The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary, and Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

Candace’s breakout session was a full house, but when I walked in, she was chatting with some of the attendees before she started. She also took the time to introduce herself to people individually, asking what they were working on.

Candace started by talking about her process. There is no right way to create your story. Although this was a non-fiction talk, she loves her fiction as well.

For her, writing a biography is a process, requiring years of research. Candace has to feel the book’s absence if she doesn’t write it—that’s the only time she takes on a project. It has to speak to her. Everything has to come from her own place.

Writing is like making a cake. As a fiction writer, she can go to the store and buy anything she wants to make a delicious cake to gobble up. In non-fiction, she has to send someone else to the store, and they pick what THEY want—like spinach and chili peppers and hot chocolate. But she still has to use the same skills to create another delicious cake. She can’t make anything up.

Non-fiction writers are storytellers. And the purpose is to entertain, inform, and enlighten.

Candace did share a few tips for her non-fiction cake:

* Know your reader. Specifically.
* The idea is vital. It’s not just the topic—it’s the vital demand of how the story connects to our human condition. After you discover, you post the meaning.

Candace begins her research by reading everything she can on the subject, except for the things that are too new. She’s trying to find her own opinion. Reading a biography, you learn as much about the biographer that you do about the subject. From there she branches out. 

But research is an organic process, different for each writer.  

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