I am thrilled to share an interview with nonfiction children’s author Heather L. Montgomery. As a science teacher for elementary students, I can personally attest to the power of her storytelling and the ability of her words to ignite curiosity in the natural world. Her books are truly a wonderful resource for the classroom or home.
Likewise, if you are looking for an incredible author visit, I highly recommend Heather. Even though her recent visit with my first grade class was virtual, the kids were still jumping out of their seats to ask her questions. Heather was full of animated, fascinating stories that gripped the attention of my students. They were so bummed when we had to end the call. In fact, the majority of questions from this interview were written by my students. They could’ve talked to her all day! I know many of them are adding her books to their holiday wishlists 🙂
How did you get interested in science?
I’ve always been interested in science, but when I was young I did know it. It took me a long time to make the connection between my interest in animals and the school subject called “science.“ in seventh grade I had a passionate science teacher who help me realize science was simply an opportunity to channel my curiosity into something productive.
Do children inspire you to write books?
Yes! When I teach students during an author visit, I’m thinking about what excites learners, and that helps me figure out new ways to write.
Do you go outside every day and learn new things?
I try to. My dog Piper and I take a walk every morning that offers a chance to observe nature and think about how everything is connected. I often come back from ours walks with more questions than answers, and that’s a good thing! Those questions lead me to dig deeper, read more, interview experts, and make discoveries!
How long have you been writing?
I started writing with the intent to publish books in 2005. My first book was published in 2009. Since then, I’ve published 16.
What is the weirdest thing you learned in nature?
It’s impossible to narrow it down to one thing, but here’s one that’s pretty fascinating: one day, I watched a caterpillar create poop that was intricately sculpted — as beautiful as a piece of art!
How did you get to dissect a rattlesnake?
One day, I saw a rattlesnake that had been hit by a car. How, I wondered, did the snake close it’s mouth without biting itself? Fangs are long! I had read an answer, but I still didn’t get it. So I picked up that snake and opened its mouth. (Note, this is not something you should do. I am trained in handling snakes safely.) That question led to another question and another question and another question. . . before I knew it — snip, snip, snip — I was dissecting a rattlesnake in my driveway!
How did you find an agent to champion your work?
Throughout my writing journey, have been actively involved in SCBWI as a member, attendee, and — most importantly — volunteer. My volunteer roles have put me in positions where I was interacting with the faculty who are often editors and agents. I wasn’t actively seeking representation, but at a conference committee meal, I was sharing a story about my WIP with another volunteer. An agent, the esteemed Rubin Pfeffer, leaned over the table and said, “Heather, could I take a look at that project?“ Two days later, he had sent me an offer of representation. In this industry, it is vital to prepare yourself and put yourself in a position for opportunity to happen.
Where and when do you write best?
Ideally, I sit in a tree and dump ideas down in a journal — that unencumbered pre-writing builds my confidence in the idea and lets me experiment with words, phrases, and concepts. The next stage often comes as I walk with a friend. Telling them the story helps me work out the best sequence for those words, phrases, concepts. Then I settle down in front of the screen and grind out a draft– that’s the toughest stage for me, but until I’ve got a draft, the real writing magic (revision) can’t begin.
What advice do you have for writers looking to find an agent?
Get out and get involved. Even in this time of social distancing, there are opportunities to interact with industry professionals. Take advantage of a wide variety of them (conferences, webinars, pitchfests, etc.), but don’t let that agent quest distract you from crafting the best work possible. Become a member and a volunteer of SCBWI. Conduct thorough research via Publishers Marketplace, the acknowledgments of published books that you admire, manuscriptwishlist .com, etc. Prepare a body of work so that when the opportunity presents itself, you have multiple projects ready to go.
Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are wild about animals. An award-winning author and educator, Heather uses yuck appeal to engage young minds. Her 16 nonfiction books have received recognitions from NCTE, Junior Library Guild and VOYA. Recent titles include: Bugs Don’t Hug: Six-Legged Parents and Their Kids, Little Monsters of the Ocean: Metamorphosis Under the Waves, and Who Gives a Poop? Surprising Science from One End to the Other.
Heather’s new nonfiction book, Who Gives a Poop? Surprising Science from One End to the Other is sure to fascinate kids and adults alike!
“A well-stirred slurry of facts and fun for strong-stomached ‘poop sleuths.’ ” *Starred Review from Kirkus
Poop, doo-doo, feces? The stuff’s disgusting, but packed with poo-tential! Strap on your poop goggles to meet a man who powers lamps with pet poop, a scorpion who loses his tail and can’t go #2, and students who turn astronaut poo into plastic. Who Gives a Poop? Surprising Science from One End to the Other is a humorous narrative that holds weighty matter too: poaching, prejudice, and saving people’s lives!
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