Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Winner of The Reinvention of Edison Thomas

Today, I’m finishing up my interview with Jacqueline Houtman and announcing the winner of a copy of her book The Reinvention of Edison Thomas. 
Great Review for EDDY:
A middle grader with a high-function spectrum disorder finds some real friends in this wry debut...The author has a particularly engaging way of tracking Eddie's thought processes as he struggles to wrest order from a seemingly chaotic world...By the end readers will understand why Justin and Terry find Eddie worth knowing, but the way the central characters talk and think about science creates another theme that's just as strong and satisfying. --Kirkus Reviews
Me: You published EDDY through Front Street, an imprint that specializes in “issue” books. What’s been your experience with this small publisher? Are you reaching the readers you want this book to find? Are you finding the print or e-books to be more popular?

Jacqueline:  Front Street is an imprint of Boyds Mills Press, which is itself a small publisher. Like most houses, large and small, Front Street struggled in the economic downturn of 2008, and my editor, Joy Neaves was a casualty of that shortly after she acquired EDDY. I’m pleased that Joy was ultimately able to edit the book, and she did a wonderful job.

I’ve never worked with a big publisher, but my impression is that their books get more attention from the public. But big publishers are, well, bigger. What may be called a “department” in a big house might be just one person in a small house. That makes things a little more personal. I have gotten to know quite a few Front Street authors, like Monica RoeZu VincentClay CarmichaelEmily Smith PearceMark Hardy, and Nancy Bo Flood, and their amazing books. There is a sort of bond, I think, that comes from our association with Front Street.

I’m reaching some of my target audience, but I’d love EDDY to get into the hands of more kids who would love it—kids on the spectrum, kids who know kids on the spectrum, kids who love science, kids who don’t usually enjoy fiction. And grown-ups, too. Part of the problem could be my small publisher, but I think it may also be because I never use “the A word” in the book or flap copy, as I explain in your previous post.

Authors seldom get to see sales data, but my impression is that the e-book is selling, although not as well as the print book. It’s a growing market, but less so I think with middle grade, since younger kids don’t tend to have e-readers. Yet.

Me: Yet, is definitely the key word there. I think the time is coming, and fast! I love your bio, where you say you enjoy writing “sciency fiction” for kids. You have a Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology and Immunology (science doctors unite!) and write for medical journals (my favorite is the one with the nude mice, but this is a PG blog, so we’ll leave that for the reader to explore). How different is science writing from fiction writing? Do you find yourself slipping active verbs into your science journal articles?

Jacqueline: Good science writing and middle grade fiction aren’t really that different (except the part of fiction where you make things up). Both require a strong narrative line and economy of words with a minimum of rambling. I sometimes work as a writing “coach” for scientists. Most scientists haven’t taken many writing courses and some fall into the trap of trying to demonstrate how much they know rather than communicating  the important parts effectively. Some are even under the impression that only the passive voice is acceptable. They think it gives an air of authority or something, but the active voice is more common in scientific writing than it was in the past.

Nude mice are cute, in a freaky sort of way. They have a defective immune system because of a naturally occurring mutation, so they were useful in studying the role of the immune system in diseases and transplants. Now that we have engineered mice with more specifically defined defects, nude mice aren’t used as much. (I slipped the passive voice in there. Did you notice?) (Ed note: I did. And you sound so scholarly!)

I enjoy writing for a variety of audiences. I especially like taking scholarly works and making them accessible to non-scientists. An example would be the articles I did for FASEB’s Breakthroughs in Bioscience series.

Me: You've certainly done a lot of cool writing (reader friends, check out Jacqueline's website for all the deets)! I imagine you’ll be keeping your day job as a biomedical researcher, but are you planning on future children’s books? What do you have in the works right now?

Jacqueline: Actually, I left the lab in 1996, although I suppose you could say I’m on a very long maternity leave. I continue to write about science for grown-ups and kids, though. I don’t think I could ever give up on children’s books, especially middle grade fiction. Reading them or writing them. Right now I’m working on another novel that’s full of science. It features rockets. You wouldn’t happen to know of a rocket scientist I could consult, would you, Susan?

Me: I might know a thing or two about rockets! :) And I'd be happy to consult on any sciency writing. Bringing kids and science and fun stories together is like a perfect storm of cool. (p.s. I know what you mean about the long maternity leave-I think of it as the next evolutionary step, as I'm now raising the next generation of scientists). Thank you so much for sharing your writing and science insights, and especially for sharing EDDY with the world. And with one lucky person in particular...

And the winner of Jacqueline's charming, award-winning book, The Reinvention of Edison Thomas is ... Stina Lindenblatt!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the giveaway!


  1. Woo hoo! I won. I'm definitely going to get all my kids to read this (eventually) so they understand their big brother better. Any maybe it will help him understand himself a bit better, too. :D

  2. I'm sending it out today, Stina. I hope you'll forgive the fact that my pen decided to run out of ink mid-sign.

  3. Jay for Stina! This book sounds so cute, and the title is awesome.

  4. @Stina I hope he (they) like it!

    @Matt Thanks for stopping by!

    @JJ Thanks so much for sharing your book with us!

    @Bryan Agreed.

    @Julie I love the title too. :)

  5. This has been a wonderful conversation between the two of you. Although the image of the nude mice might be difficult to overcome :P

  6. Really good two part interview, Sue. Interesting how Jacqueline has coached scientists in writing. :)

    Congratulations to Stina!

  7. @Sherrie I think the interviews are more fun for me than anyone else! :)

    @Sharon I know a lot of scientists that could use coaching. :)


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