Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.
RUTH A. MUSGRAVE is the Director of WhaleTimes Inc. (http://www.whaletimes.org/) and an award-winning writer. In addition to National Geographic Kids Magazine, she has also written for Scientific American Explorations, SuperScience, and Ask. Her awards include Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Magazine Merit Honor Award for Nonfiction and two Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences-Southwest.
In addition to teaching and writing, her background includes 25+ years developing and producing K-12 marine science education programs, curricula, professional development seminars, and a children’s television series.
While writing the NGK Everything Sharks, Ruth was inspired to create a holiday for sharks, called “Fintastic Friday: Giving Sharks a Voice.” She knew once kids discovered what magnificent and important animals sharks really are, they would want to protect them. Hosted by WhaleTimes, the holiday gives children a platform and opportunity to make a difference.
Congratulations on your success with National Geographic Kids Everything Sharks, just released this spring (April 2011). National Geographic is a “closed” house, meaning they don’t take unsolicited submissions. Could you give us some background on how you broke into this extraordinary publishing house and what it’s been like working for them?
Thank you. I’m so excited about my book. National Geographic Kids Everything Sharks is full of stunning shark photos and the layout is a delight to the eyes. Before you even get to the text, you can spend hours just looking at the photos. Writing it was fun because I was able to show sharks as they really are — these incredible, diverse, sometimes odd and quirky creatures. It has a lot of humor and tons of great information.
The best part is, kids will read about sharks and fall in love with the real animal, not some fictional beast. The vicious animal portrayed in movies, books, and television doesn’t exist. Sharks are extraordinary animals, but they are not invincible. They are in trouble and they need kids’ help.
Hmmm, how I got my foot in the door at National Geographic Kids…well, Terry, I’d tell you, but then I’d have to…just kidding!
I have been fortunate enough to be a frequent contributor to National Geographic Kids Magazine for a many years. The editors knew about my marine science background and asked if I’d like to write about sharks for their very cool new “National Geographic Kids Everything” series. Working with such talented editors and a publishing house that loves animals, embraces the fun of science, yet prizes accuracy…well I still expect someone to wake me up from the best dream ever!
What is the best advice you can give for writers who want to write non-fiction (articles or books)?
This is a good question. Only write nonfiction if that’s what you really want to write. Become an expert about the topics that you love, figure out what age levels you like to write for, and, as you’re figuring that out, keep writing to find your own style or voice. I think readers want more than facts, figures, dates, or timelines. Your style should make the science, history, person, or whatever come to life.
What if you really want to write fiction, but heard from writer friends that starting in nonfiction is the easy way to go…get different friends! Okay, keep the friends, just get better advice! If you want to write fiction picture books or poetry or YA or…you should do that. Don’t get sidetracked. Getting published is hard enough. Don’t waste time and opportunities by writing in a genre you don’t love.
What is your favorite children’s joke?
Let’s see, how about my 10-year old daughter’s latest and greatest joke from school:
Q: How do you get a tissue to dance?
A: Put a little boogie in it!
Thanks so much, Ruth!
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