Monday, September 28, 2015

Guest Post from Laurie Wallmark for ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE ... plus a Giveaway!






Today, I'm honored to have my friend Laurie Wallmark take over my blog for a guest post! Laurie and I met at the very first SCBWI conference I ever attended, Eastern PA's Pocono Retreat in 2008. I'm thrilled for Laurie that she's making her picture book debut with Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, coming from Creston Books in October. Giveaway details at the end. Take it away, Laurie!


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Guest Post:
Writing a Picture Book Biography

Laurie Wallmark

Writing a picture book biography is not as simple as starting with “She was born on…” and ending with “She died on…” Because of a picture book’s limited word count, this type of cradle to grave biography, with its details of every event in a person’s life, simply won’t work. Instead, you need to choose a focus for your story. In other words, you need a “hook.”

Your hook is your own unique perspective on the person’s life. For picture books, it may be helpful to concentrate on a single aspect of the person’s life, such as: character, childhood, home life, or professional contribution. Any scenes that don’t serve to further the reader’s understanding and appreciation of your chosen facet should be eliminated.

One possible way to focus the story is to limit most of the text to a specific time period in the subject’s life, often childhood. Many people believe this will help children identify more with the person, making the book more interesting. This method works quite well in these three situations: 1) If your subject is famous, so you don’t need to use some of your precious word count explaining her accomplishments; 2) If the subject is known for an activity that children also do, such as painting, working with animals, or sports; or, 3) If your subject works in a profession familiar to children, such as firefighter, teacher, or astronaut. In these cases, the author only needs a line or two of text to sum up the subject’s professional life, because children can fill in the gaps themselves.

Ada Byron Lovelace, the subject of my picture book biography, fits none of these three situations. She’s not famous (yet!). In fact, most people have never heard of her. Few children program computers, though I’m happy to say that’s changing. Finally, most children don’t really know what software engineers do.

I do love a challenge, though. I couldn’t show Ada using computers as a child, since computers didn’t yet exist. Instead, I included events from her childhood to illustrate both her personality and her love of mathematics. In order to introduce children to her professional accomplishments, I gave simple explanations in the text and saved the more technical details for the back matter. My hope is that children will read Ada’s story and be inspired to learn more about her and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).


Text by Laurie Wallmark, illustration by April Chu,
used with permission, from Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine



ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE (Creston Books, October 2015) is a picture-book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. This book, by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu, tells the story of a remarkable woman and her work. Kirkus Reviews describes the book as a “splendidly inspiring introduction to an unjustly overlooked woman.” [starred review]


Text by Laurie Wallmark, illustration by April Chu, 
used with permission, from Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine



Join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine.  

Blog Tour Stops
  
September 12, 2015 - Interview
www.flowering-minds.com     Flowering Minds (Darshana Khiani)


September 15, 2015 - Guest post (STEM and Trade Picture Books)
http://frogonablog.net/     Frog on a Blog (Lauri Fortino)

September 22, 2015 - Interview
http://c-c-hall.com/     Writing and Fishing (Cathy Hall)

September 28, 2015 - Guest Post (About Writing Ada)
http://mybrainonbooks.blogspot.com/     My Brain on Books (Joanne Fritz)

October 2, 2015 - Interview
https://stilladreamer.wordpress.com/     Still a Dreamer (Jeanne Balsam)

October 6, 2015 - Guest Post (Writing About Strong Women)
https://robinnewmanbooks.wordpress.com/     Robin Newman Books

October 9, 2015 - Guest Post (Five Detours on the Road to Publication)
http://www.yvonneventresca.com/blog.html     Yvonne Ventresca's Blog

October 13, 2015 - Guest Post (My Writing Firsts)
https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/     Writing and Illustrating (Kathy Temean)

October 15, 2015 - Guest Post (Acrostic Poem)
http://geekmom.com/     Geek Mom

October 18, 2015 - Interview
http://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/     The Children's Book Review

October 20, 2015 - Guest Post (Using Ada in the Classroom)
https://rlkurstedt.wordpress.com/     Kaleidoscope (Roseanne Kurstedt)

October 26, 2015 - Interview
https://darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com/     Gold From the Dust (Darlene Beck Jacobson)

November 6, 2015 - Guest Post (Five Favorite STEM Women in History)
http://www.viviankirkfield.com     Picture Books Help Kids Soar (Vivian Kirkfield)

November 6, 2015 - Interview
http://info.vcfa.edu/vcfa-launch-pad/     VCFA Launch Pad


Laurie Wallmark writes exclusively for children. She can't imagine having to restrict herself to only one type of book, so she writes picture books, middle-grade novels, poetry, and nonfiction. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. When not writing or studying, Laurie teaches computer science at a local community college, both on campus and in prison. The picture book biography, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, October 2015), is Laurie’s first book.

Website:          http://www.lauriewallmark.com
Twitter:           https://twitter.com/lauriewallmark

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Thank you so much, Laurie. It was a pleasure having you on my blog.  

And now for the giveaway details. Laurie has generously offered one signed, hardcover copy of Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine to one lucky winner. To enter, you must be a follower of this blog and you must comment on this post. If you mention this giveaway on Twitter or other social media, please let me know in the comments and I'll give you an extra chance for each mention. This giveaway is open to US mailing addresses only and will end at 10pm EDT on Sunday October 11, 2015. The winner will be announced on Monday Oct 12, 2015. Good luck!



28 comments:

  1. Congrats to Laurie on her new book. Picture books in general are hard to write and must be even more challenging when writing a biography. But such a great way to start getting kids into reading about people's lives. I'm going to let someone who reads picture books win this.

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    1. Picture books are definitely hard to write, Natalie! But Laurie did a fantastic job.

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  2. I must read this book! It looks way cool - plus, in our neck of the woods, ADA is Famous! She is amazing. And I'm so glad there's a new picture book Bio about her.

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    1. How cool that Ada is famous in your area, Sue!

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  3. This looks wonderful. The pictures you shared are magical. Good luck with this one but since I typically deal with MG, I will pass on the drawing.

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    1. I was happy Laurie shared those double-page spreads with us, Greg. It really gives you a feel for the entire book.

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  4. Whittle things down and focus on a single idea. Makes sense. This was a amazing post. I've never given much thought about PB biographies, but that's because I've never considered writing one. You've surely opened my eyes to their fascination. So much thought and planning has to go into these. Well done! IT was great meeting you, Laurie. Best of luck with this!

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  5. Funnily enough, our local science museum in Portland had a display about Ada Byron Lovelace (or at least it did while I still had children young enough to take to museums. I should go by myself to investigate whether it's still there!)

    I loved hearing about Laurie's process, and will definitely keep my eyes out for this.
    I tweeted, too: https://twitter.com/MGMafioso/status/648522637883236352

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    1. I saw your tweet! Thanks. Extra chance duly noted. And that's great that your local museum had an exhibit about Ada.

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  6. Hi Everyone, Thanks. Picture books are definitely challenging, but fun. Sue, I don't know where you live, but Seattle has a bookstore, Ada's Technical Books.

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  7. What a lovely story, and so fun to hear about it's creation! Congrats to Laurie and best of luck with the blog tour!

    --Suzanne
    www.suzannewarr.com

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  8. Ada Lovelace is definitely someone who needs to become famous! I just finished a fantastic graphic novel—The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, by Sydney Padua—that explains in great detail how the Analytical Engine works. Fascinating stuff! (And very steampunk!)

    I'll look for this picture book. Don't enter me in the draw though; I'm in Canada and the silly border gets in the way of getting free books!

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    1. That's a shame about the difficulty of getting books through the border, Kim. I hope you can find Laurie's book there. And thanks for telling us about that graphic novel.

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  9. I love picture book biographies and hope to write some myself one day. Thanks for the post and for the chance to win what looks like a fantastic book. I Tweeted: https://twitter.com/rosihollinbeck/status/648695928228982784?lang=en

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    1. Thanks so much for your tweet, Rosi! Extra chance duly noted.

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  10. Picture book biographies are such a great way to introduce to kids to history. This one sounds fascinating!

    Please don't include me in the draw, as I live in Canada.

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    1. Sorry, Andrea. I wish there was a way to include Canadian readers. But thanks for stopping by.

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  11. Oh, this sounds wonderful! My husband is a software engineer and this would be so great to get for the kiddos (and me, for that matter)!

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    1. This sounds perfect for your family, Jess!

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  12. This sounds like a great book. Coding and programming are becoming more popular in school (I know my co-author, Stephanie, does it with her students). I know this book will be important for kids and I look forward to reading it and learning more. Thanks for sharing and for the giveaway. I tweeted and G+d it. :)
    ~Jess

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    1. I didn't know Stephanie taught coding and programming, Jess. Yes, Laurie's book is timely. I've noted your extra chances. Thanks so much for spreading the word!

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  13. I'll have to check this book out!

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  14. Looks interesting. Having it sent over from public library. I was hoping that my middle school students could be tempted by these picture book biographies, but so far they aren't picking them up. Drat.

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    1. Yes, I could see that as a problem. If it has pictures, they probably think it's too young for them. But they could learn a lot from this!

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YAY for comments! I read and appreciate each one and I always try to answer. All opinions welcome. Let's have a conversation.