When I wrote my first children’s book in 1988—a biography of Leonard Nimoy from Star Trek—I set a personal goal of publishing 50 books before I retired. It worked out to about a book and a half a year, which at the time seemed possible, even writing in my spare time. But then I went a dozen years until my next book, Daddy Poems, came out from Boyds Mills Press. At that point, the goal seemed unlikely. I continued to do books as the opportunity presented itself, but with a busy full-time job and two young children, I couldn’t do more than one or two a year. By the time I left the International Literacy Association in 2011 to pursue writing full-time, my total stood at 16 books.
Then things started to snowball. At the ILA Annual Conference in 2013, I introduced myself to Christine Peterson, assistant editorial director at Capstone, and asked if they needed writers. From that came an offer to write a book about the Lewis & Clark expedition. And from that came the opportunity over the next several years to do about 20 more Capstone books on a wide range of subjects ranging from history to social studies to biographies. In recent years, I’ve been able to write nonfiction books for National Geographic Kids and Cavendish Square as well.
In fall 2017, my picture book One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me came out with Penguin. This was my first book with one of the “Big Five” publishers, and I’m delighted with how it turned out. The illustrations by Clive McFarland of Ireland are wonderful, and the book has drawn many positive reviews. It also got selected for the Scholastic Book Club. In addition, the book was chosen for inclusion in the 2018 Imagination Library—Dolly Parton’s book program—and sometime this fall it will be mailed to tens of thousands of young readers across the United States and Canada.
This summer, I signed on to do four books for a publisher named Hameray from California. As I finished the manuscript for the first one—a picture book about Abraham Lincoln—I realized that when this book comes out in 2019, it will be my 50th! This realization brought a great deal of satisfaction and pride, along with a bit of anxiety about what my NEXT goal should be. I feel like I’ve still got a number of productive years ahead. So what’s next? I’ll keep you posted as soon as I know.