Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine!

I don’t often leave the Sunny South, as I’m rather fond of staying warm. But a couple years ago, I ventured Way Up North, to attend the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop, and gosh, I’m glad I did!

I’m also glad I had my boots and sweaters. But that’s another story…

The gist of this story is that I met lots of talented writers, lovely people excited about their stories and dedicated to improving their craft. Writers like Laurie Wallmark, whose picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, will be releasing on October 13! And oh, I just love this story! I mean, the title alone had me clamoring to read more. So Laurie very graciously sent me her book and agreed to answer a couple questions. (And you’ll want to read to the very end for what else Laurie’s promised!)

Ada cover 72dpi

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is the story of a girl’s passion about numbers and all things mechanical and mathematical. Is this the same manuscript you worked on at the Whole Novel Workshop? No, during our workshop I worked on a middle-grade novel. Ada’s story has always been a picture book. Much of her story, though, is inappropriate for younger children, so I’m now working on a young adult narrative in verse about Ada’s life.

That sounds very interesting! And yes, there are so many complex concepts in this story, and yet it’s so accessible! Why did you decide to present Ada’s story as a children’s picture book? Children internalize at an early age the idea that girls should not be interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) or, even worse, that they are bad at these subjects. I made Ada a picture book because I think it’s important to show young children this idea is not the case.

So true, Laurie! How difficult was it to make her story readable for this age group? Funny you should ask this. It wasn’t easy including the necessary technical details while still making the manuscript accessible to young readers. I tried many craft techniques before figuring out the ones that would work for Ada. I’m presently enrolled in the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, so I was able to include some of what I discovered in my studies. In my third semester I did my critical thesis on “How to Explain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in Picture Books.” My writer’s toolbox is now filled with metaphorical gadgets and gizmos to bring STEM to life in picture books.

I loved reading all the research for this non-fiction book, and your love of the subject matter certainly comes through on every page! And I know you’ve been published in several children’s magazines, too. Are those stories non-fiction as well? Is non-fiction your niche now? Most of my magazine work is nonfiction, but I’ve had two short stories published. Amusingly enough, they have similar names—“Dreams of Freedom” and “The Sound of Freedom.” Although I love nonfiction, I also love fiction and poetry. I’d hate to have to confine myself to one genre.

So tell us a little about this story’s journey from idea to publication at Creston Books. How did Ada’s story end up with this unique publisher? Ada’s story has been a long time incubating. In 2010, it was a runner-up for the SCBWI Nonfiction Work-in-Progress Award. At that time, the book was called Not a Proper Lady: Ada Byron Lovelace. I continued to work on it, including at a different Highlights workshop (biography with Carolyn Yoder). In June 2014, I had a critique at the NJ SCBWI conference with literary agent Ginger Harris of the Liza Royce Agency. She and her partner, Liza Fleissig, thought Ada would be a good match for Creston Books. (Marissa Moss, the publisher and editor at Creston, has written several picture book biographies about women with nontraditional accomplishments.) After one revision for Liza and Ginger, and four more for Marissa, Creston made me an offer. Ten or so additional revisions later, Ada was ready to go.

 All the work worth it, though, as this is such a wonderful book! So what’s next for author Laurie Wallmark? Can you tell us about any new ideas? My next picture book biography is about Grace Hopper. She was the first person to use words in her computer programs instead of only “1”s and “0”s.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThank goodness, someone’s finally going to explain that in terms I can understand! And now, please share with us your favorite writing advice so we’ll be as brilliant as you (and Ada Byron Lovelace). I teach adult education courses on writing for children. On the first day of class, I tell my students you need three things to be a successful writer.

  1. A little bit of writing talent.
  2. The willingness to learn and improve your craft.
  3. Persistence (as evidenced by my journey to Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine)

The best piece of advice I can give, though, it to read, read, read children’s books and write, write, write your own stories. Good luck.

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]

Join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. All stops are listed at here.

Thanks, Laurie, and though now we have to say goodbye, one lucky reader will win his or her own copy of Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine which Laurie’s promised to send! Just leave a comment to be included in the drawing, and if you link to this post on Twitter or Facebook, I’ll give you an extra entry. Just let me know in your comment as I’m trusting that way. But comment quickly! I’ll be drawing that name same time next week, here at the blog. (P.S. I’m not a math whiz like Ada Byron Lovelace but I do know that the more entries you have, the greater your chance of winning. Good luck!)



Shaking Loose the Sand in September

ImageEven though it’s been forever a long time not so long ago, really, that I went to school in September, I still get totally excited after Labor Day. I just want to go out and buy a bunch of pencils and sharpen them into really, really sharp points.

That is to say, I’m ready to get down to business. Thank goodness, I have a wonderful conference to attend in October and the presenters are zipping around on a blog tour right now. So any sand left between my toes (or in my brain) shakes out along the way.

Maybe you have a few grains of sand you’d like to shake loose. Follow along with me and get your pencils ready to take notes. 

And oh, look! Agent Jennifer Rofe from Andrea Brown Literary is going to be HERE on Friday! So y’all come back now, you hear? (Uh-oh. It appears a little Southern has slipped into my writing. I’ll work on that, too.)

Blog Tour Schedule:

Aug. 28            Author Matt de la Peña at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews

                        Editor Lou Anders at F.T. Bradley’s YA Sleuth

Aug. 29            Author Doraine Bennett at Jodi Wheeler-Toppen’s Once Upon a Science Book

                        Author Robyn Hood Black at Donny Seagraves’ blog

Aug. 30            MFA program director Amanda Cockrell at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog

                        Illustrator Prescott Hill at Gregory Christie’s G.A.S.

Aug. 31            Author Heather Montgomery at Claire Datnow’s Media Mint Publishing blog

                        Editor Michelle Poploff at Laura Golden’s Just Write

Sept. 3             Author Nancy Raines Day at Laurel Snyder’s blog

                        Author Jennifer Echols at Paula Puckett’s Random Thoughts from the Creative Path

Sept. 4             Editor Dianne Hamilton at Ramey Channell’s The Painted Possum

                        Author Janice Hardy at Tracey M. Cox’s A Writer’s Blog

Sept. 5             Author / illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews

                        Agent Sally Apokedak at Cheryl Sloan Wray’s Writing with Cheryl

Sept. 6             Agent Jennifer Rofe at Cathy Hall’s blog

                        Author / illustrator Chris Rumble at Cyrus Webb Presents


Finding Books, Books, and MORE Books

First up, I wanted to pass along a blog tour/book giveaway going on at a friend’s blog: Words by Webb.

Not only has Marthe Jocelyn stopped by Jodi Webb’s blog to give away a copy of her book, Scribbling Women, but she’s also giving away a TON of books through her publisher, Tundra Press. And Marthe Jocelyn has written Picture Books through Young Adult, so if you’re a children’s writer, here’s a chance to win a bonanza of books! Read all the details and follow along the blog tour till April 10th to win big!

But don’t dilly-dallly too long. You’ll want to join me at MY blog, Cathy C.’s Hall of Fame on Friday, April 1, when Kristi Holl visits. Kristi’s written a wonderful book called More Writer’s First Aid and it’s packed with writing aids for whatever ails your writing. She’s giving away a copy of her book, so you’ll want to throw your name in for that prize! And you’ll want to hear her answers to some of the most common writing problems, too.

If winning books is something you enjoy, then check out blogs where folks review books and sponsor giveaways. Or make sure to sign up for Twitter and follow publishers who produce the books you read. Publishers are always giving away ARCs and debut books. It just takes a few minutes a day on Twitter to find book deals. (And the publishers pay the shipping to you!)

So, finding books to fill up your bookshelves with great reads is easy. Finding time to read all the books? Not so much.