Friday, February 15, 2019

Mentor Texts, Guest TA Interview, and Hedy Lamarr Book Giveaway with Laurie Wallmark

Hello everyone!
Today I'm thrilled to bring you a guest TeachingAuthor interview with award-winning picture book author Laurie Wallmark. See the end of this post for details on how you can enter to win a copy of her newest book, Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventorwhich was released from Sterling Children's Books just last week! And, in honor of Poetry Friday, I'll also be sharing a poem from Laurie's book Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code.

This post kicks off a new topic: how we TeachingAuthors use "mentor texts" as part of our writing and revision process. In case you're not familiar with the term, mentor texts are published books we study to learn how to become better writers. To elaborate, I'd like to share a definition from Lynne Dorfman, co-author of several books on using mentor texts, including Mentor Texts: Teaching Writing Through Children's Literature, K-6 (Stenhouse) In an interview for the National Writing Project, Dorfman said:
"Mentor texts are pieces of literature that you—both teacher and student—can return to and reread for many different purposes. They are texts to be studied and imitated...Mentor texts help students to take risks and be different writers tomorrow than they are today. It helps them to try out new strategies and formats."
Although Dorfman is referring to using mentor texts in the classroom, adult writers can experience the same benefits by studying published works on their own, whether they're writing fiction or nonfiction. For example, while working on Playing by Heart, I read and studied numerous historical novels set in the 18th-century, especially those featuring musicians and composers. Now that I'm working on a nonfiction picture book biography, I'm studying recently published picture book biographies. That's how I discovered Laurie Wallmark's books. When I learned she had a new book coming out this month, Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor, illustrated by Katy Wu (Sterling Children's Books), I invited Laurie to do a guest TeachingAuthor interview. (If you'd like to read more about how writers can use picture books as mentor texts, check out the Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo) Challenge.)

Before I get to the interview with Laurie, here's a bit about her: Laurie Wallmark, author of Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life (Sterling Children's Books), writes picture book biographies of women scientists and mathematicians. Her books Grace Hopper Queen of Computer Code (Sterling Children's Books) and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books), have together received five starred reviews and several national awards. Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts as well as degrees in biochemistry and information systems. When she's not writing, she teaches computer science at Raritan Valley Community College. She also teaches courses on writing for children. Find out more about Laurie on her website and follow her on Twitter here.

Laurie's newest book, Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor, tells the story of the actress’s hidden life—movie star by day, inventor by night. She co-invented the technology that helps keep our electronic devices safe from hacking. The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books says of Hedy Lamarr's Double Life:
"Many STEM-for-girls biographies fan excitement over women's achievements, but this title actually brings the central scientific concept within middle-grade reach."
See the end of this post for details on how you can enter to win a copy of this terrific new book!

But first, be sure to read this interview with Laurie:

Laurie, you're so busy as a TeachingAuthor, teaching computer classes and courses in writing for children while writing and researching your own books. How do you balance your writing and teaching?

All writers have other responsibilities, whether they are related to work, family, or themselves. Writers need to take advantage of those interstitial opportunities in our lives. You can think about your story while: standing in line; washing in the shower; exercising, etc. You can write while: on hold on the telephone; waiting for your flight at the airport; between meetings on a business trip. You get the idea.

Today we’re celebrating your latest release, the picture book biography Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor illustrated by Katy Wu (Sterling Books). I’ve seen some of Hedy Lamarr’s movies but never knew about her “double life.” Please tell our readers about the book and how you came to write it.

I like to shine a spotlight on women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) whose achievements have been overlooked. Hedy co-invented a technology known as spread-spectrum frequency hopping. This discovery is used in our Wi-Fi, phones, Bluetooth, and other technologies to help prevent people from listening in on our private communications. (For more on how this book came to be, and a sneak peek at some of the illustrations, see Laurie's interview with Kathy Temean.)

Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life is a great follow-up to your two other picture book biographies: Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, also illustrated by Katy Wu (Sterling Books), and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine illustrated by April Chu (Creston Books). What drew you to writing these biographies as picture books? 

Growing up, I experienced several instances where I was discouraged from pursuing my interest in math and science. The most infamous of these was when the principal of my high school told my mother she didn’t have to worry about the availability of advanced math classes, since I was a girl and wouldn’t take them. I want girls (and boys!) to realize that careers in STEM are open to everyone. (Laurie shares more on her path to writing these books in this essay.)

Wow! I'm glad you didn't let your principal's comments keep you away from math and science, since that ultimately led to your writing these great biographies.  How did you sell your first book?

Several years ago, I had an editorial critique at a New Jersey SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference with agent Ginger Harris-Dontzin of the Liza Royce Agency. She loved my manuscript and shared it with her partner, Liza Fleissig. They had a particular editor, Marissa Moss of Creston Books, whom they thought would be interested. She was. Marissa bought my Ada Lovelace book, and Liza and Ginger are now my agents. Anyone who is interested in writing books for children needs to join the international organization, SCBWI.

What advice do you have for other writers working on picture book biographies?

Research. Research. Research. For me, research is part of the fun of writing biographies. Often you find out that something everyone knew about the person isn’t really true. The challenge in doing research is when sources differ.

What’s next for you?

I have a picture book biography, Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Mathematician (Creston Books) about a women mathematician coming out in 2020. After that, I have another woman in STEM biography, but it hasn’t been announced yet. Even as we speak, I’m writing another picture book biography.

Your productivity is inspiring, Laurie! In studying your books as mentor texts, I've noticed that they're recommended for grades Kindergarten-3 even though they’re at a fourth-grade reading level. Do you write your biographies with a particular age student in mind? In what grades do you see your books being used? 

The publisher always says K-5. I actually think grades 3-5 is the sweet spot for them, but I just write. The Hedy Lamarr book skews higher because it has more science in it.

Readers, if you're a classroom teacher, you'll want to check out the Curriculum Guides for Laurie's books on this page of her websitewhere you'll also find links to STEM activities

Laurie, thanks so much for taking time from your busy schedule for this interview. Thanks, also, for giving our readers a chance to win a copy of your new book. 

Readers, below I've listed some resources for finding and using mentor texts, followed by the book giveaway instructions. But first, I want to share a poem from Laurie's book Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, as I promised at the beginning of this post. This poem appears on the front end pages, before the book's title page. On Wednesday, February 20, Laurie will be back to share a writing exercise related to the poem.

I chose the clock background above because in Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, young Grace tinkered with clocks until she "understood what made them tick." Explaining how the moth is tied to the book would be a "spoiler" for those who haven't read it yet, so you'll have to get a copy to see for yourself.

Before I provide the giveaway instructions and a link to this week's Poetry Friday roundup, here are some additional resources for those of you looking for advice on writing picture book biographies and/or for more on mentor texts:
Now, at last, are the Book Giveaway Instructions:
To enter our drawing for a chance to win Hedy Lamarr's Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor, use the Rafflecopter widget below. You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options.

If you choose option 2, you MUST leave a comment on TODAY'S blog post or on our TeachingAuthors Facebook page. If you haven't already "liked" our Facebook page, please do so today!

In your comment, we'd love you would share either the title of a picture book biography you'd like to recommend or the name of a person who would make a good subject for a picture book biography.

(If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.)

Note: if you submit your comments via email or Facebook, YOU MUST STILL ENTER THE DRAWING VIA THE WIDGET BELOW. The giveaway ends March 1 and is open to U.S. residents only.

P.S. If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here's info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

Don't forget to visit today's Poetry Friday hosted by Jone at Check It Out

Finally, remember to always Write with Joy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Linda Mitchell said...

I love everything about this post! I am a Teacher Librarian and am writing biography! So, your text is definitely mentor text to me. I love using the phrase mentor text with kids because it puts them, literally, on the same page as authors. Well done Laurie! Thanks for the giveaway too. Get those books OUT to everyone!

jan godown annino said...

Appreciations to each of you for this nourishing post. I like Laurie's biographies & so am glad to see this wonderful visit with the author & to know about the next (I am exempting myself from the Give Away.) I have a special spot in my heart for mentor texts, with my one children's book being cited as one :)

Carmela Martino said...

Linda, thanks so much for stopping by! Hope the biography writing is going well.
Waving at you, Jan ~~~. How great that you have a book on the mentor text list!

Linda B said...

I've loved Laurie's other books & have this new one from the library, will be sharing it on my post soon, Carmela. What a nice interview. It's fun to hear about Laurie's writing life and thanks for all the extra links.

Diane T said...

Great post, and I can't wait to see Laurie's latest! I love reading about women in STEM and am working on a picture book biography of a notable female physicist myself.

Carmela Simmons said...

This is a wonderful resource for all of us who write on biographies. Thanks for sharing.

Julie A. LaCombe said...

I love Laurie’s books and have many on my mentor shelf. I will be adding this one as well! Thank you for the wonderful interview!

Jone said...

Great interview. It will make a terrific mentor text. Thanks for sharing.

Carmela Martino said...

Hi Linda, I look forward to reading your post about Laurie's new book, too.
Diane, hurray for you and your female physicist subject!
Carmela, thanks for stopping by. I think this is the first comment we've received from a Carmela who wasn't me! 😊

Carmela Martino said...

Julie and Jone, you're most welcome. Thanks for stopping by!

Kimberly Hutmacher said...

Great interview! I use mentor texts all the time. I love deconstructing picture books, and all of the knowledge I gain by doing so.

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction said...

I absolutely love the poem from the Grace Hopper book! These books sound like they'd be perfect for a classroom. I'll include your giveaway in my Sunday Post this week (I always do a round-up of great giveaways and pre-order campaigns every week).

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Suzie Olsen said...

Can't wait to read this!

McMarshall said...

Great post. I am looking forward to reading this biography! I love all of Laurie's books. I am sure I'll enjoy this one, too.

kt giorgio said...

So looking forward to reading this. Thanks for sharing!

The Winding Ascent said...

I just read Hedy Lamarr last week and loved it! Thank you for an informative interview and great links!

Michelle Kogan said...

Sounds like a fascinating book! Loved the interview and and learning more about its process and about Laurie. Hedy Lamarr didn't have an easy life and wasn't recognized for her inventive genius till she was older and almost living on the edge–happy to see a book shedding more light on her, thank you both!

Linda said...

Wonderful interview! I love Laurie's books and can't wait to read about Hedy Lamarr. I enjoy picture book biographies and have read a lot of them. One I recently read is THE SKY PAINTER by Margarita Engle.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Laurie and Carmela ~ you make a mighty team. Thanks for the info about your books and for all the resources, Carmela <3

Cynthia Cotten said...

Great interview--and I've put this book at the top of my library list!

Carmela Martino said...

Kimberly, isn't it amazing how much we can learn from studying mentor texts?
Nicole, thanks for sharing the giveaway info.

Carmela Martino said...

KT, thanks for stopping by. Hope you get to read the book soon.
The Winding Ascent, glad to know you've already read the Hedy Lamarr book and that you found the interview helpful.
Hi Michelle ~~. You're most welcome!
Linda, I haven't seen SKY PAINTER yet. Will have to check it out!

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks, April!
Hi, Cynthia! Hope your library has the book. I had to request that my library purchase it. And they did!

Danielle H. said...

I enjoy picture book biographies and always learn new things that make me want to read more about the person featured. I recommend this book: The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin (Amazing Scientists). I tend to seem science/math women in books.

Michele Helsel said...

I've just begun writing PB biographies and Hedy Lamar was someone I considered. The latest PB I purchased was Dorothea's Eyes. Loved it!

Tricia said...

Who knew Hedy Lamar was an inventor? Can't wait to add this to my STEM collection. Thanks for sharing this interview.

Laurie Wallmark said...

I love reading these comments about how people will be using my books as mentor texts. Thanks, all.

Carmela Martino said...

Danielle and Michele, thanks for sharing the titles!
Tricia, glad you enjoyed the interview.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Fabulous interview and information, Carmela. I can't wait to read your own picture book biography!