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Biographies of women in STEM : Still a hot commodity?

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Are publishers still on the lookout for picture books about women who made significant contributions to STEM fields?

I am working on one right now and wonder if it will be well received by agents or publishers.  The exciting thing for me is that this woman's story has never been told in a children's book, even though youngsters should find her story intriguing (adults certainly do).   This story is not unlike the Rosalind Franklin story; she did much of the critical background work in her field, but did not get credit for it.

#1 - November 27, 2021, 02:32 PM
"Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome."
--Samuel Johnson 1759

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I think this topic will stay in good favor as long as books keep selling. But even when a topic or theme becomes saturated a new great book still gets through. It's as much how well you write it as the topic/theme. Find the hook that brings the kids in and don't let them off that hook and the gatekeepers will bite too.
#2 - November 27, 2021, 06:24 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
Twitter: @dvilardi1

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I was told it's slowing down but I haven't asked for any updates--it's not something I'm working on now, so if it's rebounding any I wouldn't know it. And it's really about catching the right agent's eye with the right project at the right time--you could get lucky even if the market's turned down.
  :goodluck
#3 - November 27, 2021, 08:03 PM
Learning to Swear in America (Bloomsbury, July 2016)
What Goes Up (Bloomsbury, 2017)
The Constitution Decoded (Workman, 2020)
Twitter: KatieWritesBks

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As a fellow writer of books about women in STEM (5 published, 3 coming out in the next few years), I can tell you the market is still saturated. BUT, that doesn't mean there isn't room for another well-told story of an unsung woman in the field. Write the best book you can and get it out there. Kids still need to hear these stories.
#4 - November 28, 2021, 06:29 AM
Laurie Wallmark
lauriewallmark.com@lauriewallmark
#WomenInSTEM pb bios books
(Code Breaker, Spy Hunter, Numbers in Motion...) plus
Dino  Pajama Party

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As a fellow writer of books about women in STEM (5 published, 3 coming out in the next few years), I can tell you the market is still saturated. BUT, that doesn't mean there isn't room for another well-told story of an unsung woman in the field. Write the best book you can and get it out there. Kids still need to hear these stories.

Yes, I agree; kids do need to hear about this.  The woman I am writing about would be a good role model in a very interesting field.  Brown University is very strong in this field and the academics I have talked about the project agree that it is a good subject to tell kids about.  Now the question is whether I can convince publishers.

As I noted before, your Code Breaker, Spy Hunter is the best book I have seen in this genre.   It is expertly researched (crypto is one of my fields) and beautifully written.


 

#5 - November 28, 2021, 10:14 AM
« Last Edit: November 28, 2021, 10:20 AM by frederick-thurber »
"Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome."
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OK, if STEM Bios are not so hot anymore, how about straight STEM stories?  Is there a market for these?

#6 - November 29, 2021, 09:11 AM
"Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome."
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I try not to worry about what's hot or not. Write the book you need to write. It takes at least two years before it comes out once a publisher accepts it. So it's about two years from now, not now. And we can't know what's in store for then.
#7 - November 29, 2021, 06:26 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
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Write the best book you can. Chasing trends doesn't work. Even in saturated areas, unique approaches and stand-out writing is what will catch agents or editors eyes. You are obviously very passionate about your subject. If that passion comes through in your writing, that certainly helps. :-)
#8 - November 29, 2021, 06:27 PM
Freaky Funky Fish ( Running Press Kids, May 2021)
Tell Someone (Albert Whitman, October 2021)
Peculiar Primates (Running Press Kids, October 2022)

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It has been a learning experience.  Finding a subject to write about is not hard (I know of 4-5 women scientists that I could write about), but writing the actual bio is really hard.  The technical science stuff (which will be in the End Notes) is fun and easy but making the biography interesting and relevant to kids is hard.  I wrote up a draft, but it is too dry.

My favorite STEM bio writer, Laurie Wallmark, had this to say (http://www.kidlit411.com/2016/06/Kidlit411-Author-Laurie-Wallmark.html):
Quote
...it took me a while to figure out how to write this type of book. My first draft sounded like a twelfth-graders school paper. I was able to bring the age level down to about eighth grade, but it still read like a report. Next up, a draft that could have been ripped from the pages of a fifth-grader’s diary. The learning curve on writing a picture book biography was definitely the hardest part for me.

Clearly she has figured it out; her Code Breaker book is a wonderful lively read, but I am still at the "school paper" stage, alas.

#9 - December 05, 2021, 04:09 PM
« Last Edit: December 16, 2021, 06:38 PM by frederick-thurber »
"Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome."
--Samuel Johnson 1759

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but I am still at the "school paper" stage, alas.

Very common, don't lose hope. It took me SO long to figure out how to write engaging/non-school paper PB Bios, for me it was years. And while the last few I wrote I think are really good, alas, I did not sell them. But the only way to learn is to keep at it.

One suggestion, while Laurie is a master, read dozens and dozens of other PB Bios out there. In fact, type them up. That was the best way for me to learn pacing and page turns and the language necessary for PB Bios.

Other STEM ones that are excellent: Teresa Robeson's QUEEN OF PHYSICS, and Kirsten Larson's WOOD, WIRE, WINGS. I haven't read Traci Sorell's CLASSIFIED: THE SECRET CAREER OF MARY GOLDA ROSS but I've been meaning to. I am sure it's excellent. Another one I see on a lot of "Top of Lists" for this year is TU YOU YOU'S DISCOVERY by Songju Ma Daemicke. Another one on my "to read" list.
#10 - December 05, 2021, 04:46 PM
Freaky Funky Fish ( Running Press Kids, May 2021)
Tell Someone (Albert Whitman, October 2021)
Peculiar Primates (Running Press Kids, October 2022)

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Last week I read Kirsten Larson's WOOD, WIRE, WINGS and found it very well done.

Last night I read Laurie Wallmark's book about computer pioneer Grace Hopper (GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE); I was very impressed.  As an old computer guy, I have to say that Laurie's book is spot on.  Laurie also made the bold move of adding some amusing rhyming verse inside the front cover; I know that editors discourage this, but it worked very well in this book. 
#11 - December 16, 2021, 06:47 PM
"Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome."
--Samuel Johnson 1759

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