Friday, February 27, 2009

Blogger of the Week:
Fiona Bayrock (Books and 'Rocks)...

Today nonfiction writer Fiona Bayrock talks about her blog, Books and 'Rocks--along with some other great blogs maintained by nonfiction authors--and offers her advice to others hitting the blogosphere.

You started your blog Books and 'Rocks in 2007. What prompted you to dive into the blogosphere at that point?

I had thoroughly enjoyed the peek-into-the-process blogs of authors such as Loree Griffin Burns and Chris Barton, and was energized by the breadth and depth of discussion amongst blogging children's lit enthusiasts. The Kidlitosphere was springing into being about then, too. It was an exciting time, and I wanted to add my voice to the mix.

I could also see how a blog could serve as low-key promotion for my work, increasing my name recognition. But, first and foremost, Books and 'Rocks was to be a vehicle for shining a light on books and authors I thought were exceptional, as well as give me a place to talk about writing, reading, publishing, and literacy. Food for my brain.

What kind of posts will readers find on Books and 'Rocks. What would you say is your purpose or philosophy behind blogging? What do you hope to accomplish?

I subtitled the blog as "The meanderings and musings of a children's book author as she ponders the writing life, the biz, the good books she's read lately, and how all that fits into her family, the 'Rocks.", which I thought would let me talk about pretty much anything to do with family and books. And it does, although I generally keep things tightly focused on writing and publishing, with an emphasis on nonfiction for kids, since that's my main writing passion and covers most of the work I do. Within the bigger picture, I hope that in some small way I'm helping to nudge children's nonfiction into the legitimacy zone other genres enjoy.

Types of posts? All over the map. I post book talks whenever I find a new fave, I point to other blogs when their posts are thought-provoking or tickle my funny bone, and I report award news, as well as regular updates and news about my writing and publishing journey. Readers will also find light musings such as my paper clip conspiracy theory, the fortune cookie that told me I had a way with words and should consider writing a book(!), or my concern about people searching Amazon for my book using an ampersand instead of "and". I keep things casual and conversational, as though chatting with a friend over coffee.

I haven't come across a lot of blogs by nonfiction writers--am I missing them? Are there others you visit regularly?

Amazingly, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of us out there. In addition to Loree and Chris, the nonfiction writers I follow regularly include: Marc Aronson, Elizabeth Partridge, Mary Bowman-Kruhm, Peggy Thomas, and I.N.K. - Interesting Nonfiction for Kids (group blog).
Process intrigues me. Reading these blogs is like getting a glimpse through studio windows.

Also blogging, but with a lighter nonfiction touch, are children's nonfiction authors Lizann Flatt, Tanya Lee Stone, Deborah Hodge, Tanya Kyi, and Wendie Old. I'm sure that's not a complete list, so, Alice's dear readers, if you've got links, send 'em my way.

Tell my readers a little about the books you've written. Any recent projects we should know about?

All science and nature books so far, always with a twist or coming at the topic from a different angle. I follow my curiosity, looking for new connections and new ways to understand why things are the way they are. Passion is contagious. I try to pass it on in my books and magazine articles.

My latest project—thanksforasking!—was a particularly fun one to write. Just out from Charlesbridge, Bubble Homes and Fish Farts is a nonfiction picture book about the amazing ways animals use bubbles (to live in, keep warm, ride, talk, and even shoot hoops). Carolyn Conahan, the staff artist for Cricket Magazine, illustrated the book in beautiful watercolor paintings, capturing the science with a touch of whimsy—a perfect match to my text. We're excited about the reception it's received so far. It was named a Junior Library Guild Selection and Kirkus called it "a volume that's sure to rise to the top". Squee!

What's your advice for new bloggers, particularly other nonfiction writers?

You can't be all things to all people. Know why you're blogging and who your audience is, and then choose your content accordingly. Be fresh, genuine, and original. Be you. All promotion all the time is a turnoff; a sprinkle here and there is fine. Not everyone is cut out to blog, but if it's something that interests you, go for it. Blogging can be a great way to think deeper, get involved, and network. I've heard from several sources that there is much interest in behind-the-scenes stories about how authors work and the journey—warts and all—that a project goes through to become a final book. For nonfiction, that process has lots of interesting nooks and crannies to explore. And because there are so few nonfiction writers blogging, we're still a bit of a novelty...the demand is there.


Hope Vestergaard said...

Bubble Homes and Fish Farts is a brilliant title -- who came up with it, and when in the process? I'm always curious about great titles.
Also, thanks for the heads up on n-f blogs. I love n-f and really enjoy new recommendations.

Deborah Hodge said...

Hi Alice and Fiona!

Alice, I heard you in LA last summer, and I religiously buy your book every year. Fiona, thanks for the mention! Good luck to both of you with your books, blogs and many other projects.


Deborah (Debbie) Hodge