Writing: From Brussels Sprouts to Creme Brûlée!

Author Katy Duffield shares her love for writing nonfiction (and fiction), including what she finds to be the tough part … and the dessert!  Her new–and fun–book MISSIONS, MINERS AND MOVIEMAKERS: CALIFORNIA HISTORY FOR KIDS (Chicago Review Press, January 2012) comes out in a few short weeks.  It’s so chock full of exciting info that I will be talking about it again (look for more in the Feb/Mar issue of The 4:00 Book Hook).  Until then, let’s hear from Katy:

When and where do you write?

Even though I don’t have a specific time that I write (unless I’m on a deadline!), I seem to be constantly “writing” even if I’m not at the keyboard. While I’m in the car or the shower, I’m plotting. While I’m reading the newspaper or a magazine, I’m always on the look out for story ideas. When I’m on the treadmill, my mind is moving as fast as my legs trying to solve any writing problems I might be having. I’m happiest, though, when I’m snuggled in my living room chair typing away—especially on a revision. First drafts are often difficult for me—they are the brussel sprouts so to speak. Revising the manuscript? Now that’s the crème brulee!

What’s always in your fridge?

Diet Coke and yogurt (not necessarily eaten at the same time!)

Favorite season?

Summer. Summer. Summer. The hotter the better.

Cat or dog?

Dog—preferably a red-tri Aussie named Pedro

Jeans, or fancier?

Jeans all the way.
Who or what has been the greatest inspiration for your stories?

I write both fiction and nonfiction. For my fictional work, I’d have to say all the dozens and dozens of authors that I read as a child. Whether the books were fabulous, not-so-fabulous, or somewhere in between, my little girl self absolutely soaked in everything I read. I loved (and still love) being transported by books. I knew that if I could ever entrance readers with my fiction as those authors did for me, I’d be one happy writer.

For my nonfiction writing, would it be weird if I said that I was my own inspiration in this area? [Kathy:  No, it most certainly would not!  I love that you were a little, well, nerdy, like I was(am?)!]  Going again back to my childhood, I always needed something to read, but I didn’t always have access to libraries and rarely to bookstores. So, I resorted to reading whatever I could find around the house—even some dusty old encyclopedias. And in doing that, I discovered that there was some REALLY cool stuff going on in the world that wasn’t common knowledge (at least in my limited world!). My favorite articles included little known facts that included the that-is-so-awesome! factor, so when I started writing nonfiction, I scoured research sources to find all those WOW facts to include. Hopefully, kid readers enjoy these facts as much as I do!

Can you tell us how Missions, Miners and Moviemakers: California History for Kids came to be published?

I’m on the NF4Kids (Nonfiction for Kids) listserv and some of the writers there were working on a …for Kids series for Chicago Review Press. Many of the topics caught my eye—George Washington for Kids (Brandon Marie Miller), Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids (Kerrie Logan Hollihan), The Wright Brothers for Kids (Mary Kay Carson), and several more—so I decided to do some research. Once I got my hands on a few of the books, I was truly impressed. These are substantial, well-researched books, loaded with photos, for 9 to 14 year olds, and what’s even more impressive is that each book in the series includes 21 unique hands-on activities. From there, I researched what topics had been done in the series and searched for any topic “holes”—what hadn’t been done? I eventually pitched the CRP editor with a California gold rush query. Jerry got back to me quickly, and though he liked the idea, he didn’t know if the topic was broad enough to cover a 38,000-word book. But…he asked if I would be interested in writing about California state history instead. Boy, was I! As I thought about California’s rich and varied history, I jumped at the chance.

What are you working on now?

I have two newly completed, humorous picture book manuscripts that are making their way into the cold, harsh world. Hopefully, they will soon warm up on library and bookstore shelves!

You can keep up with Katy through her website — I’m looking forward to seeing those picture books, too, Katy!  Thanks for stopping by!


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2 responses to “Writing: From Brussels Sprouts to Creme Brûlée!

  1. Thanks for inviting me over, Kathy!

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